F.A.T.S.: To Shoot or Not To Shoot?
Omaha, NE -- Everyday authorities are faced with decisions that could change lives, is someone such a threat that they need to shoot? We see the aftermath every time, and many times wonder if the force was necessary.
Sometimes the images are shocking. About a month ago, a mentally ill Omaha man used his son as a “human shield” pointing a shotgun at police. After putting the boy down, four officers shot and killed the man.
These situations are real and officers face these dangers often. The Firearm Training Simulator or F.A.T.S. for short gives the FBI, Omaha Police officers, and other local agencies the chance to put themselves in a life or death situation.
"Each scenario is different, often times the agent or officer only has a split second to make a decision," said Thomas R. Metz, the FBI Special Agent in Charge.
The bullets aren't real, but the more than 500 scenarios are as close to reality as they can get. Agents call out commands, determine what the threat is, and decide if firing shots is appropriate.
"So even though you're focusing on the threat you do have to remain very cognizant that you aren't harming innocent victims," said Jim Langenberg, the FBI Assistant Special Agent in Charge.
They train on search warrants, bank robberies, and active shooters in every place. Each simulation has multiple endings...so they are rarely ever the same.
"The individual running the computer can change those outcomes based upon the presence of the FBI agent, how strong their commands are and things of that nature,” Langenberg explained.
"It's been proven that when someone has a gun pointed at them their accuracy goes down drastically so the more they can practice in these type of situations the more we'll be prepared when the real thing happens,” Metz described.
The intent isn't shooting to kill, but instead to protect themselves and the public and stop any threat.
In real life active shooter situations, such as Von Maur in 2007, first responders enter buildings instead of waiting for the swat team. The national average during an active shooter is 1 victim every 15 seconds, which means it's up those first responders to stop the violence. So now more than ever, all agencies use this training.
"I think what you saw too is the pressure an FBI agent or police officer is under when literally they have a split second to make a life saving decision," Metz concluded.