SOUTHINGTON, Conn. — The state’s high-capacity ammunition magazine law did nothing to prevent Greg Cheverier from pumping 30 rounds into a classroom full of adults in less than 30 seconds.
The video, shot from the perspective of one of Cheverier’s “victims,” doesn’t lie:
Fortunately for the class — which included a New Boston Post reporter — Cheverier’s magazines contained blanks.
“Thirty seconds?” King 33 founder Chris Fields said in faux exasperation as soon as his colleague’s mock-massacre concluded. “You shoot slow.”
Fields founded King 33, located in an old Pratt & Whitney airplane parts warehouse, in late 2012. The facility, devoted to teaching and training how to respond to active shooter situations, is the first of its kind in the state.
Chalk it up to the mysteries of coincidence that Fields, a U.S. Army Special Forces veteran, opened the Aircraft Road facility in Southington right around the same time a deranged active shooter snuffed out the lives of 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Sandy Hook, just a little more than 30 miles away.
“I was in the state working on company plans,” Fields said about the date of the massacre, December 14, 2012. “My first building was already there by the time that happened. I was working on training plans for active shooters for the public and police.”
“There’s not another one like this, there’s nothing in the Northeast like this.”
Fields says his clients have included school staff. On Tuesday, during his active shooter class, Fields conducted two simulations — one involving Cheverier as the lone gunman and another involving Cheverier and New Boston Post contributor Kyle Reyes, who unbeknownst to Cheverier was carrying a concealed weapon.
The difference between a gunman acting without any resistance compared to a gunman being confronted by a so-called “good guy with a gun” was clear:
Cheverier was able to squeeze off only nine rounds before Reyes “eliminated the threat.”
“He eliminated the possibility of that threat being able to go on and enter another room to continue this,” Fields said. “The idea there is, we’re not all going to walk around in body armor, you can’t bullet-proof every door and window, but the idea is that we can put a good guy with a gun in there that is trained, that is willing to protect himself from somebody else, and is willing to unfortunately take somebody’s life so they can preserve the rest of us.”
After the Mock-Carnage
“That was really weird for me,” Cheverier said following the first drill, the classroom still fragrant with the smell of spent gunpowder.
“What you just gained is a life experience,” Fields explained, noting that the first scenario involved an “unopposed, unrestricted, active threat.”
“It didn’t matter how big his magazine capacity was — he had all the time in the world,” Fields added. “He had all the resources in the world, and it doesn’t matter whether he got them legally or illegally.
“He basically had enough time to come in here and kill all of us three times each.”
Fields said the ideal scenario is that Cheverier would not have even been able to get in through the classroom door — and then — that there was a “good guy with a gun” ready to minimize and eliminate the threat, “whether that be a security guard, school resource officer, or a cop.”
The goal of the training, Fields said, is to learn how to “minimize the optimal opportunities” that an active shooter has. Average response times from first responders stand at about 10 to 15 minutes for such incidents, according to Fields. The first scenario involving Cheverier saw him unload three 10-round magazines, the highest capacity currently allowable for sale within the state of Connecticut, inside of a 30-second window.
“There’s really no relevance with the magazine capacity,” Fields told the class. “He has all the resources he wants and needs anyways.”
Asked what he noticed upon beginning the simulation, Cheverier pointed out that he had “complete control” of the environment.
“I could pick the time I was going to attack, I stacked the advantage as much as I could on my side, I just came in completely relaxed knowing that I had complete control,” he said. “I just shot everybody a bunch of times, it was easy.”
Cheverier also pointed out that at one point during his shooting spree his handgun malfunctioned.
“It was still just 30 seconds, that’s not a lot of time to react,” he added.
A tour of King 33’s massive warehouse showed several sections readily available for mock scenarios. A junked Ford sedan and another old SUV serve as a teaching setting for dealing with active shooter situations involving motor vehicles. A plywood maze-type creation sets the scene for learning how to deal with an active shooter entering a school, office building, or residence. Surveillance cameras capture every corner of each active shooter setting, allowing the client to receive tips and watch how they react during situations that are unimaginable.
There’s even a mock-restaurant framed in the typical New England streetfront style, long in depth but short in width, with just one way to go in and out.
“The thing is that people don’t have to be armed to come and get the training,” he said. “And there’s so many varieties of the active-shooter class — there’s low-light, by yourself, with your friends.”
Fields dislikes talking about himself, and the combat he has experienced over the course of seven deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. He has navigated both lethal, live-action situations and the subsequent challenges posed by post-traumatic stress.
He’s found a niche in instruction, having first been an instructor for special forces.
“It’s fun, we make money shooting stuff up,” he adds with a laugh.
But one time he wasn’t joking or shooting was when he appeared in January 2013 before the Connecticut Legislature’s Bipartisan Task Force on Gun Violence Prevention and Children’s Safety, formed in response to the Sandy Hook mass-killing. The task force eventually prompted the passage of several new gun control laws, including statutes banning the sale and manufacture of certain firearms and magazines that hold more than 10 rounds of ammo.
“People are looking for training,” he told the panel, according to video documenting his testimony. “They’re recognizing the threats that are out there. What you can do is stop that progress. I consider myself and the people that I work with subject matter experts. I do not consider you subject matter experts in passing laws about firearms.”
Fields was blunt during his appearance before the task force. He criticized the proposed 10-round magazine limit, proposing a possible scenario is which he is forced to defend his family from a potential active shooter.
“You’re limiting me, it’s not a choice that I’m making, you’re limiting me,” he said. “Everybody talks about the ability to do a magazine change under stress, fire effective shots under stress, you’re limiting me by passing these laws. I’m not O.K. with that.”
Fields then offered to walk legislators through one of his active shooter training classes.
“I invite all of you to come down to my training center in Southington, we took over a Pratt & Whitney plant that had been abandoned 15 years ago,” he said at the time. “We’re doing something for this community, we’re doing something for ourselves, and it’s not just gun-related.”
Fields’ testimony did not wind up swaying lawmakers.
On Tuesday, Fields recalled what happened after he invited legislators to visit his facility.
Nobody took him up on his offer.
“They’ve never experienced this, those people calling the shots in Hartford,” he said. “We invited them down here for it, in 2013, we ran this same scenario in December of that year. We broadcasted it. We put it out to every politician in the state.
“No responses, not even from the GOP.”