"It was instant chaos," Layman recalls. He heard gunfire down the hall, and began moving quickly, almost running, toward it. A man shot him and then disappeared around a corner. Layman felt the pain in his arm, glanced at the splotch of red paint, and knew he'd have a bruise later. He kept jogging, making sure he didn't get too far ahead of his team. "The trainers told us we couldn't quit, even if we were hit," he said. "We had to keep going."
Layman stepped over people who were lying on the floor, playing wounded students. They moaned that they were hurt, clutched at his legs, and begged him to stop and help them. One man, playing a terrified but unhurt student, leaped from a doorway and grabbed him. Layman wrestled the man away and pushed him toward his trailing teammates, who in turn pushed the man behind them and told him to run back down the hallway to the exit. Another man leaped from a doorway, but this one fired at Layman's team. Others, with guns blazing, attacked from behind or sniped at the officers from doorways. When the contact team's blue-paint simunitions struck the attackers squarely on their vests or helmets, the gunmen stepped aside. They were out of the exercise.
One gunman stayed just ahead of Layman, shooting and then ducking around corners as Layman chased him and fired back. Often during his career Layman had considered switching to one of the high-powered semi-automatics that many younger officers now carry. Maybe a .45-caliber or a 9mm, maybe a fifteen-shot rapid-fire Glock. At that moment, however, he was glad to have his old .38, the six-shooter he had been carrying for twenty-six years. Younger policemen laughed at his weapon and called it an underpowered antique, but it felt like an old friend in his hands as he fired all six shots and reloaded on the run, again and again. "In the old days, if you had to shoot your gun, they taught you to fire in a burst of two shots and then assess," Layman says. "You'd pause. Then another burst of two, and assess again. In this new training they teach you that if you are going to shoot your gun, you empty it."
When he came upon the suspect holding the gun to the hostage's head, Layman's initial impulse was to drop his gun. "That's what you were always taught—drop the gun, just like on the TV shows," he says. "Now they teach you to shoot. They say if you don't shoot, the hostage is probably going to die anyway." Most of the gunman's body was shielded by the hostage, but Layman did not hesitate. He took the shot. Blue paint exploded against the gunman's helmet. "Only about a quarter of this bad guy's head was visible, but I hit it," Layman says, marveling. "I surprised myself. At the end of the chase I was able to hit a target. I was able to stay focused and just keep shooting."
His clean head shot ended the exercise. The whole thing had taken barely three minutes, but it had seemed like three hours to Layman. He accepted muted congratulations on his shot, and then sat with his contact team in a debriefing room. Layman was panting and exhausted. He was having trouble hearing in the aftermath of the gunfire. His muscles ached as his adrenaline level returned to normal. He was going to be sore all over, and black and blue where he'd been shot in the arms and legs. The trainers went over what Layman and his team had done well, and reviewed the instances in which they had been "killed." The trainers and the contact team talked for twenty minutes about what the officers could or should do differently in a live situation.