IRVING, Texas — Because shooting rampages are a terrifying fact of modern life, North Lake College in Irving says it is fighting back by offering an active shooter training course.
"We've had instances like Virginia Tech. We don't want to be in that situation," said North Lake College Police Chief J.C. Drake, who organized the training. "We don't want to be unprepared for something like that.”
However, during a recent active shooter training session, the college's police department did catch students and teachers unprepared.
Last month, faculty and students heard the sounds of a lone gunman shooting people inside North Lake College.
It turned out to be a drill, but most people on campus did not know that, because they had not been told it was just an exercise.
News 8 obtained surveillance video and 911 calls showing how real the terror really was.
CALLER: "We need help at North Lake College at the T Building. Please! They're shooting!"
DISPATCHER: "Okay. North Lake College?"
CALLER: "Yes, hurry!"
CALLER: "Somebody's shooting!"
During the exercise, the gunman shoots blanks in the hallway and forces a woman to the ground. She's a fellow officer, playing the role of "victim."
The mock shooter can also be seen banging on the wall. Callers don't seem to know what's going on until they reach 911.
CALLER: "T Building, North Lake. Some guy's upstairs, it sounds like he's either hitting or shooting or something."
DISPATCHER: "No, they're doing an active class."
CALLER: "Oh, my God! You've got to be kidding me! They need to stop!"
How real was this training exercise?
"I was thinking about grabbing my chair and smashing out the window behind me to jump out the window,” said one student who did not wish to use her name.
Chief Drake said teachers were notified by e-mail, and they were supposed to tell students.
Somehow, that system broke down.
"While it's regrettable to the degree that it produced anxiety, there was a decent outcome, in that the instructors that heard this... the students that heard this... did what they should have done,” Drake said.
"It's just an invitation to die,” said a former Israeli agent and security expert, who goes by "Avi." He disagrees with the way North Lake trains its staff. He says keeping a campus safe means identifying suspicious patterns and behavior before it boils over.
"If you can get to the guy before he walks on campus with a gun, you can save a lot of lives," Avi said. "To teach staff and faculty how to jump on a shooter? No, they will all be dead."
Drake said his training class is mandated by the federal government for all emergency first responders.
But faculty and students are not first responders.
“There were people crying, talking about how their kids are too young.... can't lose their mom at this age,” said the student who did not want to be identified.
The training courses continue on at North Lake, but now with the added question about the judgment of those charged with keeping them safe.
North Lake has since changed its protocol, with stronger warnings to faculty and staff — including announcements over the intercom.