Special Operations Response Team

    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.