Academy particpants head to firing range

Abbey Brown

Samantha Jones held the .40-caliber hand gun tightly in her shaking hands. Her first shot hit the man’s upper right shoulder.

“Did I hit him?” the Bowling Green sophomore asked excitedly.

Jones was one of 17 students and staff who participated Tuesday evening in the seventh session of the University Academy, campus police’s version of a citizen’s police academy, at the Bowling Green Police Department’s firing range.

Crime Prevention Officer Joe Harbaugh said the main reason the weapon handling and training was included in the academy was to give an understanding of what it feels like when a police officer draws a weapon.

“I think people got more of a respect of what goes into firing a firearm,” he said.

Each student got a crash course on how to hold and shoot both a semi-automatic handgun and a shotgun. This was the first time for most to shoot a gun.

The weapons were loaded, and the shooting began.

Jones waited for her turn anxiously, watching the other students firing away.

“I’m really excited for it,” she said, moments before her turn. “I think it will feel powerful.”

Officer Lee McKinney stood behind Jones as she raised the 12-gauge shotgun to her chest. Her body jerked backwards after the first shot – she missed the target. She shook it off and got back into position.

After her second and third shot, a metal ding resounded in the air signaling she had hit the target.

“Wooo,” she screamed towards the onlooking students and police officers.

They moved onto the handgun. She opted to shoot a .40-caliber gun. She stood in position, shaking.

“Concentrate on the sights, not the recoil,” McKinney said in a calming voice. “Pull the trigger slowly, slowly, slowly.”

The shot echoed in the night sky.

Jones shot 16 rounds, missing only four.

She said it was “awesome” and a “complete adrenaline rush.”

Rodes-Harlin Hall Director Tehanee Ratwatte said she decided to participate in the gun course for the experience.

After shooting for about 15 minutes, she hadn’t hit the target once.

“I should never, ever have a gun in my hand,” she said, laughing. “But it was great. I had a big old smile on my face.”

Gilbert Hall Director Kat Stewart hit all three of the shotgun targets and missed only four out of 45 shots with the handgun.

“I’m not a big fan of guns, but I was glad to shoot in a controlled environment where there were people who wouldn’t let me get hurt,” she said.

Harbaugh said he heard positive feedback from both the participants and the officers conducting the training.

“We heard everything from ‘I really enjoyed it, but would never do it again’ to ‘That was the coolest thing,'” Harbaugh said. “We just wanted them to leave with an appreciation of the force of weapons and their consequences.”

Some of the students got so nervous about shooting the gun that McKinney had to ask them to stop and relax.

“It’s no different for our officers,” Harbaugh said. “We go through anxiety and nerves. We never know what is going to happen.”

McKinney said Tuesday’s exercise was beneficial.

“It helped them realize what a firearm can and can’t do,” he said. “You can’t just shoot someone once and then they fall down.”

McKinney’s favorite part of the activity was the interaction with the students.

“Most people don’t get to see police officers as people,” he said. “It gave both me and the students an opportunity to interact positively with each other.”

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