Hazeldale: School one day, police training the next, then demolished
Deputy Anel Ceric marches down the corridor of Hazeldale Elementary School, surrounded by his team. He ratchets a round into his short shotgun — holds it up, higher than his brawny shoulder — and rests the barrel against the top hinge of a classroom door.
The sound makes everyone wince; they feel the pressure wave in their clavicles. The corridor fills with the stench of gunpowder and cordite.
Boom. Boom. Boom.
Ceric methodically demolishes both ends of all three hinges. The door becomes less than a door; just a loosely hanging bit of wood between the Washington County sheriff's deputies and the bad guy. Or the hostages. Or the victims. Or...
Nobody, actually. The classroom beyond is empty, as are the corridors and lunchroom and gymnasium.
The Beaverton School District this summer will tear down the old Hazeldale School on Southwest Farmington Road. That gave the Sheriff's Office the perfect venue for some real-world training in the art of busting down doors, carrying wounded, battlefield medicine and more. Hazeldale becomes a verison of the FBI's famous Hogan's Alley: a real-world stage to practice the art and science of law enforcement.
As backhoes wait to raze the mid-20th-century school, law enforcement personnel from throughout the region, including Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and Lake Oswego, descended on the building for two days of training — the kind of training that, for most officers, is only theoretical.
"There are only so many doors we can demolish, most days," says Cpl. J.C. Crecelius of the Sheriff's Office. "Here we've got, like, a hundred doors."
And demolish them they do. In the gym, officers fire shotguns to smash locks, then learn to kick in doors with their heels, not their toes. Out in the courtyard, Cpl. Jeremy Braun shows them out to use a halligan bar, a tool that's part ax, part pry bar, part ice-climber's pick.
"You grip it like this," Braun explains. "The further your hand is, the other direction from the blade, the less work you gotta do. Right?"
He turns, jabs the arched, adze-like blade between a door and doorframe, and yanks.
Wood chips fly.
Doors can get blown up with explosives. Or the locks can get shot. But Crecelius cringes, even talking about it.
"I hate to say, 'shoot the lock.' That's just so Hollywood," he says. "Almost every day, someone in Washington County (law enforcement) kicks a door in. If we have to shoot, we do. But kicking is always Plan A."
Do you kick the center of a door?
Not if it's a hollow-frame wooden door; you're as likely to end up with your leg stuck in the still-locked door.
Shooting the lock?
"It's 45 degrees up, and 45 degrees over," Crecelius says, miming the angle. "That way, you're shooting toward the frame and down. You demolish the lock and the face plate. Plus, your bullet ends up in the wall or maybe in the floor, just the other side of the door."
Want to use a sledgehammer to break a padlock on a bike chain? It's not easy; the lock and chain bob and dance out of the way. No, one guy holds the lock with a long-handled set of pliers, and the other guy smacks the pliers with the sledge.
Fire alarms stop the training twice — odd, since all power had been cut to the school. Crecelius gets busy trying to track that down, while visible clouds of gunsmoke waft out of the gym and the hardwood becomes littered with the detritus of frangible ammo — ammunition designed to disintegrate after firing.
Behind the school, officers learn how to advance on a shooter who was behind cover, pick up a wounded man, and get him to safety, all while keeping themselves safe.
"A lot of this came from Virginia Tech," Crecelius says.
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., was the scene of a devastating incident in 2007 in which a gunman stormed the campus, used bike chains and locks to secure doors, and eventually killed 32 people, wounded 17 others, and committed suicide.
Officers on the scene didn't know how to handle the bike chains on the doors, Crecelius says, or how to carry wounded from a hot zone to a safe zone.
Training days like those at Hazeldale address those challenges.
"Of course we know how to carry people," says Deputy Shannon Wilde of the Sheriff's Office. "We know how to fight, how to take doors. But usually we do it at the academy, not in real life, not dressed for work. Because of this training, when the time comes, you know what really works and what doesn't. My uniform adds 28 pounds to me. It matters."
She watches a team advance through the backhoes and mounds of dirt — the demolition of Hazeldale was slated to begin as soon as the officers leave — pick up a "wounded" man, and get him to safety.
"Cederberg," she says, almost under her breath.
On Christmas Day, Oregon State Trooper Nic Cederberg chased suspect James Tylka into Sherwood. According to law enforcement accounts, on a remote road south of town, Tylka shot Cederberg multiple times and left him to bleed out by his patrol car, waiting to ambush more officers. Arriving on the scene, officers managed to get Cederberg to safety — he survived his critical injuries but is still recovering — and killed Tylka in what the Washington County District Attorney's Office called a justified shooting.
"Some of this training, right here?" Wild says, pointing to the phalanx of officers, guns drawn, advancing on a faux victim. "This training saved Cederberg's life. This is how they took care of him until medical (personnel) arrived. This stuff works."