Norwood finished the training at the top of her class. But some of the other students from around the state earning sniper certification were a bit leery of her at first, she said.
“They really didn’t talk to me at all up until the middle of the week, maybe Thursday or Friday,” she said. “Once they realized I can actually shoot, they realized I was their competition. If they didn’t finish the challenge and I did, they were kinda bitter about that.”
But Norwood didn’t let it deter her.
“As women, we get challenged every day,” she said. “We’re used to having to prove ourselves and be challenged.”
It was not immediately clear how many other female snipers there are in Georgia.
Growing up in Indiana, Norwood participated in various sports, including basketball, volleyball, track and cheerleading. At Tennessee State University, she majored in health sciences before completing her master’s degree in public health at Argosy University in Atlanta. Norwood believed she wanted a career in the health field.
LaShira Norwood, 31, a Fulton County deputy, is shown with a Remington 700 sniper rifle at the David L. Hagins Firing Range in Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday, April 2, 2018. Norwood is Fulton County Sheriff Office’s first female sniper. (REANN HUBER/REANN.HUBER@AJC.COM)
A friend suggested she consider a job in law enforcement, and Norwood had a change of heart. That was three years ago.
“Once I got here and applied, I started to get comfortable in the job. I started to like it,” Norwood said. “Now that I’m here, I really like law enforcement.”
At the end of her second year as a deputy, Norwood tried out for the SWAT team, becoming the department’s second woman to join. Soon she was ready for her next challenge.
Norwood told Sgt. John Farrar, a sniper and the SWAT team commander, that she wanted to train to become a sniper. Farrar agreed to help train her on Saturdays. During the week, Norwood began a vigorous exercise and fitness program.
“It takes a lot of practice,” she said. “It takes a lot of dedication just to make sure you’re consistent.”
After working the overnight shift, Norwood would head straight to the gym, and then the shooting range. She changed her diet, too, adding healthy vegetables and more chicken, she said.
“I’d get on the treadmill and run 2 miles,” she said. “I’d get off that and go immediately to push-ups and sit-ups. Then I’d go bench-press my weight. Then I’d get back on the treadmill and do it all over again.”
Next, Norwood had to convince her parents she was up for the challenge.
LaShira Norwood, 31, a Fulton County deputy, prepares her sniper equipment at the David L. Hagins Firing Range in Atlanta, Georgia, on Monday, April 2, 2018. Norwood is Fulton County Sheriff Office’s first female sniper. (REANN HUBER/REANN.HUBER@AJC.COM)
“My mom was like, ‘Oh my God, no. Please don’t do it.’”
Norwood told her, “As long as I’m trained, I’m fine.”
Once she explained to her parents that her role as a sniper means watching over the work of the SWAT team, they liked the sound of that, Norwood said.
As a sniper and SWAT team member, Norwood must be ready for whatever is needed depending on the situation. It could be an active shooter, a hostage situation, or some other scenario in which deputies need a clear-headed marksman.
Since becoming a sniper, Norwood said she has suddenly found herself getting extra attention, which she didn’t expect. But she has heard plenty of encouraging words from colleagues and even strangers, who have reached out on Facebook.
“This is bigger than me. This is bigger than the agency,” Norwood said. “This is something that young girls have to look up to.
“I can show them that… as long as you stay focused and work hard, you can still reach the same accomplishments as everyone else.”