UCISD PD trains for active shooter scenario

Melissa Federspill|Leader-News
Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District police department officers, including (from left) Eric Castillo, Pedro Huizar, Melissa Castañeda, and Chief Joshua Gutierrez participate in a training exercise on June 22, 2023, at Uvalde Dual Language Academy.

Eight school police officers convened June 21-23 at the Uvalde Dual Language Academy to practice protocols such as breaching and clearing rooms, active shooter responses, and firearm use. 

The officers performed a drill of entering a classroom and neutralizing a threat while members of the news observed.

Uvalde Consolidated Independent School District interim superintendent Gary Patterson explained their efforts on Thursday, June 22, when he gave a vote of confidence for the police force, saying he is 100-percent positive the new force would not hesitate “one second” to save lives.

The previous UCISD police force disbanded in October of 2022. New officers include police chief Joshua Gutierrez, Pedro Huizar, Erik Castillo, Melissa Castañeda, John Olivarez, Xanthe Lara, Jennifer Perez and Fernanda Rodriguez.

The newspaper asked UCISD executive director of marketing and communications Anne Marie Espinoza on June 26 if Gutierrez or an outside organization led the classes. On June 28, the district released a statement about the training but did not say who taught the drills. 

When asked why the district chose to hold the training at UDLA, despite survivors from the May 24, 2022, mass shooting at Robb Elementary residing nearby, Patterson said it was a necessity. 

“Well this is where we live. This is where we work. These are our buildings. These are our teachers. These are our kids. We need to know where everything is, it’s much more beneficial to do the trainings here on campus,” Patterson said, noting he understands the concerns for survivors. “I think that is why we tried to communicate it ahead of time – that we are going to do this – and if that bothers somebody, they could think about not being here on that day.

“I’m not trying to speak for anybody, but the benefits of having it here with our staff on properties greatly outweigh traveling somewhere else.”

In advance of the demonstration, Patterson said the officers would be using simulated rounds that leave chalk marks to show accuracy. “What you are going to see in this scenario is that we have received information that there is a threat. We don’t know where it is, but we’ve received that there is an active threat,” Patterson told the approximately eight reporters that gathered in the hallway of UDLA. 

“This is just one of the many scenarios that we’ve covered this week.”

Four officers completed the drill, including Gutierrez, Huizar, Castillo and Castañeda. 

Other training included hostage recognition, rescue training, entry and confrontation exercises in both closed areas, such as classrooms, and open areas, such as cafeterias and courtyards, district officials said in a press release issued June 12.

Weapons training included handguns, bolt rifles and assault rifles.

Patterson also said there will be a decreased presence of Texas Department of Public Safety officers assigned to district campuses next school year.

Other trainings

Espinoza said the department participated in the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Active Attack Integrated Response train-the-trainer course in Knippa, which included first responders from surrounding agencies, including fire, EMS, Uvalde Police Department, and the Uvalde County Sheriff’s Office.

She said the UCISD PD will host an ALERRT AAIR train-the-trainer certification course in August, and the department plans to continue ongoing security and emergency training throughout the upcoming school year.