COMMERCE CITY – Evan Todd was just a high school sophomore on April 20, 1999.
He was also one of the first victims in the Columbine High School shooting.
“I was in the library. I was the first student targeted and shot. I was hit in the lower left side of my back,” Todd said. “I had shrapnel go to my neck and face.”
Todd said he felt hopeless when two of his classmates opened fire in Columbine High, killing 12 students and teacher Dave Sanders, and wounding more than 20 others.
Knowing what he does today, Todd said he thinks the situation could have been different, had teachers and faculty been prepared.
“Teachers, armed or disarmed, have shown time and time again how much they care about their students, and that they will lay down their lives for them,” Todd said. “And no teacher should have to die because they’ve been disarmed at the door.”
In fact, Todd joined dozens of teachers taking part in a F.A.S.T.E.R. training class held Friday at the Flatrock Training Center in Adams County. It’s hosted by F.A.S.T.E.R. Colorado, which stands for Faculty/Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response.
The concept was brought to Colorado by Laura Carno, and all training classes are taught by active law enforcement personnel. Participants learn how to improve on their marksmanship, weapon handling skills and even medical actions.
Sgt. Graham Dunne, who works in a large metropolitan police department that could not be named, is one of the class’s instructors. Statistics show a mass shooting is happening every three weeks in this country, and that the average situation lasts just two minutes with eight people dead.
That’s why this training is important, Dunne said.
“By the time I get the call and I run in, it’s already over. I’m running through the smoke. It’s already done with. So, unfortunately, it’s unrealistic to say well the police are going to come save us. Unfortunately, these guys have to be the first responders,” Dunne said.
It’s a crisis that’s happened far too often in the United States, and one Colorado sadly knows all too well.
But it’s a situation these teachers, and Todd, feel they can improve by being armed themselves.
“When something starts and bullets start flying, no gun law in the world is going to stop it,” Todd said. “And that’s why there needs to be something that actually physically meets force with force.”
Carno said the organization is only focused on protecting teachers and schools, not the politics involved with the nation’s gun debate. With the completion of this week’s class, more than 100 teachers across the state have become certified.
Colorado school districts are in charge of the decision on whether to arm teachers, faculty and staff.