It is unthinkable. Or at least it was until Friday, when a gunman killed 20 children and 6 adults before taking his own life at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
There had been no mass shootings in New England before Friday so we could be excused for thinking before, "Yes, but that wouldn't happen here." It did happen here on Friday and we are all wondering, what if? What if it happened right here in East Greenwich?
After conversations with both Town Manager Bill Sequino and Police Chief Tom Coyle and an earlier conversation with EG's juvenile officer, John Carter, here's what EG Patch can tell you.
According to Carter, state law dictates each school have 15 drills a year, including two lockdown drills and two evacuation drills. Evacuation drills are different from fire drills, Carter said, because the children were taken to a safer location, rather than lined up outside the building.
Four of the drills involve dealing with some area of the school that's blocked off, because of fire or some other threat, he said.
If a gunman breached a public school in East Greenwich, the first order of business would be to "take out the threat," said Coyle. He said police officers are trained yearly in active school shootings, paid for by the federal government.
East Greenwich does not have a SWAT team – a "special weapons and tactics" team – because it is too small of a department, Coyle explained. Instead, EG has a "special response team" or SRT. The main difference between the two – an SRT does not have a sniper. If a sniper is needed, Coyle said, he would contact Warwick PD, which does have snipers.
In the event of a significant incident such as happened in Newtown, the chief said, "I would be calling whoever I could get."
He and Town Manager Bill Sequino recalled the break in on Middle Road last May, when a resident arrived home to find two men outside her house. A third party was with the car. They fled and the woman called the police. A manhunt ensued across a couple square miles, with officers from six other departments responding. Within two hours, all three suspects were in custody and the stolen rifle was retrieved.
"When you take a look at the incidents that have happened in East Greenwich, we get our people," said Sequino. He noted the arrest by EG Police of David Catalano in 2009 after he struck Clifford Levalley at Willie's Texaco, killing him, then shot a North Kingstown police officer.
"For a peaceful community, we've had our share of unrest and our people have responded appropriately," Sequino said. Chief Coyle said that could be the town's location – easily accessible from Route 95 and Route 4 – and the stresses of a poor economy.
"It would be good to continue the training," said Chief Coyle, "and pray to God this sort of egregious incident never takes place here."