A readiness drill gone wrong leaves four employees seriously shaken in Taft. What was supposed to be a chance to practice what to do during an armed robbery was mistaken for the real thing.
The original plan was a simple exercise to let staff at the West Kern Water District practice what they had learned in training. But a last-minute change of plans left the four staffers thinking they had really been held up at gunpoint.
It happened Friday morning at the offices of the water district in Taft.
An employee put on a mask and robbed the four women who work at the front desk.
The man had a bag and a note claiming he had a gun and demanding money.
It wasn't until after the man left that the women learned the robbery was fake.
"It was a good idea to begin with; it just got a little out of control and people got frightened, and Im sorry about that," said West Kern Water District customer Sharlene Dunlap.
"I dont think its right; they should have warned the girls so they are not traumatized and scared like they are now. I'd be very upset," said West Kern Water District customer Kim Newkirk.
Officials with West Kern Water District wouldn't go on camera, but in a written statement they said the plan was to perform a mock robbery with the robber being an easily recognizable employee so the staff would know it was an act and they would have a chance to practice what they learned in training.
But the plan was changed at the last minute and officials say the change was made without approval from management.
"You need to discuss that with everybody; that should be discussed with a whole group of people," Newkirk said.
"Maybe they shouldn't have done that; maybe they should have let somebody know something," Dunlap said.
23ABC checked with the district attorney's office and they say no crime was committed.
One law enforcement official 23ABC spoke to says its a good thing one of the employees didn't have a weapon or the whole thing could have turned tragic.
We asked West Kern Water customers what they think should happen to the employees who pulled the holdup.
"I dont really think someone should get in trouble for it; they were just trying to give an accurate drill," Dunlap said.
"Just give them a couple of days off; I dont think they should be fired," Newkirk said.
23ABC asked West Kern Water officials if anyone was facing disciplinary action for the incident.
They refused to answer the question.
23ABC also tried to contact one of the women who thought she was being robbed, but so far she has not called the station back.
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