Law enforcement ‘sharpen skills’ with training at Valencia mall

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After a smoke bomb explodes, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputies prepare to enter the vacant Sears store during in an “active shooter” training drill held at the Westfiled Valencia Town Center in Valencia on Tuesday, 072721. Dan Watson/The Signal

Multiple flashbangs sent smoke into the air above the former Sears at the Westfield Valencia Town Center Tuesday morning while law enforcement and paramedics advanced on the vacant retail space during an active shooter training.

The Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station hosted Tuesday’s training, which involved nearly 100 public safety personnel.

California Highway Patrol officers and deputies from the sheriff’s Tactics and Survival Unit joined local station deputies for the training. The Los Angeles County Fire Department participated with paramedics.

Natalie Arriaga, a spokeswoman for the SCV Sheriff’s station, said the live flashbangs helped to intensify the moment as deputies strategically maneuvered through the surrounding parking lot toward the barricaded shooter inside.

“We need to learn how to work well under pressure,” she said.

The training provided exactly that, according to Arriaga, who said the day’s main focus was “sharpening our skills” for active shooter situations.

“No active shooter situation is the same,” she said. “It’s important that we practice different scenarios so we have the correct mindset that will help us to ensure safety ultimately.”

SCV Sheriff’s Station deputies also recently participated in an active shooter training hosted by the Sheriff’s Department’s Parks Bureau on the banks of Castaic Lake in May. The trainings used simulation rounds to resemble a real active shooter situation.

The vacant retail space, Arriaga said, offered an opportunity for law enforcement preparing to respond to any scenario.

“A store, in general, is such a big layout with different rooms,” she said. “There’s just so many different rooms (that) we need to learn to cover and to make entry into.”

That learning takes place both during the simulation and the briefing and debriefing that occur before and after the multiple scenarios practiced during the two-hour training.

“We run about two different scenarios with different contact groups,” Arriaga said of the order of events.

That includes assessing the situation to determine the number of suspects – played Tuesday by other deputies.

Once the area was deemed safe, Arriaga said, deputies guided paramedics in to aid victims – played that day by extras.

“They’re going to do everything accordingly to make sure that they are able to deem the area safe,” she said. “Our goal is to ensure safety (and) make sure everyone gets out safely and render aid where needed.”

And more trainings are on the way, according to Arriaga.

“As we continue to sharpen our skills, we intend to hold more (trainings) in the future at different location, so again, we can just add on some different scenarios (and) being prepared for that,” she said.

Kev Kurdoghlian

Kev Kurdoghlian

Kev Kurdoghlian joined The Signal in 2021 and covers politics and government in the Santa Clarita Valley. He’s worked in community journalism, local government and public relations. Kev studied public administration at USC and political science at UCLA. Have a story tip? Message him at [email protected] or on Twitter @kevkurdog.