Old Hardin elementary campus used for active shooter training

Travis Pierce and John Bennett, members of the Liberty County Sheriff's Special Response Team, go through training at the old Hardin Elementary School campus on Thursday. The SRT members practiced close quarters combat and learned about breaching tactics.

The Liberty County Special Response Team gathered Thursday morning at the old Hardin Elementary School to train for a situation they hope will never happen. Active shooter training, which actually involves close-quarters and door-breaching training, is part of the SRT Team’s routine training program.

The team – currently made up of nine sheriff’s deputies, three deputy constables and one investigator from the Liberty County Attorney’s Office – meets two days a month all throughout the year. The team is called upon to make arrests of high risk or barricaded subjects, and in situations that involve their level of expertise.

All members must go through a basic SWAT school and are required to have completed instructor level training in some law enforcement specialty either before they join or within two years of joining to be a full-time SRT officer.

The Liberty County Sheriff’s Special Response Team trains at the old Hardin Elementary School campus on Thursday. The campus is no longer in use but works as an excellent location for training to respond to active shooter situations.

The SRT was formed in 2013 by Sheriff Bobby Rader, according to LCSO Capt. Billy Knox, the commander of the SRT.

“We had a situation with a barricade subject and all the area SWAT teams were busy handling calls in their own counties and couldn’t respond,” Knox said. “The sheriff saw the need to get a group together locally that had the training and equipment to handle these situations.”

Knox said that Liberty County EMS is also included in the SRT in order to provide medical assistance in the event that an SRT member is shot or wounded while responding to a crisis.

The SRT is routinely called upon by other agencies in the county to help serve high risk and narcotics warrants, Knox added.

LCSO Investigator Steve Rasberry and County Attorney’s Investigator Jake Ladwig are the two team leaders. They run the day-to-day operations. Ivan Gonzalez and Oscar Martinez are assistant team leaders. Josh Cummins, the training coordinator for the sheriff’s office, is a member and helps with training resources.

“Any law enforcement agency in Liberty County that wants members on the team can apply. There is a process. You must pass a physical agility assessment, which involves push-ups and running, for example. They must also show expert proficiency with all law enforcement firearms,” said Rasberry. “After applying and passing the first tests, they then go in front of a review board that consists of all the current team members. Capt. Billy Knox has the final approval on new members.”

Rasberry said the SRT tries to train at a couple of schools every year. Past drills were conducted at Hardin, Tarkington and Hull-Daisetta ISDs, and they have participated in emergency and disaster drills at Texas Emergency Hospitals in Cleveland.

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