The district’s hiring requirements for guards were at once simple and absolute: only retired state troopers with 20 years of experience who owned a gun and could pass a 60-round shooting test.
Cichra, 46, paced in the snow to keep warm and watched the first few troopers begin the test. He had been retired for exactly seven months on the day of the shooting in Newtown and that had felt like long enough. He couldn’t stand watching TV. Home improvement bored him. He had spent four years in the Army and 21 more on patrol — a career built on the hard reality of “good guys versus bad,” he said, and Newtown offered him another mission. He had three kids, ages 5, 14 and 17, attending schools near Butler.
“We might not like it, but the modern reality is our kids are vulnerable, and they need our help,” he said. “Nobody’s doing this job for money.”
In front of him on the range was a trooper who had retired four days earlier because he thought the school district needed him and another who had just spent $600 to buy his first personal weapon, a Glock, so he would have a gun with which to qualify. Smoke rose from the targets and the smell of burnt powder filled the air.
The first group of shooters rotated out, and Cichra holstered his Beretta and took his position on the range. The instructor explained that the test was meant to simulate a firefight — “a worst-case scenario,” he said. Cichra would be asked to shoot with one hand and then with two; while kneeling and while standing; while walking backward and while moving toward the target. “Listen to me and focus on the threat,” the instructor said. “Imagine you are closing in on the shooter.”
Cichra took aim at a silhouette target from 25 yards.