Collierville Mass Shooting: A year later with the first responders on the scene

COLLIERVILLE, Tenn. — This will be a difficult week for some in Collierville.

Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the mass shooting at Kroger on New Byhalia Road.

While the trauma is still very real for the victims who were scarred both mentally and physically, we are focusing on the first responders.

They have their own anxiety after seeing their friends and neighbors hurt and running for their lives.

At the same time, all are doing their best to take lessons learned that day on how to better react, if and when they are needed again.

Collierville Paramedic Forrest Griffin was assigned to Collierville Fire Station 2 that day. He shared his recollection of the first few moments after the shooting from his perspective.

“I mean from station two, you can see Kroger,” he said. “We were sitting there eating lunch just like any other shift, and we went out and people started telling us that there was a shooting at Kroger. So we actually got on the radio and called dispatch before they ever alerted us.”

“We immediately had, I think it was eight or nine patients in Kroger all at once. So my company and I believe Tommy’s engine company ran with us pretty close to the same time. We immediately had an overwhelming number of patients that we immediately started trying to triage as far as their level of injuries, their severity, their priority of transport that we needed to assign to each of them,” he continued.

Remarkably, of the 13 who were shot by the gunman that day, 12 survived. Those 12 lives weren’t the only ones changed forever.

FOX 13′s Darrell Greene asked Paramedic Tommy Patrick: “So do you carry that day with you at all? Do you still think about it?”

“We won’t forget it,” Patrick replied. “You know, I walk in. That grocery store every now and again. I look around and make sure of my surroundings. Because once you stop doing that, it could happen again.”

That’s why both Collierville’s fire and police departments train together every year for just this situation because when the call of an active shooter comes, Collierville firemen hit the front lines with police officers.

Firemen and paramedics put on body armor and went in right behind police officers to secure the store and immediately treat the wounded.

FOX13 sat down with Collierville Police Chief Dale Lane.

“That was the first documented case according to alert officials in the country where firemen came in with law enforcement before the scene was, quote, secure,” Lane said.

Lane had been on the job for less than a year. Even he was amazed at how quickly all of his officers could get on the scene.

“Well, we had the first after the fact, we went back and we were able just to put the timestamps from the video cameras in Kroger,” he said. “Our timestamps and we had ops from the time the call went out from dispatch. We had officers on the scene in 52 seconds.”

“And so they’re there. And then within as a matter of just a few short minutes, we had 36 cars that made the scene, including command staff members, people who were operating outside their traditional roles.”

Beyond the memories, there are always lessons to be learned.

Lane said he continues to analyze that day.

“Well, there’s more than one. You know, one. You can’t be handing out business cards in the middle of a crisis,” he said. “So our relationships with other public safety organizations were well-established before then. So they were common. We knew each other when they got there, and all they wanted to know is, ‘How could we help?’”

Dozens of police cars, fire trucks, and ambulances from Memphis, Germantown, and other communities were there in minutes.

There were Shelby County Sheriff’s deputies everywhere, along with agents from the ATF and FBI.