After Saturday’s visit to the firing range on Round Mountain, Citizens Police Academy participants can say they shot Brownwood Police Chief Terry Nichols.
    They did so with Nichols’ blessing — using training rounds known as simunition, which travel around 500 feet per second. Officers use them to shoot each other during training scenarios.
    The rounds are shot out of AR-15 rifles which have devices installed that prevent real ammunition from accidentally being used. The simunition rounds can cause quite a sting and break the skin if they hit you in the right place, Nichols said. Nichols wore a protective helmet and “body armor” — a bulletproof vest — with a piece of tape over his chest.
    “This is something we can  actually shoot with each other,” Nichols told academy participants. “All I ask is, when you shoot me, shoot center mass because I’ve got body armor on. I’ll really love you for it. If you shoot me anywhere else, I won’t love you so much.”
    The Citizens Police Academy began Feb. 7 and meets for nine sessions on Tuesday nights, plus the Saturday session that began with a tour of the Brown County Jail and concluded with the trip to the firing range.
    During the jail tour, participants learned about some of the highly unique challenges of running a jail and dealing with inmates who can be violent, suicidal and out-of-control. Jailers strive to keep inmates and themselves safe, participants learned.
    At the firing range, Nichols, Lt. Randall Krpoun and range masters Sgt. Art Shannon and patrolman Paul Chrisman introduced several types of weapons. The weapons included the simunitions and non-lethal weapons including shotguns that fire bean bag rounds and devices that fire 40-millimeter sponge rounds.
    Participants were then invited to fire actual rounds from AR-15 rifles and handguns under the close supervision of Nichols and the other officers.
    Shouts of “Ahh!” and “Whoo!” could be heard as participants celebrated making good shots or congratulated others for good shooting.
    “My son will never believe this,” participant Faye McIntyre said.