In December, a city employee in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, used his own blank-firing handgun to shoot someone in the leg during an active-shooter training he was giving. Local news outlets reported the incident at the time, with scant details—only that a city employee was injured by burns from a blank, and that future trainings had been put on hold.
An incident report obtained by Motherboard through a Sunshine Law request narrates the scene that Fort Lauderdale Police Department Detective James Hayes walked into when he and three other officers responded to a report that an active-shooter training session went awry on Dec. 3, 2021.
Orlando Huguet Jr., a city employee and an occupational safety and training coordinator, and Armagan Gurbuz, another city employee from the Office of Risk Management and a training specialist, were facilitating active-shooter trainings for civilian employees across the city—and that day, they were teaching 21 city employees how to escape a shooter.
That day’s training was for an “active killer” scenario. After a morning of teaching the class that if you hear gunshots, you should “rapidly run away from the gunfire to seek a position of safety” (pro tip!), according to the report, Gurbuz put on a film for the class to watch while Huguet snuck out of the room. He went outside and re-entered the building from another side, and hid just outside one of the classroom exits.
Huguet brought a Benelli M4 Tactical shotgun from his personal collection to show-and-tell for the class that day, because, according to the incident report, the city wouldn’t pay for him to buy one for the training. He also brought his personal Atak Arms Zoraki (Model 914) black semi-automatic blank-firing handgun. With that gun, he performed the big test of the day: shooting at the floor from his hidden position to see what the students would do. Predictably, they jumped up from their seats and ran.
“As Huguet prepared to fire a second blank cartridge, he observed the door to the classroom open and four individuals running toward him in attempt to exit the building,” Hayes wrote in the incident report. “Huguet stated he allowed the individuals to proceed past him, took a couple of steps in the opposite direction toward the threshold of the doorway, and when it was safe, he fired a second cartridge.” That second shot, according to the incident report, hit one of the fleeing students in the shin.
The last student out, a 61-year-old man, said in an interview with police at his home that as he ran out of the door past Huguet, he heard another gunshot and felt something hit his right shin. When he got outside, he saw that he was bleeding, and stayed sitting at a picnic table until the training officers came. He asked to be taken to the hospital to get the wound checked out. Photos from the report show his scraped-up and bleeding shin and ankle, burn marks through his pant leg, and spots of white on the floor where Huguet shot the blanks.
While they’re considered safer than guns that fire bullets, a gun with blanks in it is still a gun that can cause serious injury. At close enough range, they can be fatal (and in several instances on movie sets, they have been). It’s probably not ideal that someone whose job involves understanding gun safety is firing guns at close enough range to hit anyone. Huguet—again, a city employee, not a police officer—brought his personal semi-automatic weapons to work when a Super Soaker and a .mp3 file of a gunshot would have gotten the point across just as effectively, without the risk of shooting a fleeing student.
Research on whether active-shooter trainings, in general, are effective is mixed; for school-age students, interviews and studies have shown that they can cause kids to become depressed, anxious, and more traumatized than before. Often, they’re ridiculous and racist. Getting a group of people keyed up about the risk of them being killed at the office, then sneaking out the back door to fire a gun to see what they do, is probably enough to ruin someone’s week, at least.
Luckily the city employee wasn’t seriously hurt, except for some ruined pants and a bad day.