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CRESTVIEW — A domestic argument last week rapidly escalated and soon reports of "gunshots fired" were called into the Crestview Police Department. When responding officers were fired upon, they summoned back-up officers, and together, room by room, they secured the residence.

When they were done, one shooter was left severely wounded. The other was shot and killed when he tried to ambush officers from a bedroom closet.

Afterward, assailants and officers compared notes—and gunshot "wounds."

The incident was one of several scenarios enacted by Crestview police officers during an "urban tactics" course in the Northwest Florida State College Criminal Justice program's "shoot house."

The class was sort of a combination of paint ball, air soft and laser tag, with the serious goal of teaching police officers how to respond to incidents within the confines of a building.

"We teach officers how to make an entrance into a building and clear it of hazards," the course's instructor, Investigator Shawn Temple, said. "The shoot house allows us make up many scenarios, but there's a penalty. If you make a mistake, you get shot."

Wearing eye and head protection and, for some, their patrol vests, officers used air soft pellets and non-lethal "simunition," which are cartridges that load and fire almost like the real thing, but leave a pink dye marker — and sometimes a stinging welt if it hits bare or little-protected skin.

"They can hurt!" Temple said during a pre-scenario briefing. "Please try not to aim for the groin or head."

Part of the Police Department's regular monthly instruction, the training included multiple scenarios in which the officers took turns being bad guys while their fellow officers responded to an armed domestic dispute, a kidnap victim, an "officer down" rescue, and an unarmed dispute.

The shoot house allowed officers to experience responses in a typical home environment, a furnished three-bedroom residence with closets, kitchen, bathroom and living room. However, unlike a real house, there was no ceiling. Instructors and fellow officers could observe the unfolding response from catwalks above the rooms.

Several times Temple called a halt to a scenario and provided instruction to officers who made errors, then allowed the scenario to resume. After each scenario was played, the officers gathered in the lobby of the former gymnasium for a debriefing.

"The three key things you need in a close-quarters fight like this are speed, surprise and violence of action," Temple told the officers. Some instruction addressed topics currently in the national consciousness. For an officer who raised his rifle at a suspect wielding a bed pillow, Temple broached the subject of police shootings of unarmed suspects that have occurred in other jurisdictions.

"What do you think he had?" Temple said to officers. "An assault pillow? Are you prepared to face the trials and lawsuits that would come from shooting someone armed only with a pillow?"

After a couple of hours of shoot house experience, the officers gathered in the Criminal Justice program's MILO Range, an interactive simulation theater in which officers reacted and responded to projected video scenarios using electronic weapons that weighed and looked like real firearms. Debriefings after each scenario allowed officers to judge their accuracy and instructors to provide pointers.

Community Services Officers Wanda Hulion and Sam Kimmons, who normally man school crossings, organize crime prevention programs and teach citizen academies, received good-natured ribbing from their comrades as they took on urban assailants.

As Hulion deftly shot one armed assailant, Operations Cmdr. Andrew Schneider said, "Oh no! Not in my school zone you don't!"

Kimmons had less luck. While assuming the firing stance, his scenario required him to identify a potential terrorist on a bus. But when the suspect detonated an explosive vest, ending the scenario, Kimmons said, "I didn't even get to shoot."