Civic, business and religious leaders from the Houston area joined forces with Federal Bureau of Investigation agents at the FBI shooting range Saturday morning to learn how the agency handles its weapons.

The annual FBI’s Citizens Academy allows members of certain communities to gather and learn about the bureau during a nine-week course in its field office in Houston.

“We want to get people who are influential in different communities, like banking, construction, Muslim community and different districts (for the academy),” said Special Agent Patricia Villafranca, Community Outreach coordinator for the Houston Field Office.

In order to be considered for the academy, participants must either be referred by a past member or by an FBI agent, she said.

As part of the course, members were able to test weapons federal agents use while at the FBI’s shooting range on Sgt. Ed Holcomb Boulevard in Conroe.

“Safety, safety, safety is our main priority,” said Jim Hoover, FBI principal firearms instructor at the range.

Hoover demonstrated to participants how agents make quick decisions when using their weapons.

“Agents make split-second decisions on what they have to do,” Hoover said while demonstrating how easily a law enforcement agent could get shot during a traffic stop.

Not only does the shooting facility have ranges for area law enforcement officials to use to practice their craft, the facility houses a unique training center for SWAT teams.

The FBI’s Houston office has a 15-man hostage rescue team that can be tasked for operations anywhere in the nation, said Carlo Stella, senior SWAT team leader.

Source: Jamie L. Bridges for

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