NewsColumbine: 25 Years Later


Safety specialists use lessons from Columbine High School shooting to better train law enforcement

Posted: 10:27 PM, Apr 16, 2024
Updated: 2024-04-19 22:11:59-04
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JEFFERSON COUNTY, Colo. — Twenty-five years after a shooting claimed 13 lives at Columbine High School, safety specialists continue to learn from that tragedy in order to better train law enforcement.

“Truly in 1999, law enforcement didn't know what we didn't know. And we were using best practices at that time, which has now changed completely,” said Jefferson County Deputy Sheriff Eric Ebling, who now serves as a school resource officer for Columbine High School. “You can’t talk about the Columbine story without acknowledging that Columbine really changed everything. Law enforcement response to situations really becomes a pre-Columbine and post-Columbine era response."

Ebling is a Colorado native and was 16 years old when the Columbine shooting happened.

“I never had any aspirations of getting into law enforcement throughout my childhood. I really never felt drawn to law enforcement,” he told Denver7.

After watching the law enforcement response, Ebling said he found his calling.

“Years later, I just couldn't deny that I was drawn to that. So, I applied at a variety of agencies. [Jefferson County Sheriff's Office] was the one who called me back. Years later, it was an opening at Columbine High School and I applied for it and here we are,” said Ebling.

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Before April 20, 1999, in the event of a mass shooting, law enforcement would first build a perimeter around the building, meaning it could be more than 40 minutes before an officer entered the building. Today, officers are taught to enter a building as soon as they arrive and immediately confront the threat.

Training has also improved thanks to technological advancements. Located in a former elementary school in Wheat Ridge, the Jeffco DeAngelis Foundation uses real-life simulations to train school staff and law enforcement.

The center is named after Frank DeAngelis, who was the principal of Columbine High School at the time of the tragedy 25 years ago.

“This center means a lot because there are so many changes that have been made. Back when Columbine happened on April 20, 1999, the only drills we gave were fire drills,” DeAngelis told Denver7.

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The foundation offers training for various scenarios. Each session is led by law enforcement experts and held in a realistic school environment.

“We've had over 200 agencies who came to train in our building. I've had agencies from other states come in to take our training as well,” said Shawna Fritzler., executive director of The Jeffco DeAngelis Foundation.

In 2019, the DeAngelis Center introduced state-of-the-art technology that uses video, audio and scent to create realistic active shooter scenarios.

“It's a good place to make mistakes because we have the subject matter experts who will teach them so that they avoid those mistakes when they're in their real-life crisis event,” said Fritzler. 

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Jeff Pierson, executive director of safety for Jeffco Public Schools, said the goal is to train in a moment of adrenaline or high stress so responding officers are better prepared in the event of a real shooting.

“The ability to be able to do that and give them a true component of, what does it look like should I ever enter into this type of zone, I think, has been a big advancement, probably an advancement that a lot of other people don't have when it comes to a facility like this,” said Pierson.

So far, the Jeffco DeAngelis Foundation has trained more than 170,000 people at its training center. That number is steadily increasing — the center’s training schedule is currently booked for the next few months.

The Jeffco DeAngelis Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit and relies on grants and donations. If you would like to support their mission, you can donate through the foundation's website.