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Des Moines Officer Says Only One Way to Handle Shooters

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DES MOINES, Iowa —It's a nightmare that no one ever expects will happen to them.

"It could happen in Perry, Iowa. It could happen in Norwalk, Iowa. It could happen in Des Moines, Iowa. That's the whole thing. There is no magic cursor or precursor to tell us about these troubled people," said retired Des Moines Police Capt. Kelly Willis.

As a retired commander of the police academy, Willis helped prepare Des Moines' emergency response after the fatal Columbine shootings in 1999.

"We brought in some of the investigators from Columbine, put on a seminar, and then also developed an active-shooter response for the Des Moines Police Department," Willis said.

Willis said Polk County has been proactive in training, but if the time comes, there's only one way to handle an active shooter.

"Unfortunately, there is no magic, politically correct wand here other than the fact that you match that force with the same amount of force, which in this case is deadly force," Willis said.

The retired police officer said he believes response time would be minimal for Central Iowa law enforcement.

"It will probably be less than three minutes before that first officer was there, but you can shoot a lot of automatic weapons in a matter of 30 seconds," Willis said.

He said locking doors and taking cover is the right to do.

"Those things give law enforcement time to respond, and that's what you really want -- a quick response time," Willis said.

Though tragedies cannot always be predicted or prevented, Willis said he believed there should be an ongoing conversation on how to prepare for the worst.

"In my professional opinion, there should be an on-site, professional law enforcement person at every school," Willis said.

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