VIDEO - Mock disaster highlights 'hardest decision you'll ever have to make'

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 11:58 AM

BELLEVUE Tuesday's exercise at Bellevue High School is something no teacher hopes to face in real life.

Principal Francis Scruci was "shot" and "killed," as were a student and two intruders. Several other people played shooting victims.

Twenty-seven students were "taken hostage" during the lockdown scenario observed by about 100 Bellevue school staff members and multiple reporters and photographers.

"I thought the staff gained a lot from it," Scruci said later. "It generated a lot of dialogue with the staff."

The principal said the hardest thing for the faculty to accept is there could be casualties in a real-life situation. The employees learned to keep their doors closed and locked, with students out of sight even if someone in the hallway is asking for help.

"For no reason do you open the door for anybody," Scruci said. "You can't put a group of students in jeopardy for one."

Bill Ommert, the director of the Huron County Emergency Management Agency, agreed with Scruci's assessment. Ommert said teachers are charged with protecting their class, noting that to sacrifice a student's life is a "very, very hard decision."

"You have to come to the point to let one go to protect 20," he said. "I think it's the hardest decision you'll ever have to make."

One teacher learned the hard way when he was "killed" by an intruder during the drill when a student was left in the hallway. The boy was asking for help from a teacher at the time of the "shooting."

"The teacher couldn't resist the temptation to help. When he opened the door, he was shot," Ommert said.

The exercise started at 8:58 a.m. when a disgruntled female intruder (actually North Central EMS Paramedic Stephanie Kemper) entered the principal's office. She bypassed a secretary who asked Kemper what she needed.

"We have someone in the building," the woman told Scruci, who then instructed his secretary to call 9-1-1.

The principal confronted Kemper, who had pulled a handgun from a duffel bag she was carrying.

"You need to back off," Kemper said defiantly. "You suspended my son for no reason."

She then "shot" Scruci with a handgun that created a loud bang and bright flare from the muzzle. There were another three shots in less than a minute. Two victims, a student and staff member, "suffered" gun shot wounds in the hallway.

Within seven minutes, four Bellevue police officers arrived to assess the situation. One officer requested a special response team (SRT) respond to the southeast hallway near a science classroom.

Tactical squads from the Sandusky and Huron County sheriff's offices and Norwalk Police Department came. A male intruder, who entered the school after Kemper, eventually was "shot" and "killed," along with Kemper.

Sandusky County Sheriff David Gangwer said the staff members got an accurate, realistic perspective of the confusion involved in a hostage-school lockdown situation.

"I thought it went really well," Gangwer said. "I was very happy with it."

The sheriff said there were unexpected circumstances, such as an observing student who motioned to one of the SRTs as they entered the front door.

"They put him down on the ground real quick," Gangwer said. "They did what they should have done."

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