Program prepares law enforcement, public to handle active shooter situations
by Adam Poulisse
LAKE FOREST>> There was a hostage situation within the halls of a middle school, and Tim Stack and Steve Lieberman were moving in.
They stood back to back, covering each other as they moved through the hallways and classrooms.
Children ran past screaming. Stack and Lieberman told them to take cover.
The two shuffled into a room, still covering each other's backs, when the assailant emerged in front of Lieberman, holding a gun to a hostage's head.
Lieberman called for the armed assailant to drop the gun. Instead, he aimed it at Lieberman, and Lieberman fired, killing the gunman and freeing the hostage along with the rest of the middle school students.
Lieberman and Stack managed to do all of this without firing a single bullet or leaving a Lake Forest warehouse. Welcome to Artemis Defense Institute, the only virtual defense training facility in the Southland.
Since Lieberman and his wife, Sandy, opened Artemis Defense Institute in April, the training facility has prepared 21 police and sheriff's departments across Southern California, six of them in Los Angeles County, to use clear judgment in intense, fight-or-flight situations like an active shooter, as well as boost the confidence in about 500 private citizens learning how to properly handle a firearm.
“It's really about perception and training,” said Stack, a Southern California law enforcement officer and instructor at Artemis Defense Institute. “It fully immerses you, where typical law enforcement training doesn't.”
The Liebermans have worked against a reinvigorated gun control debate to get Artemis Defense Institute running, spurred by deadly shootings inside a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., an elementary school in Newtown, Conn., and the Sept. 16 shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.
In a 5,760-square-foot warehouse at 11 Spectrum Pointe Drive in Lake Forest, Artemis Defense Institute uses three different high-definition, interactive systems for training, each worth about $500,000: A simple flat-screen monitor; a tri-fold, 180-degree system and the 300-degree, fully immersive system that Stack and Lieberman used during their school shooting scenario.
“It's really a highly evolved Power Point presentation,” said co-owner Sandy Lieberman. “Our value in the business is not in our virtual machines, our value is in our instruction.”
Artemis Defense Institute was the result of a “compromise” between the Liebermans, Sandy said. Steve, an attorney and shooter since he was 8 years old, wanted to open a shooting range and gun education facility after his family's plastics business closed. Sandy, never having any interest in guns before getting married, wanted to leave college entrance counseling, but remain in education.
Artemis has 65 interactive scenarios that participants can run through, including hostage and active shooter situations, and shooting ranges to improve marksmanship. Eventually, Artemis Defense Institute will incorporate its own custom footage and scenarios into the VirTra system, the Liebermans said.
A team of operators control the outcome of the scenario with computers, changing the situation based on the participant's verbal communication with the simulator, as well as their body language and shooting accuracy. An advanced sound system also adds realistic gunfire sounds to enhance the experience.
“I know exactly what they need,” Stack said. “There's a lot of things being thrown at a copper when they go in the field.”
The scenarios might not be real, but the guns used during the training are. They lock, load and fire, but you won't find any bullets in the training warehouse. Instead, the barrels have been removed so no ammunition can be stored. They are loaded with CO2 canisters.
The guns have also been modified to interact with the scenario footage, so when a trainee aims at something and pulls the trigger, the video simulator reacts. Trainees can opt to wear Threat-Fire packs that will generate a small prick of electricity to simulate the consequences of getting shot. The packs can be set to shock for 30 milliseconds, or as long as 2.5 seconds.
“I thought it was shocking and disturbing, but it did as advertised,” Lt. Bret Parker said of the Threat-Fire packs. “It inoculated me to being in pain. As I continued to do training, I could fight through the pain.”
Parker, a lieutenant in the Courts Services Division of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department, said he uses the VirTra simulations at Artemis Defense Institute at least once a week, sometimes with his adult son and daughter. The virtual school shooting scenario has prepared him should he ever find himself responding to such a situation, Parker said.
“It's about as realistic as you're going to get for that type of scenario training,” he said. “It was a more realistic, more comprehensive, and more stimulating shooting experience than going to the range.”
There are nine instructors at Artemis Defense Institute that work with both law enforcement officials and private citizens. That covers everything from the proper position of your hands and fingers on a gun — even when CO2 replaces bullets, your finger is never on the trigger until you're absolutely ready to fire — and the proper stance when firing: knees slightly bent, chest slightly out.
“We work at their level,” said instructor Kyle Geenen. “The more realistic you treat it, the more it will trickle into real life.”
Of the 500 private citizens Artemis has taught to safely and properly shoot a gun, most have been women, the Liebermans said. Women rank as the fastest growing group of shooters, the Liebermans said.
When creating the business, the Liebermans wanted to have a female-friendly atmosphere since most shooting ranges are “dirty, with lots of testosterone,” Sandy Lieberman said.
“People who are practicing to get better, that alone is relaxing,” said Madison Morris, a female lab facilitator at Artemis and longtime shooter.
The training software has also been used for corporate team building and even bachelor parties, but guns are always pointed at the screens, and never at each other.
“That's the difference between us and paint ball,” Sandy Lieberman said.
According to Steve Lieberman, training private citizens and law enforcement can reduced future shooting tragedies.
“Being exposed to guns totally de-mystifies the experience,” he said.
German hacker group claims iPhone fingerprint hack
by FRANK JORDANS
BERLIN — The fingerprint-based security system used to unlock Apple's latest iPhone can be bypassed using a household printer and some wood glue, a German hacking group has claimed.
A spokesman for the Chaos Computer Club said the group managed to fool the biometric sensor in the iPhone 5S over the weekend by creating an artificial copy of a genuine fingerprint.
“It was surprisingly easy,” Dirk Engling told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Monday, a day after the group announced the exploit on its website.
A member of the Chaos Computer Club going by the pseudonym Starbug took a high-resolution photograph of a fingerprint left on a glass surface, printed it onto a transparent sheet and smeared the pattern with liquid latex or wood glue. Once the glue set, it could be peeled off and placed on another finger to mimic the genuine print, said Engling.
“We used this method 10 years ago and didn't have to change much for the iPhone,” he said. “The hardest bit was getting hold of one of those new iPhones because they are chronically sold out.”
Engling said the Chaos Computer Club, which has a long history of finding security flaws in soft- and hardware, documented the procedure with several videos so independent experts could verify it.
David Emm, a senior security researcher at Kaspersky Labs, said the German group's claims exposed the flipside of biometric security systems designed to replace passwords or PIN numbers commonly used nowadays.
“If my passcode becomes compromised, I can simply replace it with a new one — hopefully one that's more secure. But I can't change my fingerprint — it's part of what I am and so I'm stuck with it,” Emm said.
Engling suggested that Apple could have made its fingerprint system more secure, but that this might have caused problems for users if they didn't swipe their finger across the miniature scanner properly and thus got locked out of the device after repeated failed attempts.
“Apple had to strike a balance between security and user-friendliness,” he said.
Apple didn't respond to repeated requests for comment.
Illegal entrance into U.S. rising
Observers cite improving economy, lax enforcement
by Alan Gomez
WASHINGTON — After several years that saw more undocumented immigrants leaving the U.S. than entering, illegal immigration may be back on the rise, according to a report released Monday.
The total number of undocumented immigrants reached 11.7 million in 2012, representing a slow increase that is nearing the country's all-time high of 12.2 million undocumented immigrants in 2009, according to the report from the Pew Hispanic Center, a research group.
So far, the trend seems to have gone largely unnoticed in Oregon's farming community, where undocumented immigrants are most commonly employed.
“They're always looking for people,” Farm Bureau government affairs specialist Ian Tolleson said. He works with farm labor issues and said he hasn't heard from farmers that undocumented immigrants are suddenly more available.
“It's difficult to get good, qualified workers who want to work in the fields, no matter the season, the crop or the year,” he said.
The new figures from the Pew Center come as Congress is trying to pass a comprehensive overhaul of the nation's immigration laws designed to stop future waves of undocumented immigrants in the country.
The Senate passed a bill in July that would dedicate $46 billion to securing America's southern border with Mexico and allow most of those 11.7 million undocumented immigrants to apply for U.S. citizenship after 13 years. Republicans in the House of Representatives reluctant to grant citizenship to undocumented immigrants before fully securing the border are sure to use the new data to bolster their case.
Meanwhile, in Oregon, the Legislature passed two immigration reform bills during the 2013 session. One would allow the children of undocumented immigrants who attended Oregon public schools to pay in-state tuition at Oregon's seven public universities.
The other would allow people without traditional documentation to obtain driver cards that would allow them to drive legally but could not be used as legal identification.
That bill is being challenged by an initiative that could make it on the 2014 ballot if it receives enough signatures.
Tamar Jacoby, president of ImmigrationWorks USA, a business lobby that supported the Senate immigration bill, said there were three main reasons undocumented immigration fell so dramatically during a stretch from 2007 to 2009. The U.S. economy was shrinking, border enforcement continued getting tougher and the Mexican economy was improving to the point that many would-be immigrants stayed home.
“The only conclusion I can come up with is the U.S. economy is improving and attracting more workers,” Jacoby said.
Others put the blame for the increase in illegal immigration squarely on President Barack Obama's unwillingness to fully enforce immigration laws, both at the border and inside the country.
Rosemary Jenks, director of government relations for NumbersUSA, a group that opposed the Senate bill, said Obama's Department of Homeland Security has methodically cut back on worksite raids targeting undocumented workers, and scaled back deportations of people identified as being in the country illegally. That has left “absolutely no disincentive” for people in other countries thinking about trying to enter illegally.
The new numbers “mean we obviously do not have secure borders,” Jenks said.
Schools tighten security after Sandy Hook
by Mary Beth Marklein
They're using a mix of strategies, from police to surveillance to armed teachers.
Visitors to any of 53 elementary and middle schools this year in Oregon's Salem-Keizer School District will need to be buzzed in. Their arrival will be captured on camera. And that's about all security manager Ray Byrd wants to say about that.
"We have to be careful not to put information out there that can be exploited by the bad guys," he says.
In a grim reminder that mass shootings have become a fact of life in America, school districts across the USA this fall are opting for more locked doors, more visitor check-ins and more surveillance equipment. Many have had security policies on the books for years, especially after the 1999 Columbine High School shootings. But the massacre last December at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., where a gunman killed 20 children and six educators, introduced a new level of urgency. Suddenly, even children in elementary schools were not safe from bad guys.
"Sandy Hook changed the playing field," says Curtis Lavarello, executive director of School Safety Advocacy Council, based in Sarasota, Fla. "We realize now every school is vulnerable to that kind of a tragedy."
Limiting access to school property has been one of the most visible changes. School officials in Marlboro, N.J. budgeted $1.8 million this school year for security measures, including construction of "man-trap" vestibules at entrances to be completed later this fall. In Tupelo, Miss., school officials made a slew of upgrades this summer, including new playground fencing. School district officials in several states, including New York and Pennsylvania, have asked election officials to move polling places off their campuses.
Another common response: increasing the presence of armed law enforcement officers, particularly at elementary schools. Police officers have been assigned to all middle and high schools at South Carolina's Greenville County School District for decades, but this year, the district has arranged for police to also make stops at all 68 elementary schools several times a day. Each of the 24 public elementary schools in Rutherford County, Tenn., has been assigned a full-time officer this year for the first time. One of their first assignments: Help organize an "intruder drill" within the first 30 days of the school year, as required by a Tennessee law passed this summer.
Demand for training is "through the roof, unlike anything we've ever experienced," says Mo Canady, executive director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, based in Hoover, Ala. This summer, the organization trained more than 2,000 law officers how to work with schools, more than three times the 600 who were trained last summer.
Typically, schools adopt a mix of strategies. In Asheville, N.C., Buncombe County Schools spent $1.3 million on a new security plan this year that includes electronic entry doors at all elementary schools, four additional social workers and seven additional sheriff's deputies to serve as school resource officers in elementary schools. The district is installing panic buttons at the reception desks of all 42 schools.
Schools also are basing strategies on local needs and experience. As part of its security plan, the Ricori school district in Cold Spring, Minn., where two students were killed in a 2003 school shooting, installed 170 bulletproof white boards in classrooms over the summer and trained teachers how to gather and hide children behind them.
In rural West Plains, Mo., under a plan approved last spring, a limited number of teachers and staff are being allowed to carry concealed weapons in the school. "I wouldn't say it would be a good blanket solution" for all schools, Superintendent Vic Williams says. But it works in West Plains, he says, where many residents are game hunters and "have a background in handling guns."
Some states have passed laws allowing local boards to decide whether to arm school officials. In Texas, a handful of districts gave their schools the go-ahead in the months after the Sandy Hook shootings. (One, the Van Independent School District, drew headlines in February when a school maintenance worker was accidentally shot during a district-sponsored handgun safety class.)
South Dakota lawmakers this summer gave school districts the authority to appoint "school sentinels" — specially trained armed officials who might be school employees, security personnel or community volunteers. None of the 151 school districts has followed up, says Tyler Pickner, spokesman for the Associated School Boards of South Dakota.
Ronald Stephens, executive director of the National School Safety Center in Westlake Village, Calif., says public pressure after Sandy Hook to increase school safety has been "tremendous" but urges schools to keep the danger in perspective. Statistically, he and others note, the probability of violence occurring in schools is relatively small.
"The concern about safety is real, but it shouldn't be misconstrued that children are in great danger when in schools," says Jody Siegle, executive director of the Monroe County School Boards Association. "Schools are the safest place children go."
Keith Pillsbury, who has served on the board of the Burlington (Vt.) School District for 27 years, reminisces about the days when it was easy for parents and other community members to visit their schools.
Sandy Hook changed that once and for all.
"We (still want) parents to come into our schools," Pillsbury says. "We just have to have more accountability about who they are and what their intentions are."