Reynolds superintendent defends security after school shooting

Reynolds superintendent defends security after school shooting »Play Video
Linda Florence said Reynolds is a safe school during Wednesday's media briefing.

TROUTDALE, Ore. -- One day after police said a 15-year-old, heavily armed Reynolds High School student gunned down a fellow freshman, injured a teacher and took his own life, the district superintendent defended the school's security.

"Reynolds High School is a safe environment for our students," said Reynolds Superintendent Linda Florence.

Florence, flanked by several law enforcement officials and city leaders discussed security during a press briefing Wednesday where Troutdale Police provided a more detailed account of the violence one day earlier at the high school.

Police said Jared Michael Padgett, 15, a devout Mormon and aspiring serviceman arrived on campus Tuesday morning heavily armed with an assault rifle, nine magazines of ammunition, a handgun and a knife. Police said the weapons had been taken from a secured area at his family home.

Troutdale Police Chief Scott Anderson said Padgett arrived to campus on a school bus carrying a guitar case and a duffel bag, went to a gym that was detached from the main building, entered the boys' locker room and murdered 14-year-old Emilio Hoffman. Investigators did not specify if the weapons were in the guitar case or duffel bag.

Police said Padgett also wounded physical education teacher Todd Rispler, who managed to make his way to the office and warn administrators about the shooting. A lockdown was immediately ordered and authorities were notified.

Investigators said an autopsy confirmed that Padgett died in a nearby school bathroom of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after a brief exchange of gunfire with school resource officers, who were the first law enforcement to arrive on scene.

Anderson said there was no link between Padgett and Hoffman, leaving police unsure if the shooter was targeting someone in particular or had launched a random attack. Anderson praised law enforcement and teaching staff for their quick action, which he believes saved many lives.

"Given the weapons and the amount of ammunition that the shooter was carrying, the early notification and initial law enforcement response were critical," Anderson said. "I cannot emphasize enough, the role that Mr. Rispler and the responding officers played in saving many, many many lives."

Florence said those two Troutdale school resource officers are on campus everyday, along with five campus management personnel.

"We have a robust security system in our school," Florence said. "In addition, we have regular safety training, drills and safety committee meetings."

Florence said the district is also an active member of the School Emergency Response and Recovery Alliance (SERRA), which handles emergency planning for schools in the region. The SERRA includes eight school districts, two community colleges and emergency responders in Multnomah County.

We also learned Reynolds High School has the ability to lock all auxiliary and classroom doors during an emergency.  We're told, visitors are required to check in at the main office.

Once the press briefing was over, most officials - including Florence - were shuffled inside.  She did not answer any more questions.

Red-flagging security concerns?

Within hours of the shooting, several parents approached KATU with serious concerns about what they felt like were gaps in the school's security system.

"There was a life that was lost here and it could have been prevented," one mother said.

She did not want to be identified for fear bullies would retaliate against her daughter.

The mother said she went to the Reynolds High School principal years ago asking to beef up security after she said her daughter was threatened by bullies. She said she asked for more school resources officers, cameras - even metal detectors - and felt it was critical considering the size of the school and number of entrances.

"You would think that schools would step up security by maybe installing not just cameras, but metal detectors," the mom continued.

From the outside, security cameras are sprinkled around outer buildings but it's unclear whether or not anyone monitors those cameras continuously.

There are around 2,800 students enrolled in what is the second largest high school in Oregon. The campus encompasses five separate buildings including the main building, arts building, a metal shop, wood shop, and gym, where the shooting happened.

"When is everyone going to step up and start saying look, 'we've got a lot of kids and we need more adults to help here.' When it that going to happen? When we have all of our schools shut down in shootings?" the mom asked.

We found some students echoed the same sentiments like Twitter user, @jordankae, who tweeted "Reynolds there's more than a main entrance. You would need 15+ detectors."

The On Your Side Investigators brought questions about security and training to live action shooter training expert Sgt. Craig Allen with the Hillsboro Police Department, who's been featured in several publications across the country.

"There's clear value in having accountability and security measures set up to prevent people unauthorized access but unless you're working for a super high-security facility, that's almost impossible," Allen said.

However, parents believe the security problems aren't limited to access. One parent who approached KATU was also concerned about what she described as a trend of violence and weapons on campus.

Our own investigations found 22 students were expelled last year for bringing a weapon to school.

The On Your Side Investigators pressed Troutdale Mayor Daoust about the findings, especially since his own kids went to Reynolds High School, but he was not familiar with last year's numbers.

"Obviously we don't have security measures like like airports do. With a school that large, with 2,800 students, it's very difficult to screen everybody coming in and out," Daoust said. "I shared the frustration that everybody else had."

As to whether he expected security changes as a result of the shooting, Daoust said, "we'll see."

Previous threat of school shooting?

One parent waiting to reunite with her child in the aftermath of the shooting told KATU she'd heard of a threat of a shooting at Reynolds High School weeks ago. KATU asked law enforcement officials about the claims on Tuesday but they didn't answer the question, saying that was part of the investigation.

The On Your Side Investigators asked again on Wednesday at which point law enforcement repeatedly shot down any claims of a previous threat.

"I'm not aware of anything," said Sgt. Carey Kaer, Troutdale Police spokesman.

Training for an active shooter

Daoust told KATU that the Multnomah County Sheriff's Office practiced an "active shooter" drill in the last month and said they train on a regular basis.

Andrea Watson, the district spokeswoman, said the system is known as Standard Response Protocol system and is taught by the "I Love U Guys" Foundation, based in Colorado.

The training pushes school officials to focus on four options for how to respond to a real or perceived crisis; either by providing shelter, evacuating students, locking a building to outsiders or locking down a campus.

The high school also makes its building available to law enforcement to hold shooter simulation exercises and become familiar with the layout of the school.

"Sometimes it might be difficult why we, law enforcement and the schools collectively do the planning and lockdown drills that we do," Chief Anderson said. "But yesterday, it worked."