Local law enforcement agencies came to the aid of Wartburg College during an emergency simulation exercise Wednesday morning in Luther Hall.
The scenario involved a “lone gunman” entering the business office in Luther Hall at 9:30 a.m. and firing shots (from a starter’s pistol). One person was “fatally” shot and five others “wounded” before police apprehended the suspect.
The scenario was part of an emergency simulation required at institutions of higher education. The Waverly Police Department, Bremer County Sheriff’s Department and Office of Emergency Management, the Waverly Health Center and the Noah Campus Health Clinic participated.
Police became actively involved when Chief Business Officer Rich Seggerman dashed down the southeast stairs and out of Luther Hall, yelling to four officers assembled in the circular driveway about the shooting.
Seggerman gave the shooter’s position to the police, who entered the building carrying Airsoft rifles loaded with tiny plastic pellets. They confronted the shooter in the northeast corner of the business office.
The shooter, wearing a bulletproof vest, was felled by eight shots, and was immediately handcuffed.
One of the victims was transported to Waverly Health Center, while others were treated at the Noah Campus Health Center.
Waverly Police Chief Richard Pursell said his department simulates similar scenarios in school buildings, but this was its first time working with another institution that was actively involved in the role-playing.
Not all of the first responders were immediately aware it was a simulation.
Waverly Police Officer Cory Stephens was having breakfast at Del’s Diner when he got an urgent call from a dispatcher: “Active shooter! Shots fired!” But after citing the location, the dispatcher stated it was a simulation.
“It definitely gets your blood rushing,” said Stephens, who headed straight to campus and was “wounded” in his right shoulder during the “gun battle.”
Neither the sheriff’s deputies who arrived after Waverly police nor WHC employees involved with treating a victim had been told beforehand that a simulation would be occurring.
“While the responders were not given advanced notice of the exercise, the college took extraordinary measures for safety reasons,” said John Myers, director of campus security and safety. “Planning actually began in March. The campus community was notified earlier this week via emails that an exercise would occur.”
Campus security and physical plant staff were posted at entrances to Luther Hall to ensure no one would accidentally wander into the area.
“All of the participants learned a great deal that will be helpful in planning for other exercises and how to respond in the event of an actual event,” Myers said. “This exercise worked out as planned.”