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October 5, 2012
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SWAT team practices for Citizen's Academy

The Carson City SWAT team brought the sound and the fury, signifying their capabilities to end dangerous situations.

"We're not here to hurt people or harm people," Deputy Chris Rivera told participants in the Citizen's Academy put on by the sheriff's department Wednesday night.

Sgt. Mike Cullen shared Rivera's sentiments, saying, "We're here to save lives."

SWAT team members rappelled off of a tower for the crowd, demonstrated the non-lethal devices at their disposal and otherwise made the academy participants scream and jump, startled by the sounds.

Two volunteers even stepped up to see what it would be like to be stunned with a Tazer gun.

"It hurt," said Sierra Ingham, 16, a Dayton High School junior. "It stung a little. My foot felt number after."

Rivera demonstrated the use of the Tazer with Ingham posing as a balky subject, unwilling to put down a marker which simulated a weapon.

Repeatedly, Rivera asked Ingham to put down the marker and repeatedly Ingham refused until finally Rivera administered a shock.

Unlike many who choose to be stunned during academy sessions, Ingham, a slight girl, never let go. Most other academy students are unable to hold the marker and end up throwing it.

"I would do it again," she said. "It was on my bucket list."

Hugo Chavez also volunteered to be zapped. But unlike Ingham, he's had enough.

"It was really painful," said Chavez, who also managed to keep a grip on the marker. "It was intense. I wouldn't do it again."

The pain Chavez felt so acutely taught him at least one thing.

"Now I know, when they tell you to do something, you must listen," he said. "I lost track of everything because of the pain."

Tazers are not the only non-lethal weapon used by SWAT team members and other deputies.

Academy participants also fired beanbag shotguns, which give deputies a way to employ non-lethal force from a distance, at a trash can. Rivera said beanbag shotguns have been in the sheriff's department arsenal for nine or 10 years but have been used rarely. After being hit with a beanbag, people usually are quick to give up.

For Sgt. Cullen, being a SWAT officer is something special. Team members, whose SWAT experience ranges from a few years to as much as 20 years, "want to be here," he said.

That experience is vital when SWAT team members are called in, said Cullen, adding, "We are there to finish the problem."

SWAT officers are aware they're always on call. But Cullen said that's fine because being on the team is "more of a calling than a call thing."

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The Nevada Appeal Updated Oct 5, 2012 03:40AM Published Oct 5, 2012 03:38AM Copyright 2012 The Nevada Appeal. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.