Jeff Humphrey, Media Content Coordinator, 509.625.6308
Friday, November 2, 2018 at 10:25 a.m.
Sometimes a self-defense class, offered by the Spokane police department, can get its start with a bang.
About two dozen women and teens, who showed up for the training, were still signing waivers when they heard a series of gunshots.
"You guys all deserve this," someone shouted from outside the classroom, then, more gunfire.
"We're all right, you’re good, you’re good,” Lt. Shawn Kendall said, not wanting to leave students wondering and worrying what had happened for very long.
"All right. So what did we just experience? Active shooter, has anyone heard that term before," asked Kendall.
The class is called Enhancing the Survival Mindset which means, having a plan to react to a crime before you're a victim of crime.
Kendall explained to students that, in active shooter situations, if potential victims can’t get away, they need to be prepared to ambush the gunman in a coordinated attack.
"You go for his legs, you go for his head, you go for his arms. I'm going try to grab the weapon. Does that sound like a better plan than, let's get him," Kendall quizzed the class.
Students also learn what can make them an attractive target to thieves and other bad people.
Kendall feels while cell phones can be used to call for help, they also serve as distractions from what’s going on around us.
"Type a few words, scan, type a few words, scan," Kendall told the class as he looked up and down from his cell phone screen.
And then, the lessons took a darker turn. A woman is taken to a dimly lit hallway and confronted by a police officer playing the role of an aggressive panhandler.
"Lady I just need some cash. Do you have some spare change," asked the man.
The woman was told if someone blocks your path and you feel threatened, it’s appropriate to push them out of the way.
Other students were taken out into the parking lot where a different actor had parked his car bumper to bumper with victim’s car.
"Oh ladies, hi. Thank you so much, I thought I was stuck,” the man said pretending he needed to borrow some jumper cables.
Most women didn’t realize there was a 12-gauge shotgun holding up the hood of the supposedly disabled car, but Bethany Alcamo did as she announced she was calling 9-1-1.
"I've walked through dark parking lots where the light was out and felt uncomfortable and called campus security," Alcamo said.
Officers gave Alcamo high marks for recognizing the danger and keeping her distance from a stranger,
but back inside the training center, students also learned when and how to fight.
Like what to do when someone grabs you from behind. How to use improvised weapons like a fist-full of car keys.
"The idea is to make contact and then I'm going to grind it in there,” said Sgt. Jake Jensen as he demonstrated the technique on a dummy.
“And it's off-line and you follow up and wrap," officer Mike Russo said as he showed the class a gun take away maneuver.
Out there on the mats the students supported each other. Their self-doubts were replaced by growing resolve and determination.
There was bonding and empowerment shared by at least four pairs of mother-daughters.
"As she's getting more and more independent, I just wanted her to have the independence and that situational awareness to know what to do if she's confronted with things that happen out there," said Jodi Gentemann of her daughter Ava.
As the training session wound down, the students cheered for their instructors and cheered for themselves.
They will proudly wear the Survival Mindset t-shirts officers handed out at the end of the class.
But most of all, the graduates are developing new tactical strategies so they can confidently defend themselves and the people they care about.