RIDGEWOOD, N.J. — Overwhelmed by grief and saddled with an exorbitant medical bill following his fictional young son's death, a Ridgewood police officer walked into The Valley Hospital early Thursday with a prop gun in his hand and vengeance as his assigned motivation.
Village Police Sgt. Jay Chuck played the madman role during an "active shooter" training drill to help establish how local police, emergency responders and hospital staff would react in a genuine emergency.
"Unfortunately, in this day and age you have to be prepared -- as much as you hope that something like this never happens," said Peter Diestel, the senior vice-president and COO at Valley. "I think the likelihood of minimizing any threats or disaster-type situations comes with preparation."
Part of the emergency room was closed for the drill, but the rest of the hospital remained open.
And since an actual incident would have forced a lockdown of area schools, the village Board of Education agreed to test its lockdown notification system at Benjamin Franklin Middle School, village Schools Supt. Daniel Fishbein said.
Daniel Coss, Valley's director of security, said the participants had to balance the training exercise with the regular operations. They also tried not to scare any of the patients or visitors, with notices throughout the halls and frequent reminders that it was a drill.
Chuck, as the madman, entered the hospital with a brightly-colored fake gun that he pretended to fire several times. He yelled obscenities and stormed through a hallway, throwing chairs and threatening anyone he came across.
The Ridgewood sergeant said it was refreshing to play the bad guy and see how difficult it was to go through the hospital. There was only one room he could hide in, he said.
"It's hard to become a scary weird dude," Chuck told Daily Voice. "From there I just kind of saw how I can get into people's comfort zones and push them out of it."
Thursday's training will hopefully be one of many at Valley, according to Ridgewood Police Chief John Ward.
"It's critical because you need to have all the players work together prior to something actually happening," Ward said. "The last thing you want to do is meet somebody for the first time as you're walking through the door on a hot call."
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.