FARMINGTON – A police truck with its blue lights flashing stopped behind a car with two passengers that pulled over in a school parking lot during police simulated ammunition training Wednesday.
Farmington police officer Brian Ross opened the door, got out, started walking toward the car and then walked back behind the open door and yelled to the driver to put both hands on the roof of his car.
Farmington Detective Marc Bowering, the driver of the stopped car and co-leader of the training, did as he was told. Bowering got out of the vehicle with a gun in his hand and kept yelling, “I have a permit.”
Bowering held his gun – it was modified to only shoot paint bullets – at arm’s length as Ross and Farmington Sgt. Peter Barton kept their guns pointed at him.
While they were concentrating on arresting Bowering, who had laid his gun in the road, his passenger, county deputy Sgt. Steve Lowell ran into the side door of the school with his guns.
All of sudden shots sounded, like caps going off.
Farmington Lt. Jack Peck yelled there’s “an active shooter” repeatedly as Ross and Barton’s son, Keith Barton, a citizen participant helping trainers this week, took cover behind two vehicles with guns drawn. Sgt. Barton made his way toward the school door.
They all made their way into the building to search the Mt. Blue Middle School for the shooter.
Bowering said before the training session began that he, Peck and Lowell planned real life situations to train officers from Franklin County and Livermore Falls.
It is firearms training with real bullets, he said, which contain water soluble paint. Participants wore protective gear including helmets with face shields, Peck said, as he watched the ongoing scenario play out before he joined officers inside.
Officers are given a little information on each scenario – such as it is a vehicle stop – before each two-hour session, Bowering said.
“Officers’ adrenaline gets up. Sometimes they get tunnel vision, and this shows them mistakes they made that they could correct to save their lives or someone else’s life,” Bowering said.
The training, which is mandatory, has been held for 10 to 12 years, Lowell said before the session.
It’s based on real life happenings that trainers have either read about or that have come over the teletype and actively involve shooting.
This week’s session was based on incidents that could happen near a school with the matter ending up in the school and reflects a change in philosophy after the Columbine school shootings, Lowell said.
More training with different scenarios will be held this summer.