By Jessica York
August 22, 2013
FAIRFIELD — It was not like a movie, where people can fast forward to the end of the day and see what happens.
For Solano Community College’s Jerica Headly, 19, that meant a lot of not knowing Thursday.
Headley, a criminal justice major, volunteered as a “spontaneous volunteer” at an evacuation center established on the college’s Fairfield campus in a day-long countywide SWAT training exercise.
The event, led by a professional tactical training firm, simulated several scenarios, including a school takeover, hostage and mass casualty situations. It took six months to plan and included some 60 officers from four SWAT teams, made up of the Vallejo, Benicia, Vacaville, Dixon and Suisun police departments.
Headly said she was both comforted and disturbed by the day’s training, from which she and members of the Solano chapter of Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters running the evacuation center were cordoned off from getting too close.
“It makes me feel very distraught, knowing that this could happen here. It’s so violent, the way society is now. It’s not that I’ve seen it coming, but it’s a lot of shootings have gone on at colleges,” Headley said.
“It’s scary because you don’t know — where’s the suspect at, you don’t know if they’re gone, you don’t know if there’s another (shooter) coming, you don’t know if it’s over, you don’t know if you’re going to make it out alive.”
Just across the yellow caution tape stretched around the campus’ theater, four past and present students hid throughout the building in bathroom stalls, wedged into corners, hiding between rows of seats and splayed across the auditorium stage.
Karl Bettencourt, Angie Dooley, Krysta Caughman (all 20 years old) and Amanda Delgado, 23, said they were instructed to hide as if from a school shooter, and found themselves each facing the business end of SWAT firearms once they were each discovered.
“I was glad — (though) I didn’t want to get shot — that they pointed the gun,” said Caughman, a criminal justice major. “They don’t know who we are.”
Dooley later portrayed the part of a student whose boyfriend — real-life boyfriend Bettencourt — had “lost his mind” and had a pistol. She said the drill made her want to join a SWAT team, herself and thought the drills were a useful exercise for everyone.
Headly worked nearby to provide solace, rest and sustenance in the evacuation center with 28 members of the local American Red Cross, Salvation Army and Solano Community Action Partnership.
“It makes me feel better, knowing that people are trying to be more proactive to it, because you want to be prepared when a situation, a natural disaster or shooting happens, because it could happen at any point,” Headly said.