Most likely, it will be an off-duty police officer.
That is the fact area law enforcement agencies are dealing with when they play out the scenario of an "active shooter" at a school, shopping center or other public place in Putnam County.
It's only a scenario for now, but authorities in Putnam County know that with planned acts of violence on the rise, protecting the public also takes planning, as well as anticipation of unpleasant scenarios.
Several area law enforcement agencies teamed up recently to play out a "rapid response" event. The exercise included a briefing, followed by activity at the fairgrounds, and then analysis of how the response could improve.
What they found surprised even some of the veteran officers.
"We learned the first person to respond will likely be an off-duty officer in street clothes," Indiana Excise Officer Jerrod Baugh said in discussing the drill. And that means that officers must carry not only their weapons at all times, but also identification they can wear to show they are a police officer, not one of the "bad guys."
Greencastle Police Chief Tom Sutherlin agreed that with the city's take-home police car program, officers who are off-duty may be the first ones arriving at an active crime scene.
"Each officer needs to have a firearm and a tac vest," Sutherlin said. "I know if I'm at Wal-Mart and there is a shooting, I will respond. But I need to be identified as a police officer."
Baugh and Sutherlin agree the training has proven that the response to an active shooter will likely be multi-jurisdictional, with officers from many agencies arriving on the scene.
"That is the way we train," Baugh said of the change in strategy for law enforcement. "We will almost not train alone, it is that important."
The Indiana Excise Police have mandated training that includes cooperation with other police agencies.
"We work with other agencies a lot," Baugh said, "and we are often in plain clothes. We now realize it is important to have something to identify us as officers. And other officers need to see us working too."
That fact became evident in the recent drill, as the excise officers on the scene rushed in to assist, but were misidentified as possible shooters due to their guns and lack of identification, such as badges or vests.
And while people generally think of excise officers as those looking for underage alcohol consumption violations, Baugh pointed out that excise officers often work on school campuses. Therefore, they may be the first responders to an active shooter at a university.
Another known factor is that at all the active shooter or mass murder events in recent years -- going from as recently as Northern Illinois University to Virginia Tech, to the Utah shopping center, back to Columbine High School -- there will be people to be rescued.
Many times in the past, Baugh explained, police training has ended at the point of stopping the shooter.
But now they know they will be doing rescue, and some of that might have to occur while there is possibly another shooter hidden somewhere nearby, waiting to continue the attack.
That means that when the police are ready to bring in medical assistance, they have learned they will not be finished with their response, but will escort the medics into the crime scene in case the violence continues.
"A lot of it will be rescue, unfortunately. And incident command will not begin until after the scene calms down," Baugh said.
But one of the primary lessons the officers soaked up during the training is the necessity of quick response.
"We have found that active shooters are intent on causing as much damage as quickly as possible," Baugh said. "There is no time to sit outside and call for backup."
They also know that shooters often plan their attacks, so any uniformed officers near the scene will likely be among the first victims.
"Uniformed police officers on site can be the first target," Baugh said, "The shooters have already planned to take out the initial threat."
Among the important participants in the Putnam County training were representatives from area schools, who played hostage and bystanders during the active shooting event (played out with soft bullets) and the response by police.
"The school people have learned what information to take back to their schools," Baugh said. "It is up to the school systems to develop their own plans on how to handle things. The biggest thing the school people get to see out of something like this is experiencing it first hand."
In addition to the Indiana Excise and Greencastle police, participating agencies included DePauw University, Putnam County Sheriff's Department, Bainbridge and Roachdale Town Marshals, Indiana Conservation Officer, Gree-ncastle Fire Department, Operation Life ambulance personnel, and civilians from the North Putnam, Greencastle, South Putnam and Cloverdale school corporations.
Additional trainings will be conducted, Baugh said.