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Target-rich environment

Crescent City Police Chief Doug Plack eyes the damage to a target after a round of shooting at Pelican Bay State Prison.
Crescent City Police Chief Doug Plack eyes the damage to a target after a round of shooting at Pelican Bay State Prison. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
Crescent City Police officers sharpened their shooting skills this week, and they went to prison to do it.

They meet quarterly at Pelican Bay State Prison’s gun range to keep their sights straight and hands steady.

“Weapons training is very perishable and to be effective the training has to be constant,” said Police Sgt. Erik Apperson, who leads the training for the department. “Officer-involved shootings represent one of the most post-incident critiqued events a cop can be involved in. That split-second decision will be armchair-quarterbacked for years afterward.”

On Thursday, half of the department’s officers started training in a classroom on the prison grounds learning about how to secure several  types of firearms they may come across during calls for service.

“We have to be prepared to encounter a gun any day,” said Apperson to the class.

Officers fire their shotguns as they advance on their targets during Thursday’s training.
Officers fire their shotguns as they advance on their targets during Thursday’s training. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
The officers were shown how to unload an assortment of guns including revolvers, semi-automatics and bolt action.

Then it was time to shoot.

This quarter’s gun training featured the department’s pump action Remington 870 shotgun.

“This is a great weapon,” said Apperson. “It is probably our most versatile.”

The Remington 870 was designed in 1949 and is the most popular shotgun manufactured in America, Apperson said. By 2009, 10 million of the shotguns had been produced. Leaving the muzzle at 1,500 feet per second, the slug is still moving straight at 50 yards. Fired at 100 yards, there is less than a 3-inch drop.

“It’s going to go where you tell it to go,” said Apperson.

He led the class to a station set up as a mock scenario of bank robbers making their way into a house after a robbery. There was a squad car parked next to a 3-foot-wide wooden wall intended to be the left side wall of a doorway.

Officers had to swing into the doorway to see targets designated by a symbol. Then the officers formed a charging line from 25 yards out. Moving forward together, they blasted at targets on Apperson’s command. 

Afterward, Apperson examined the officer’s shooting areas. 

“This is a slow death,” said Apperson, pointing to Police Chief Doug Plack’s tightly clustered shots in the middle of the target’s abdomen.

Police Chief Doug Plack fires during training Thursday at Pelican Bay State Prison.
Police Chief Doug Plack fires during training Thursday at Pelican Bay State Prison. Del Norte Triplicate / Bryant Anderson
Officer Jennifer Owen had been aiming at the target’s chest area, likely to cause a quicker death, Apperson said.

“If you shoot them right here, they’re probably going to stop doing whatever they were doing that made you start shooting them,” said Apperson.

The shotgun training rounded out with officers qualifying by shooting from intervals ranging from 5 to 25 yards.

Officers also trained with rifles and handguns.

Reach Anthony Skeens at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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