Nicholas K. Geranios, The Associated Press
SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -- The first report that a person with a handgun
was inside Lewis and Clark High School arrived at 11:10 a.m. Within
14 minutes, officers had rushed inside the building and trapped the
gunman in a third-floor science classroom.
"That's not bad," Police Chief Roger Bragdon said after Monday's
incident that left the student gunman critically wounded.
Horrified by the massacre at Columbine High School in Colorado in
1999, police in Spokane and other cities no longer move cautiously
when approaching a potential school shooting situation.
Instead, the first officers on the scene are trained to charge to the
scene of danger and take control.
"They find the shooter as fast as they can and either contain the
shooter or eliminate the threat," Bragdon said.
Known as Aggressive Shooter Response, the policy took hold after law
enforcement officers were widely criticized for taking too long to
study and evaluate the danger inside Columbine before moving in on
April 20, 1999.
At Columbine, a school resource officer exchanged gunfire with Dylan
Klebold and Eric Harris shortly after the pair started their shooting
spree, then withdrew from the building. Two SWAT teams entered the
school about a half hour later, but pulled back.
Klebold and Harris killed 12 students and a teacher before committing
suicide. Police did not declare the school under control until more
than four hours after the shooting began.
With approximately 2,000 potential victims at the Spokane high
school, there was no time to gather and evaluate information, Bragdon
said. There was also no time to wait for special SWAT teams.
Instead, regular street cops now carry rifles in their patrol cars
that give them the firepower to immediately engage barricaded gunmen,
the chief said.
After Columbine, Spokane school officials shared floor plans with police.
In this case, students and staff were still evacuating the building
when the first officers rushed in. Officers cornered the student
inside the same classroom where the boy had fired a shot into a wall
and ordered the teacher and other students to leave.
Officers talked with the 17-year-old male student for more than an hour.
"He was angry at everything. He was making threats about everything,"
Bragdon said. "We have no idea as to the motive."
At one point, "he stopped talking, put on a jacket and pulled a gun
from his (pants) pocket," Bragdon said.
The student was shot by a SWAT officer and rushed to a hospital.
Bragdon praised staff at Lewis and Clark for quickly evacuating the
school by pulling a fire alarm, rather than locking down the school
with people inside.
While many school districts adopted metal detectors after school
shootings that included Columbine, the Spokane school district did
Superintendent Brian Benzel said the district relies on faculty,
staff and other students to watch for trouble.
There are no plans to change that policy, and Bragdon added he would
not like to see metal detectors in schools.
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The district's plan for dealing with a school crisis also saw 35
school buses show up within 10 minutes to transport students to a
nearby arena. The students were gone by the time the standoff ended,