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Students, staff traumatized by surprise active shooter training drills

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    ASHEVILLE, North Carolina (WLOS) -- An active shooter training drill on the University of North Carolina Asheville campus seemingly backfired.

On Sept. 9, student employees of UNCA’s Highsmith Student Union received a mandatory training notice via email for a two-hour "gathering" on Tuesday, Sept. 20.

According to sophomore Ellie Little, the surprise active shooter training was held by faculty member David Weldon. It involved drills in which Weldon instructed unsuspecting students to run from a gunman, among other exercises, she said.

“People got injured, people were falling, people were having panic attacks,” Little said. “[Weldon] came up behind people and pretended to shoot them. He also did the same thing with a fake a prop gun like he was pretending to shoot it and giving it to other people to let other people pretend to shoot other students.”

Little is one of more than half a dozen UNCA students who contacted News 13 with concerns about the drill.

“There were students and employees that were outside that did not get told what was happening that were huddling against each other,” Little said.

Several hours after the training, Little got an email from Jessica Inman, director of the Highsmith Student Union. Little read a portion:

Dear team, we want to address tonight’s meeting and training that many of you attended or may have heard about,” Little read from her phone. “We know that this meeting did not go as intended, and we would like to learn more about what exactly caused the meeting to be derailed the way it was. According to the UNCA website, Weldon is listed as the director of emergency management. Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Meghan Harte Weyant declined to say whether Weldon is facing disciplinary action.

Harte Weyant also declined to answer if UNCA’s active shooter training typically involves instructors pretending to shoot students and if university officials will make it standard campus protocol to alert all students and faculty before any other training exercises.

Harte Weyant did provide the following statement in response to the incident:

The active shooter preparedness training program has been paused, pending a further review that will include a comprehensive study of the history of the program as well as a thorough investigation of what happened yesterday. More immediately, university staff has reached out to student employees involved, to hear their concerns and provide any necessary support. Until this review is complete, it would be difficult to comment on specific aspects. As a learning community, we look forward to considering ways to strengthen this program in the future."

A letter was also emailed campuswide on Wednesday with resources for counseling services.

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