It was a traditional Friday morning.
Escambia County Sheriff’s Workplace Chief Deputy Chip Simmons had completed breakfast, gotten dressed for work and had simply gotten into his automobile at round 7 a.m. on Dec. 6 when he acquired a name from a dispatcher that there was an lively shooter on base at NAS Pensacola.
Simmons turned on his patrol automobile and commenced heading to the scene, considering that it will be a run-of-the-mill lively shooter name, which up to now in his profession has largely turned out to be both a false alarm or much less severe state of affairs.
Not this time.
“Numerous instances, we get lively shooter calls, and so you may flip in your radio to watch it and begin heading that manner, and it would not find yourself being because it’s first described,” Simmons mentioned in an interview with the Information Journal on Wednesday. “Sadly, on Friday morning, it was precisely the way it was described.”
Simmons turned on his sirens and commenced racing to the scene. On his radio he may hear regulation enforcement officers’ pressing communication as 911 dispatchers calmly gave instructions to the constructing on base the place the calls have been originating. Simmons heard a number of gunshots within the scanner chatter. He heard that a number of regulation enforcement officers have been down.
Vignettes of heroism
Harrowing tales have begun to emerge within the days after the lethal capturing on base at NAS Pensacola that left 4 individuals useless, together with the shooter, and eight wounded. The FBI has taken over the investigation and is treating it as an act of terrorism, and are largely remaining quiet.
However particulars as a substitute have begun to emerge from individuals who witnessed the crime immediately, like 27-year-old airman Ryan Blackwell, who advised the Information Journal about how he shielded a colleague’s physique together with his personal because the gunman unloaded a barrage of bullets into the workplace the place they have been working. All three individuals within the workplace have been shot and wounded, together with Blackwell.
The household of 23-year-old Joshua Kaleb Watson recounted how the younger Ensign, although gravely wounded, was capable of escape the constructing and provides the primary two responding regulation enforcement officers an correct description of the shooter and his location earlier than he died.
Charles Hogue, a Division of Protection police officer who was one of many first two officers that encountered Watson after which engaged the shooter, was shot within the leg by the gunman, based on Charles Hogue’s son Jeremiah. Whereas Charles Hogue was at the back of a police automobile on the way in which to the hospital with one other wounded particular person, he gave the wounded individual first help whereas calmly telling the deputy the quickest strategy to get off base — all whereas controlling the blood from his personal wound.
The vignettes of heroism which might be beginning to emerge from that day are, based on Simmons, indicative of the severity of the state of affairs that first responders encountered after they acquired to the scene Friday morning. The deputies had skilled for conditions like this, they’d insurance policies and protocols and guidelines and tips, however when it was really taking place, it was surreal. Deputies arrived and helped in numerous methods, from clearing the constructing to treating the wounded.
“I believe that heroism is available in numerous totally different varieties,” Simmons mentioned. “You’ve got the regulation enforcement response to the lively shooter, however you even have the regulation enforcement response to help those that are injured, after which have the ability to say, ‘OK, the shooter is down, we’ve acquired to get these injured individuals to security.’
“In some instances, that was making use of tourniquets, and in lots of instances, that was simply placing them at the back of the primary out there automobile that may get them to a medical facility,” he continued. “And from what we have been listening to about was that, in lots of instances, the sheriff’s division autos have been taking individuals at the back of a police automobile, not only a single individual however two or three, and getting them to the hospital ourselves. We had individuals approaching base, we have been attempting to fulfill with EMS and hearth crews, however in some instances we transported them ourselves.”
Processing the scene, and processing feelings
Simmons cannot bear in mind precisely how lengthy it took him to get from his driveway to the classroom constructing on base that had been was a conflict zone — 15 minutes, perhaps 20. By the point he acquired there, the shooter was useless, and the scene was grim.
Deputies have been working to clear the constructing. They believed they’d eradicated the one menace, that there was just one shooter, however they went door by door to every room to verify and to evacuate anybody who was left. “A number of variations” of the incident had are available by way of 911 calls, Simmons mentioned, so deputies have been nonetheless on excessive alert as they labored to deal with the wounded and make sure the security of everybody else on base.
“You could possibly see there was an amazing quantity of damaged glass within the constructing,” Simmons mentioned, recalling what the scene regarded like within the minutes after the assault. “There was a number of blood, each from the gunshots and from the efforts to supply first help. Sadly, there have been nonetheless a few our bodies.”
Simmons has seen our bodies earlier than. He is run towards gunfire and examined crime scene earlier than. However the scene in constructing 633 at NAS Pensacola on the morning of Dec. 6 hit him otherwise, he mentioned.
“The truth that it was the Navy base made it totally different,” he mentioned. “The Navy type of holds a particular place to these of us who dwell in Pensacola, and to these of us who have been raised in Pensacola. NAS is what introduced me and my household right here. I used to be born on a Navy base in Iceland, and my father was transferred to NAS Pensacola and that is what introduced me right here.”
Simmons mentioned the ECSO is nonetheless working to piece collectively a second-by-second account of what occurred Friday morning. Six deputies fired bullets whereas partaking with the shooter, and all six have been positioned on paid administrative depart, a normal process each time there may be an officer-involved capturing.
All three regulation enforcement officers — two ECSO deputies and the NAS police officer, Charles Hogue — have been launched from the hospital and are anticipated to completely get well from their accidents.
Simmons mentioned he expects that extra tales will emerge within the days, weeks and months forward, because the investigation deepens into how such a heinous assault may have occurred proper right here at residence. The deputies are nonetheless processing the emotional elements of what they witnessed, and Simmons remains to be grieving together with the remainder of the group the lack of three younger lives.
However he expects extra tales of heroism to emerge that he says ought to assist Pensacolians begin to heal, little by little, from the occasions of Dec. 6.
“We’re simply barely hitting on it now,” he mentioned. “I believe that the sense of delight, and, actually, patriotism that was displayed within the Cradle of Navy Aviation, I believe that is actually going to resonate not simply with Escambia County, however with the nation.”
Annie Blanks may be reached at [email protected] or 850-435-8632.