JONESBORO It could have been a real-life nightmare when a disgruntled middle-aged man claimed he was doing God’s work and tried to kill the Clayton County Board of Commissioners Friday.
James Foy looked serious as leapt to his feet and began shouting at the commissioners as they entered their council chambers for a morning meeting. He had challenged their authority to run the county and decided it was time to end their reign.
Foy paraphrased scripture as he charged toward the confused county leaders and leveled a handgun at their heads.
“The book of Romans says there shall be no authority without God’s authority,” Foy shouted as department heads in the audience took notes.
He then he “fired” one shot at a commissioner, ducked and ran and ran out of the room through a side door.
Minutes later, the smell of gunpowder lingered in the air as police cornered Foy in a side room. Officers subdued him and placed him in handcuffs.
“What’s going on, man? Why did you do that?” said Officer Melvin Craig as he got Foy under control.
“God told me to do it,” Foy replied.
There was just one catch about the entire scenario: It wasn’t real.
It was just a training exercise and Foy is actually a Clayton County police officer. The commissioners he shot at were county staff members pretending to be elected officials.
Chairman Jeff Turner said the county’s employees are its “most important resources” so he and police Chief Greg Porter came up with the training as part of an ongoing assessment of safety in county buildings.
“Take this seriously,” Turner told employees. “Can it happen? Absolutely. Can it happen in Clayton County? Absolutely, so let’s make sure we take this training seriously and come up with a plan.”
County officials explained the training was prompted in part by a December 2010 incident in Panama City, Fla., where the Bay District school board was briefly held hostage at gunpoint by a man upset that the school system fired his wife. He fired a gun at the board members several times before he was shot by a security guard. He then took his own life in the board room.
Craig told employees they should pay attention to clues that someone is getting ready to take an extreme action. He said those clues should cause their “spider senses” to be “tingling,” and they should get out of the room.
“When you have an individual that walks up into a room and does something a little abnormal and writes a “V” on the wall, circles it, that’s what the FBI calls a clue,” Craig said.
The officer led the training exercise. He told training participants they should run away, try to hide or attempt to fight back if they can. He said employees can use everyday items such as staplers, tape dispensers or books against an active shooter.
Craig explained the shooter would likely duck to avoid getting hit and there would be a brief moment where the hostage can either get away or attempt to overpower the shooter.
Porter later urged training participants, who were mostly department heads, to share the information with their colleagues and to develop plans on what to do if an active shooter gets loose in their offices.
“Understand your environment and understand what took place today and take this back so we can protect our employees,” Porter told attendees.
Clayton County fire Chief Jeff Hood was one of the department heads who participated in the training exercise. He said it was important for civilian employees, as well as public safety personnel, to be prepared for active shooter-type incidents because they never know when they could happen.
“From an emergency management perspective, we are supporters of law enforcement in everything they deal with, whether it’s an active shooter, an act of terrorism or man-made and natural disasters,” Hood said. “This was a good opportunity to learn what we can do to help them do their job.”