July 6, 2011
Response team practices hostage rescue (video)
Kathryn Gregory
Members of the West Virginia Special Response Team practice storming a building during a simulated hostage situation. The team, which has about 30 members, trains once a month to keep tactics fresh.

ST. ALBANS, W.Va. -- Inside a St. Albans haunted house, members of the West Virginia Special Response Team practiced another scary situation last week -- how they can save lives if someone takes a hostage.

The Kanawha Valley SRT, one of the four branches of the state team, practiced storming the former Fairview Elementary School, where fellow officers were inside acting as gunmen who had taken a hostage. The team was led by Sgt. M.L. Oglesby, State Police executive of operations.

After receiving the signal to storm, the team cautiously approached the school's entrance. They made their way down a dark hallway, filled with prop skeletons and coffins from the building's annual decoration as a haunted house on Halloween.

The team stormed through the gym's double doors and opened fire on the two fake gunmen, hitting them with pink, paint-splatter training bullets, called "simunition."

"Did we hit the hostage?" asked one of the officers, immediately after taking off his helmet. They gave a sigh of relief when they didn't see any new pink marks on the officer playing the civilian.

After the simulation, Oglesby said he hopes his team never has to storm a hostage situation in real circumstances, but he wants them to be ready if it arises.

"It's important we train frequently because the techniques we learn are perishable unless we continually reinforce that behavior we will not be sharp," he said.

"We will not be able to complete our task with speed and accuracy. It puts us in danger, it puts the public in danger and ultimately we want the suspects to be safe as well."

During a real hostage situation, police negotiate with the hostage takers for as long as possible, he said. The team uses the storming technique as a last-resort measure.

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