After an emailed bomb threat caused an evacuation in January, a Capitol Police Officer moves cones so another law enforcement vehicle can approach the Maine State House on the opening day of the new legislative session. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal

AUGUSTA — Maine lawmakers and legislative staff gathered in the House of Representatives on Tuesday afternoon for a first-of-its-kind active shooter training session as part of an effort to increase security in the Capitol complex after the mass shooting in Lewiston and recent threats at the State House and other state capitols.

Capitol Police provided the hour-long training at the request of legislative leaders. Other new initiatives to strengthen security include offering a mobile phone app to notify people of emergencies and adding security screening to the Burton Cross Office Building, which is next to the State House and hosts legislative committee meetings.

“No one should have to fear for their safety when they walk through the doors of the State House or Cross Building,” said Senate President Troy Jackson, D-Allagash. “Amid increased threats directed at statehouses around the country and the recent violence in Lewiston, holding this type of training offered by Capitol Police seemed appropriate and necessary.”

Capitol Police Chief Matthew Clancey told the Press Herald that his officers routinely offer active shooter training to state workers and others on request. But he said the agency had never trained lawmakers in the House before Tuesday.

“This is the first time it was requested and delivered to the Legislature in that setting,” Clancey said in an email. “We hold classes two days a week to accommodate numerous other agencies.”

The mass shooting in Lewiston killed 18 people and wounded another 13, shattering the sense that Maine was immune to such violence and sparking calls for significant new gun safety legislation that lawmakers will debate in the coming weeks.


While the mass shooting was atop everyone’s mind, other security threats have focused attention directly on State House security.

In recent months, the State House was evacuated because of a fake bomb threat and the adjacent Cross building was evacuated because of a suspicious powder found on an envelope. And last spring, a pick-up truck caught fire and exploded near the Blaine House, interrupting committee work. Police determined the truck fire was not suspicious.

Tuesday’s training was conducted by Officer Jason LaVerdiere, who said that mass shootings are increasing nationally but rarely occur at government facilities, considered “hard targets” with controlled access, security screening and armed police officers. Mass shootings are more likely to take place in other public places, including public open spaces and businesses, he said.

LaVerdiere said the average mass shooting is over in 12 minutes. But he predicted a rapid, robust and decisive response by Capitol Police, as well as municipal and county law enforcement, to any incident at the State House.

“Remembering that we have a very robust law enforcement community that will be responding, I can assure you that it will be over in less than that,” LaVerdiere said, adding that the first officer on-scene is trained to go inside and search for the shooter while backup is on the way.

The training was built around the run, hide and fight model. It encourages lawmakers to constantly be aware of their surroundings and know all possible escape routes.


In the event of a mass shooting, lawmakers should seek to escape to someplace safe, if possible. If not, they should barricade themselves in a room, lock the door, turn off the lights and silence their cell phones. If none of that’s possible, they should devise a plan with others around them to fight, using whatever is available as a weapon to disorient and disarm the shooter.

“As a last resort and only when your life is in imminent danger, it’s important to act aggressively,” he said. “Commit to taking them out and know that it’s a fight for your life.”

The training concluded with a short video simulating a mass shooting with a man using a pump-action shotgun.

The training was well-attended by Democrats, but most of the Republican House members were absent. Republican legislative leaders downplayed the absences, saying there were several members who simply were not in Augusta on Tuesday, and others did not need the training because they have military or law enforcement backgrounds.

“It was an optional training,” said House Minority Leader Billy Bob Faulkingham, R-Winter Harbor. “I think that a lot of the people on our side feel secure and they have a lot of confidence in Capitol law enforcement and they feel safe in this building.”

LaVerdiere also told members about planned security upgrades, including a long-discussed plan to add security screening to the Burton Cross Office Building, which includes state offices and legislative committee hearing rooms and is connected by a tunnel to the State House.


Visitors to the State House, which includes the governor’s office, legislative chambers, offices and hearing rooms, must pass through security that resembles an airport screening area. But those attending a committee hearing at the Cross building do not.

Chief Clancy told the Press Herald the security screening project is still being designed. The timing of the construction would be determined by the Bureau of General Services, he said, noting the project could take a year to 18 months to complete.

LaVerdiere told lawmakers that Capitol Police will also offer lawmakers an app to notify them of public safety threats at the State House. Similar apps are used at colleges and universities, he said.

Capitol police are also working with the presiding officers of the Senate and House to update State House evacuation plans.

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