“Most of our operations are after dark,” Lt. Richard Cantu told the SWAT members who gathered with him at the BPD’s shooting range Sunday evening.
SWAT members are most often called into action during late-night drug raids throughout the city. Sometimes they are asked to provide assistance to Bee County Sheriff’s Office and Department of Public Safety raids conducted within the city.
Cantu was explaining the reason for the late training session as Sgt. Jason Alvarez, Sgt. Art Gamez, Sgt. Ryan Treviño and Patrolman John Berry gathered around him.
The lieutenant explained that SWAT members would be waiting until full darkness set in before they would be required to run a 50-yard course, firing their long guns as they advanced and ending the drill with pistols from a distance of five yards from their target.
Target acquisition and accuracy were the most important concerns for the five.
“I’m not going to teach something out here I won’t do,” Cantu explained as the sun dropped, and the SWAT commander suggested that team members make a few dry runs before full darkness set in around them.
Alvarez, Gamez and Treviño were equipped with tricked out AR-15s, firing .223-caliber Remington ammunition.
Berry carried an MP-5, firing 9mm rounds.
All carried either .40-caliber or 9mm sidearms on their belts.
Cantu had worked up an exercise that would require each SWAT member to move, increase his heart and respiration rate and then fire from prone and kneeling positions before taking their shots while standing.
Their targets were regulation, torso-size men, printed in blue ink.
The last target was just a photo of a man’s head. The SWAT members were required to fire four bullets into the cranium of the man in the target.
The officers were allowed to use lights mounted on their weapons. But only briefly before they fired. They were asked to fire between three and five rounds, depending in their distance from the target.
Although most of the rounds were to be aimed at center mass, each officer was also required to put a couple of rounds into the target’s groin area.
“That’s in case their target’s wearing body armor,” Cantu explained. The idea was to strike the femoral artery in the upper leg. A severed femoral artery usually means that the victim bleeds to death in just minutes.
Out of 32 rounds fired during each exercise, only two rounds would be allowed outside the target area.
“You’re not competing against each other, you’re competing with yourself,” Cantu said. There would be no time limit. “It’s pass or fail.”
By 7:30 p.m. the SWAT members were making their practice runs. A little more than an hour later the officers were doing the real thing, firing their rifles, reloading and advancing.
Not one of the current SWAT members failed. Cantu praised their accuracy. It would be mistake for anyone to think he or she could outshoot a SWAT officer after dark.
Gary Kent is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 120, or at reporter@mySouTex.com.