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Shavonne Potts Column: Don't shoot the volunteer

By Shavonne Potts

Salisbury Post

When Deputy Chief Steve Whitley asked me to be a victim/hostage for the Salisbury Police SWAT scenario, I first thought, “They’re going to shoot me.”

The police were giving a demonstration Thursday to members of Leadership Rowan, which is a Rowan Chamber program that educates business professionals on local government, law enforcement and other industries.

He assured me it was no big deal and that no, they would not be shooting me. So I said, “Yes, I’ll be a hostage.”

Maybe it was the head cold talking or maybe it was that I thought, “Now this would make an interesting story.”

Ever the reporter, I agreed to let someone point a gun at me, unloaded of course, and have SWAT members “rescue me” from the clutches of the bad guy, played by Whitley.

I put on a bullet-resistant vest and a too-big helmet.

I put goggles on and stuffed yellow spongy plugs into my ears.

It was like I was the Pillsbury Doughboy, but I was a willing participant.

Before the scenario was acted out, Whitley explained what I’d have to do. It seemed simple enough:

Sit in a chair and wait until someone comes. It’s like being in “timeout” until your mom comes to retrieve you.

Once I sat down, things happened rather quickly. The helmet covered my eyes and the only thing I could see was the tip of the helmet’s lining and smoke from a flashbang grenade. I could also hear Whitley telling me, “It’s OK.”

I was thinking, of course it is, but tell that to my pounding heart and pumping adrenaline.

Since I couldn’t see, my other senses kicked in and all I could hear was a bang, shouting and rapid ammunition being discharged.

I could also hear gasps from the people taking part in Leadership Rowan who were off to the side watching the scenario unfold.

A moment later, Whitley was gone, no longer standing over me and I was up on my feet.

A short time later, I was picking myself off the ground. I don’t recall how I got there, but the urgency of the demonstration and the SWAT member pulling on me, told my brain which told my feet to run.

So, like Forrest Gump, I ran.

It wasn’t that far, maybe a few yards and then I’d be “safe.”

As the SWAT unit made it back to the van with me in tow, I saw Whitley being lifted on a stretcher into a waiting ambulance.

I surmised they had to “take him out.”

In my opinion, things went well.

So, other than a few scrapes on my knees, I’d say my short-lived time as a hostage was very much like skydiving — exhilarating, but better when back on the ground.

Would I do it again? Probably, wouldn’t you?

Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or spotts@salisburypost.com.

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