NIU police hold active-shooter training drill

DEKALB, Ill. (WLS) -- Several police agencies took part in what they call active-shooter training at Northern Illinois University on Friday. It was full-scale training for first responders on what to do if there is a gunman at a busy college campus.

Five people were killed when a gunman opened fire at that school back in 2008.

The training exercise for NIU police and surrounding agencies included nearly 100 first responders and volunteers.

"I was playing the role of the victim and it was very surreal," said Theresa Woods, volunteer.

Police and emergency personnel react to reports of four active shooters and 17 injured as they would in a real situation. NIU shared video of the exercise from the inside.

"Realistic training and engaging these things and facing them head on better prepares this community to work together," said Chief Thomas Phillips, NIU Police.

The training exercise was planned in between semesters at a time when most students would be off campus. But people in the area were warned there would be an exercise, so no one think there was another active situation.

In 2008, a former NIU student opened fire in Cole Hall killing five students before shooting himself. NIU Cmdr. Don Rodman was an officer who responded that day. On Friday, he was one of the leads in the training exercise.

"We're able to see the benefit of a law enforcement coordinated response," said Cmdr. Rodman.

Maria Christiansen was seriously injured in the NIU shooting.

"I'm glad we are practicing and getting prepared," said Christiansen.

She has recovered, graduated and became an NIU police officer. Christiansen happened to be off and did not participate in Friday's exercise, but from her perspective as a victim and law enforcement, she says she is grateful for efforts to improve response.

"You never know if this could happen again and God forbid it does, but if it does, we are prepared for it," said Christiansen.

She may have missed Friday's exercise, but she has participated in others, so she will enjoy a day off with her husband and baby-- evidence that six years later, those who were on campus in 2008 have moved forward.
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