Palestine Police Chief Andy Harvey said Sunday he will schedule two “active shooter” training sessions this week, as well as call for a roundtable with law enforcement and other first responders in Anderson County.
In an interview with the Herald-Press, Harvey said he wants law enforcement and other local first responders to review plans for dealing with a catastrophe like Saturday's mass shooting at a busy El Paso Walmart that left 20 dead and 26 wounded.
“It's really about getting people in the same room to review some things and talk,” Harvey said. “If – God forbid, something like this happens here, we need to have a structured plan in place.”
Harvey also said he plans to increase police presence at Palestine's Walmart.
“It's a different world, and we all have to be prepared for it,” Harvey said. “We don't have to be paranoid, but we have to be vigilant and ready to respond.”
Harvey's remarks came after two U.S. shooting sprees this weekend left nearly 30 dead and dozens wounded.
Texas is now home to four of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history. A mass shooting is generally defined as an incident in which four or more people are killed indiscriminately.
On Saturday morning, after a lone gunman went on a shooting rampage at an El Paso Walmart, police arrested Patrick Crusius, 21, of Allen, who remains in custody. Charged with capital murder, Crusius faces the death penalty.
Police are treating the shooting as a domestic terrorism incident. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the shooting a hate crime, and police are investigating Crusius' connection to an anti-Latino, anti-immigrant manifesto posted online.
Early today, another lone gunman in body armor opened fire in an entertainment district in Dayton, Ohio, killing at least nine people, before police fatally shot him seconds later.
Police identified the shooter as Connor Betts, 24, of nearby Bellbrook.
Betts, who reportedly did not have a police record, used an assault-style rifle, a .223 caliber weapon with high-capacity magazines.
“We can't become complacent and think it can't happen here,'' Harvey said. “We all need to think about what we would do if confronted with a situation like that.
“Prayers are great but, in addition to praying, we need to do something. We have to take action.”
The Palestine Police Department will sponsor two-hour training sessions in the community that will cover how civilians can prepare for, prevent, and react to active shooters who enter a business, church, department store, or other community setting where people are gathered.
PPD Corporal Joseph Tinsley will conduct the training. One session will take place during the day, the other at night.
Police will release more details Monday.
Two years ago, PPD conducted a similar Civilian Response to Active Shooter Events (CRASE) training class in 2017, after more than two dozen people were killed at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs.
“We want to do something for our city,” Harvey said.
Harvey plans to call a meeting, probably within a week, with state troopers, the Anderson County Sheriff's Office, and local emergency medical services to talk about plans for a joint response to active shooter events.
Harvey said mass shootings, often conducted with high-powered assault-style rifles, have changed policing and the weapons of law enforcement.
“It's a new day, and it sickens me every time I hear about it,” Harvey said. “Our training is different; our equipment is different. Bullet-proof vests won't stop that kind of ammunition and power.”
Waiting for an armed suspect to surrender is no longer an option for law enforcement, he said. “We go in and remove the threat immediately. Our first responsibility is to save lives.”
Harvey said “multiple factors” contribute to gun violence, possibly including easy access to high-powered assault weapons that are typically used in war.
“We know that, whatever we're doing now, doesn't seem to be working,” he said. “These incidents are becoming more frequent.
“We need to have a discussion about high-powered weapons and better background checks. We need to have a discussion about mental illness and how we treat it. We need to have a discussion about doing a better job of identifying people who may commit these kind of acts, but it's hard to get inside a mind.”