Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office Special
Operations Response Team (SORT) is a tactical team that deals primarily with
high-risk incidents that occur within the detention facility and during
high-profile court cases. SORT
members also are trained in crowd control and have assisted the Jeffco SWAT team
in instances requiring their expertise.
SORT’s team of 12 was paged by the Sheriff’s Detentions Division at
12:30 p.m. to respond to the Sheriff’s Office headquarters in Golden where
they would gather their gear and equipment.
The team was deployed to Leawood Elementary School, located about
three-quarters of a mile to the east of Columbine High School, where the high
school students were being evacuated and where concerned parents were gathering
to find their teen-aged children.
The media had been asked to help facilitate reuniting
students with their parents by announcing that parents should go to either
Leawood Elementary or Columbine Public Library northwest of the school.
The SORT team assisted the school personnel in handling the large number
of parents arriving at the elementary school, either to be reunited with their
high school student or to pick up their elementary school child as requested by
the school administration.
SORT members worked with the Denver police in evacuating the high school
students to Leawood. The Columbine students who had escaped the school on the
east side were taken through the backyard of a residence across the street and
to a driveway where school buses were waiting to transport them to the
elementary school. SORT placed a deputy on each bus to provide security for the
students’ short trip to Leawood.
Leawood’s gymnasium served as the assembling area for parents. SORT helped to direct those parents waiting to be reunited with their child. They also assisted in keeping the media out of the school building at the request of the school administration.
As the afternoon wore on and no more buses were arriving with evacuated
students, the gym became a collecting point for the parents with a child still
missing. SORT continued to maintain
the perimeter security while victim advocates stayed with the families and Red
Cross provided food and drinks.
The Jefferson County Critical Incident Team
arrived at Leawood and was given an area in the north portion of the
building to interview the law enforcement officers involved in the shootings at
the high school. The Critical
Incident, or “shoot,” team collected each officer’s firearms and took
their statements. SORT assisted by
bringing each officer through a back hallway of the school in an attempt to keep
him out of the direct vision of the families still waiting.
Members of the SORT remained at the elementary school
until the last of the families left and went home, and then helped the school
faculty lock up and secure the building. For the next nine days, SORT would
assist in providing perimeter security at Columbine High School.