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School shooting in Santa Fe, TX, prompts gun safety talks

Posted at 5:30 AM, May 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-22 05:30:43-04

An outspoken southwestern Ohio sheriff is calling for metal detectors in schools to try to prevent mass shootings.

Butler County Richard Jones said Monday he was speaking out again about school safety after yet another deadly mass shooting, this time in Texas.

A student gunman armed with a shotgun and pistol stormed Santa Fe High School about 30 miles southeast of Houston on Friday, and opened fire, killing 8 students and two teachers and wounding 10 other people, including a school resource officer left in critical condition, authorities have said.

Jones said he plans to send a letter Tuesday to all school boards in the county, urging them to act now to beef up security with metal detectors, law enforcement and armed school personnel.

He also plans to read the letter on his agency's Facebook  page at 10:15 a.m. 

Letters also are going to President Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.

He also is criticizing the Hamilton school board, saying he plans to erect a billboard to publicly call them out.

They have been more concerned, he said, with keeping the public who elected them into office from discovering details about why the former superintendent recently resigned than with improving school security.

The former superintendent, Tony Orr, quit last month amid an internal investigation into allegations of sexual harassment and other claims by two female staff members, records show.

By comparison, Jones said, other local school boards are taking action since the Parkland, Florida mass shooting:

  • Madison Local School Board unanimously passed a measure in April to  allow teachers and other staff members to bring guns into classrooms.
  • Edgewood City Schools more than double the number of school resource officers in their schools so every school has a deputy sheriff assigned to it.

Hamilton School Board President Steve Isgro referred our request for comment to the current superintendent, Larry Knapp, who could not be immediately reached. We also have a message for comment into a school district spokeswoman.

We will update this story with their comments once we have heard back.

The sheriff has been trying to raise awareness about school safety for years, but he has stepped up his remarks this year.

He gained national attention in February when he offered free firearm instruction to teachers and other school personnel. Expecting a small response, Jones was surprised sign-ups quickly exploded and he had to cap it off at 300 when 250 signed up in less than 24 hours.

VIDEO: 'We've got to do something' Sheriff greets teachers at gun training

The Republican also posted a video to his agency's Facebook page appealing to Trump and Kasich and the public for change.

Jones sent letters to both men calling for arming retired police and military veterans to guard schools and to end to fire drills.

He has said fire drills as we know them need to be changed when the Florida shooter, who was equipped with a gas mask and smoke grenades, set off a fire alarm to draw students out of classrooms shortly before the day ended at one of the state's largest schools.

At the most recent mass shooting in Texas, he noted Monday, a teacher ran into the hall and pulled the fire alarm to try to get students out safe, and hundreds of them ran for their lives.

Sounding the fire alarm is not a tactic Jones, a law enforcement official for more than 40 years, endorses. It sends droves of potential victims into a centralized location like school corridors, he said, and actually makes it easier for a gunman to shoot more victims.

Jones has said he feels he has the expertise to speak out about school shootings because he is the only local sheriff with first-hand experience responding to one.

A 15-year-old student fired at classmates in the cafeteria at Madison Jr/Sr High School on Feb. 29, 2016, wounding four, before throwing the weapon down and running from the school.

The school resource officer gave chase and apprehended him shortly after.

James Austin Hancock was convicted of attempted murder and bringing a gun into the school.

He is serving a sentence that will keep him locked up in a state juvenile detention facility until he turns 21. 

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