San Mateo sheriff unveils new active shooter training simulator

Guns at the ready. San Mateo sheriff’s Sgt. David Weidner and KTVU crime reporter Henry Lee tested a new firearms training simulator. Instead of just one to two screens, this next-gen system has five - in surround-sound.

"Once you step in, you feel kind of vulnerable. It’s a 300-degree environment," said sheriff's Sgt. Philip Hallworth.

"Stay here, back with me, stay here me. Here we go," Weidner told Lee as a woman screamed on screen.

The scenario: active shooters at a school. 

"Where is he? Where is he?" an officer on screen yelled at a woman lying on the ground.

A man with a gun in the library emerged with a gun, and Weidner and Lee opened fire with laser-activated weapons. The sergeant also took down two other shooters.

Afterward, Lee asked the sergeant, "Man, that’s something else.. Did I kill a witness? 

"No," Weidner replied.

Hallworth checked Lee's hands. 

"Sweaty palms. Nice elevated pulse," Hallworth said.

"Man, I gotta sit down somewhere," Lee said. 

No time to sit, though. Time to debrief and critique.

"Your first shot was a miss," Hallworth said. "his is a difficult shooting situation." 

"There was a bad guy though, right?" Lee asked.

"There was a bad guy," Hallworth replied

San Mateo County Sheriff Carlos Bolanos said the system's  scenarios can be tweaked and tailor-made to simulate all kinds of calls, and not just active shooters. 

"Deescalation, non-escalation, compassionate communication skills and scenarios dealing with people who are experiencing a mental health crisis," Bolanos said.

"So you have to learn to shift gears," Weidner said. "And that’s exactly what happens every day, you know, you go from call to call, your adrenaline’s going up and down, this can help replicate that."

The system also allows deputies to insert local scenes to add to the realism. 

"It’s so much more expansive. It’s so much more immersive. It doesn’t replace real life training," Hallworth said.

Bolanos invited the media to try out the simulator just days after the school massacre in Uvalde, Texas.

"It’s perfect timing," the sheriff said, adding with his agency there's no debate as to whether to go in or wait.

"If there are two or more deputies, they will go in and neutralize the threat -  immediately."

Hallworth said, "They’ve gotten as close as they really can and now they’ve acclimatized to it. Their mind has processed something like this before, so they can act."