Officer Jason Mattheus

Led by Sr. Officer Jason Mattheus, Bakersfield College held another one of its public training sessions Thursday in the Levan Center.

It can happen anywhere. 

That message rang true as Bakersfield College students, staff and community members looked at powerpoint slides Thursday of past mass shooting instances in the United States: Columbine High School in Columbine, Colorado; Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon; Red Lake Indian Reservation in Red Lake, Minnesota; and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. 

In each instance, innocent lives were lost. But since these moments, people have learned how to best protect themselves and others and what warning signs to look for in order to hopefully prevent a shooting. 

BC has taken it upon itself — along with Cal State Bakersfield, other higher education institutions and businesses — to prepare students, staff, faculty and community members if they are ever in an instance where an armed person is attempting to harm others. 

Led by Sr. Officer Jason Mattheus, BC held one of its public training sessions Thursday in the Levan Center. CSUB also held a session, but it was only for students and staff.

About 20 people in BC's session learned items such as who are active shooters and how society can create a culture that stresses prevention.

"It doesn't have to be a gun," said Mattheus, when referring to weapons used in attacks. He recalled the same day the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting took place, a 36-year-old man stabbed 24 people in a Chinese elementary school with a knife. 

Mattheus explained active shooters are typically individuals, but there are instances of more than one person being involved, actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people, usually have no pattern or method to their selection of victims and many have a history of mental health-related illnesses. In nearly all incidents, he said, somebody else knew.

"If you see something, say something," he said, echoing the college's safety motto. "Shooters are not living in a vacuum."

Alex Soto, a community member, said he saw the training was available for free Thursday and decided to take part since it "seemed like something current to go to."

"I don't feel like a shooting will happen, but it's possible," Soto said.

As the number of school shootings increases, Director of Student Life Nicky Damania said it has become more apparent that students, faculty and staff need to be prepared to respond to a threat. The college has been offering training sessions for a few years and typically around eight to 10 are held per semester.

"Even if you’ve been through response training, you always pick up something new, or just by revisiting that thought you can refresh your mind," Damania said. "Our main goal and focus is that people understand the run, hide, fight concept. We show a video, and it gives a good live action."

If someone finds themselves in the middle of a shooting, they should either run to safety, hide in an area out of the shooter's view or, as a last resort and only when one's life is in imminent danger, fight by attempting to incapacitate the shooter.

The college has two more public trainings scheduled for Oct. 8 and 17. For more information, visit www.bakersfieldcollege.edu/public-safety/active-shooter.

Ema Sasic can be reached at 661-395-7392. Follow her on Twitter: @ema_sasic.

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