St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office nears completion of new outdoor range training facility

St. Bernard Sheriff James Pohlmann, right, and Col. Pete Tufaro, center, visit with Justin Dean of Spire Ranges, left, who provided equipment training at the Sheriff’s Office new open-air, outdoor shooting range training facility which features eight illuminated 360-degree turning targets and two running-man targets.

As law enforcement officers, St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office deputies are required to receive extensive firearms training each year, and with the construction of a new, state-of-the-art shooting range, that task has become easier and more convenient, Sheriff James Pohlmann said.

Thanks to the acquisition of federal funds and the use of Sheriff’s Office personnel and trustee labor, the Sheriff’s Office is near completion on a 1,000-foot by 1,000-foot open-air, outdoor shooting range which sits back 3,000 feet off Paris Road in Chalmette, near a vast area of wetlands.

Sheriff Pohlmann said the 12-month construction project cost $180,000, just 10 percent of what the actual cost would have been had deputies and trustees not provided the manpower.

Designed by Sheriff’s Office Col. Pete Tufaro, with input from Range Instructors Maj. David DiMaggio and Lt. Raymond Theriot, the range meets law enforcement range standards outlined by the National Rifle Association.

The training facility boasts a $66,000 state-of-the-art target system which features eight illuminated 360-degree turning targets and two running-man targets. A 20-foot tall by 200-foot U-shaped earthen retaining wall also was constructed behind the target line to serve as a back-stop or barrier to catch and prevent misaligned shots.

 “This is something we have been trying to accomplish for quite a while,” the Sheriff said. “We had a limited amount of money and needed to make sure we spent every dollar wisely.”

Sheriff Pohlmann said having access to this type of facility provides deputies with a space where they can undergo mandatory firearms training and improve their marksmanship skills to be better prepared for a variety of situations.

“Our mission is to keep the residents of St. Bernard Parish safe from harm,” the Sheriff said. “This new range will provide our deputies with a place where they can easily receive the necessary training to defend our citizens, their fellow deputies and themselves, if and when the need arises.”

Sheriff Pohlmann said the range will be used by about 250 deputies in Patrol, Traffic, Corrections, Communications, Community Relations, Special Investigations, Criminal Investigations, Special Operations, Marine, Special Weapons and Tactics team, or S.W.A.T. team, and the Bomb Squad.

All Peace Officers Standards and Training, or P.O.S.T. certified deputies are required to complete year-round firearms training at the range, along with classroom instruction on weapons safety and maintenance.

Firearms training at the range is overseen by Maj. Bobby Norton and Capt. Stephen Ingargiola, director of training, and is implemented with the help of seven veteran deputies, including range instructors Maj. David DiMaggio, Lt. Raymond Theriot, Lt. Al Clavin, Lt. Robert Mire and Sgt. David Culpepper, and range safety officers, retired Sgt. Dick Beebe and Reserve Division Dep. Laurence Amberson.

Range instructors such as Maj. DiMaggio, a 37-year veteran of the St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office with 10 years as a range instructor, and Lt. Theriot, a 36-year veteran with 18 years of range instructor experience, utilize the range to teach deputies the fundamentals of handgun marksmanship, weapon safety rules and relevant government regulations.

At the range, deputies undergo the most demanding courses of fire that involve accuracy, shoot, don’t shoot targets, movement and critical decision-making while mimicking actual incidents.

While everyone involved hopes these types of circumstances the deputies are being trained for never have to be dealt with in St. Bernard, Sheriff Pohlmann said his department always trains for the possibilities.

“It’s a question of being prepared in advance for what could happen, while hoping it doesn’t happen,’’ the Sheriff said. “In today’s environment, it’s the preparation that’s the key.’’

Keeping his team abreast of the latest trends in training for these types of occurrences is crucial, the Sheriff said.

“It is imperative we constantly provide our deputies with training opportunities often for the safety of the public, and also for our officers who could possibly be sent into these dangerous situations,” Sheriff Pohlmann said. “I’m proud of the hard work our department is doing in order to protect our parish.”

The St. Bernard Sheriff’s Office is near completion on a new shooting range off Paris Road in Chalmette. At the range are, from left: Col. Pete Tufaro, who designed and helped construct the range; Maj. David DiMaggio, range instructor; retired Sgt. Dick Beebe, range safety officer; and Lt. Raymond Theriot, Lt. Al Clavin, Lt. Robert Mire and Sgt. David Culpepper, range instructors. Not pictured is range safety officer Reserve Division Dep. Laurence Amberson.