Simulated gunfire, 100 deputies surround courthouse in Charlotte. It’s only a drill.

Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s cars parked at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse.
Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s cars parked at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse. dhinshaw@charlotteobserver.com

Uptown traffic around the Mecklenburg County Courthouse will be affected Friday afternoon as law enforcement officers conduct an active shooter exercise.

The Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office says 4th and McDowell streets will be closed, starting around 1 p.m., until 4 p.m. About 100 sheriff’s office deputies will participate.

The training will simulate “live action” and mimic a scenario of an armed person trying to enter the courthouse, said Chief Deputy Rodney Collins.

During the exercise, simulated gunfire — not actual bullets or shots fired — may be heard. A significant number of police vehicles are expected, along with blue visible and possibly sirens.

The area around the courthouse will be closed off to both drivers and pedestrians. Court proceedings and office visits will be discontinued for the afternoon, starting at noon.

The deputies involved in the training will practice a variety of skills, Collins said, including safely evacuating the building, subduing an armed person and protecting the crime scene afterward while evidence is processed. The training has been planned for months, Collins said.

While the training is conducted, signs will be posted to let observers know it’s only a drill.

Visitors who need to access the courthouse after 12 p.m. on Friday are directed to go to the Criminal Magistrates’ Office at 801 East Fourth Street instead. That office is located across the street from the courthouse.

In a statement sent earlier this month, Mecklenburg County court officials said: Although situations involving an active armed assailant on courthouse property are extremely rare, courts must consider how to best prepare for and respond to this type of event.

“Prior to this exercise, courthouse staff attended one of several active shooter classes provided by the Mecklenburg County Sheriff’s Office.”