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Lessons learned after Noblesville West Middle School shooting

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — Six months ago Sunday, shots rang out inside Noblesville West Middle School. A teacher and student were injured. Another student was arrested. Since then, a judge decided to keep that student in juvenile detention until he turns 18.

As for the victims, student Ella Whistler continues to recover from her injuries. Her parents say she sometimes needs help getting dressed, and her right arm may never get back to 100 percent.Teacher Jason Seaman testified last week that he is also recovering. He’s been called a hero for tackling the gunman and holding him until police arrived.

Now public safety officials are talking about that day in hopes of helping other communities prepare for an active shooter situation. 

Chaotic radio traffic captures the moments right after 9:06 a.m. May 25 when a student walked into his classroom and shot his teacher, Mr. Seaman and classmate Ella Whistler. 

Panic ensued and everyone seemed to call 911. Dispatch says it was likely the most hectic type of call they’ve ever dealt with. 

“We literally had 14 calls come in within a matter of just a few seconds,” said Public Safety Communications Executive Director for Hamilton County Michael Snowden.

Within 37 seconds after the first call, law enforcement was notified. In about one minute, the shooter was identified and in three minutes he was in police custody and no longer a threat. 

Snowden was a panelist along with other county leaders Tuesday afternoon speaking to county commissioners around the state.They talked about their collaborative response to the shooting in hopes of helping others. 

“Some of the things that we had put in place, you can’t do on the fly,” Snowden said.

Officials credit planning and preparation for, what they call, creating order out of chaos. The county has policies and procedures in place for active shooter situations. First responders are also receiving ongoing training. In fact, dispatchers were in training the day before the shooting. 

“So the folks that took those calls at 9:06 a.m. on May 25 were trained at 3 p.m. the day before in aspects of active assailant,” Snowden said. 

Hamilton County Sheriff Mark Bowen says coordination also help mitigate the outcome.

“It’s important that we all work together and train together, be on the same page with regard to communications,” said Sheriff Bowen.  

But, no plan is perfect. So, what can be done differently before there is a next time?

“Always could be better right? Better is that young man would’ve gotten whatever help he needed and that day would’ve never happened,” said Snowden. 

Schools and public safety agencies are now working together to emphasize reporting suspicious behavior: see something, say something, social emotional learning in schools, anti-bullying efforts and educating families and communities on what to look for in a potentially distressed child.