It is not often that an outfitted SWAT team is seen in action in Falmouth.
But that is what happened when Lisa D. and S. Eric Asendorf offered up their home to be invaded/breached/used by members of the Upper Cape Cod Regional Special Response Team.
The Asendorfs’ home on Mill Road was torn down yesterday, but not before they opened the home earlier this week for training exercises to be conducted by the Special Response Team, allowing officers from the Mashpee and Falmouth police departments as well as the Barnstable County Sheriff’s departments to break down doors, throw flash grenades, and apprehend role-playing bad guys.
“It was spooky,” said Ms. Asendorf, when asked what it was like watching a number of police officers invading her own home. “It sort of felt like you were in a movie.”
The Asendorfs offered their home to the response team for training after deciding to tear the house down and build a new one that will be more green, with better insulation, and also because, generally, there were a number of problems with the house, said Ms. Asendorf. Their new house will also be built to address issues concerning flood zones, although she promised the house would not be put on stilts.
The police officers were more than willing to except the Asendorfs’ invitation.
It sort of felt like you were in a movie.
“Whenever a house is offered to us, we love the opportunity to use it,” said Lieutenant Michael Rogers of the Falmouth department, a team leader in the exercise. “We can’t train on [a real house] very often because we do damage, so it’s either the real situation or a situation like this where we can practice prying or kicking open a door. It’s really important to us, and gives us some real hands-on experience.”
The training session was a simulation of a high risk search warrant scenario, Lt. Rogers said.
Participate in Exercise
While residents in the area stood by to watch the scene, Ms. Asendorf, along with her daughter, Melissa Deyo, 22, and Melissa’s friend Hannah DuPont, 22, were used as actors, willingly, in the training exercise, or “family to the bad guy,” as Lt. Rogers said.
“It was a great experience,” Ms. Asendorf said. She explained that before action, officers gave each of them protection for their ears and eyes and then they were sent into the house. They watched as the officers broke down the door, ran around a corner in the house with guns drawn, and commanded the three of them to get down on their knees or to get down on the ground. She recalled seeing her daughter drop straight to the floor upon the request.
The team did the drill three or four times, the first time being the most unnerving for Ms. Asendorf. “The first time, we didn’t know what to expect,” she said. In that first exercise, the flash grenade was tossed under the couch, which muffled the effect. On the second go, she explained that the grenade went off and “you could really hear it. Your body gets rather shaken by it,” and waking up to that would be scary.
Every 16-year-old should have the experience to see this in action, she said, so as to discourage them from pursuing unlawful behavior that might attract a SWAT team into their house.
Chief Dunne was also on the scene and Ms. Asendorf said he could not have been nicer. He was teaching Hannah and Melissa about what the team was doing and what they should expect.
Ms. Asendorf said that she got the most out of the experience when she realized the vulnerability these officers face when entering a high risk scenario like this one. “You never know what’s around the corner and you never know what kind of surprise you’ll get,” she said. “How generous they actually are to risk their well-being,” was what she took away.
Lt. Rogers said that they do not get the chance to experience these situations very often, so when they do, they take advantage of it, using ramrods and pickaxes to take down doors. Normally, the regional response team practices once a month in a school, without breaking doors down, or the team goes to what he called the mountain site at Otis Air National Guard Base, which has some obstacles. He noted that if anyone’s home was to be demolished, the police department would happily accept the offer for team training.
“They tore down the whole house today. Just the chimney is left,” said Ms. Asendorf from her cellphone outside of what once was her house. “It’s pretty bizarre.”
Mr. and Ms. Asendorf are the founders of Wings For Falmouth Families.