clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Lessons learned at Columbine helped California cops

Lessons from Columbine helped California officers responding to the Santana High School shooting.

"We all reviewed that and looked at it in training," said Lt. Dan Papp of the San Diego Sheriff's Deparment. "Some things were done differently on account of that."

He added: "I don't think there's a cop in the country that did not learn from Columbine."

One of those lessons was a quick, massive response that drew police from across San Diego County to the school. Officers were on the scene in less than two minutes, he said.

One stark difference between the two shootings was the manner in which those first officers quickly entered the school building and apprehended the shooting suspect. Papp hesitated to call that a tactical lesson learned from Columbine. Instead, he credited the instincts of the first responding officers at the scene.

"That is the individual (officer's) responsibility; how he sees it and takes action," Papp added.

At Santana High in Santee, Calif., a group of officers quickly tracked a lone suspect to a bathroom, where he surrendered without resistance.

From a tactical standpoint, however, Papp noted that Columbine presented a much different layout than the one in Santee. Columbine involved two heavily armed suspects whose location was not immediately known; the two were setting off bombs and had placed booby traps.

Law enforcement set up a perimeter around the school. They did not find Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold until the two killers had killed themselves.

In Santee, police were quickly able to find the suspect. He was armed only with a small caliber revolver that held about eight or nine bullets at a time. He surrendered without resistance, deputies said.

There was also an element of luck at work in Santee: Off-duty San Diego police officer Bob Clark was at the school before the shooting began. He and his wife were enrolling their daughter for the next school semester.

Clark, who was dressed in civilian clothing but had his service weapon, quickly located the suspect and took cover near the bathroom until other officers arrived.

He did not have to wait long. According to Papp, the first deputy arrived at the scene 1 minute and 21 seconds after the first 911 report had been logged.