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Reynolds shooting report praises school officers
The tragic 2014 shooting at Reynolds High School could have been much worse without the quick response of two School Resource Officers.
According to a recently-released analysis prepared by the Multnomah County Office of Emergency Management, the two School Resource Officers were on campus the morning of June 10. That was when 15-year-old Jared Padgett shot and killed 14-year-old student Emilio Hoffman and wounded PE teacher Todd Rispler in the boys' locker room in the gymnasium building.
The SROs immediately ran to the gymnasium, where, the report says, approximately 90 other students were gathered just a few doors away from the shooting scene at the start of the school day. Padgett was prepared to do more harm. In addition to the rifle, he brought a pistol, nine ammunition magazines and a large knife to school.
"Three minutes after the initial shots were fired, two School Resource Officers (SROs) entered the gymnasium building," the report reads, "and likely interrupted the shooter, who fled into the boys' bathroom located just outside the gym."
Alerted by a 9-1-1 call, commanders and officers from the Troutdale Police Department quickly reached the school. A few minutes later, the first search team entered the bathroom where Padgett was still hiding. The lead officer fired at Padgett, who killed himself with the AR-15 rifle he had stolen earlier in the day from his older brother.
"The fact that there were School Resource Officers on site very much diminished the amount of time" involved in the incident, Emergency Management Director Chris Voss said when he presented the report to the Multnomah County Commission on Dec. 8 of last year. "The shooter fled, and it was not until a few minutes later before a larger number of officers were able to enter the school."
Outgoing Multnomah County Commissioner Diane McKeel, who represented the area where the school is located, praised the SROs. She left the commission at the end of 2016.
"It was a tragedy, no doubt, but it could have been much worse," McKeel said during one her final commission hearings.
Outgoing Commissioner Judy Shiprack also praised the response of the SROs, saying their presence at the school was obviously positive, even though it is hard to predict when such shocking "one-off" events might occur.
The two SROs were actually Multnomah County Sheriff's Office deputies working on contract for the Reynolds School District. District officials were so impressed with the role they played in preventing the more deaths and injuries that they contracted for another one. The sheriff's office currently provides SROs to five school districts in the region. Chief Deputy Jason Gates told the commision they have defused numerous violent incidents in the schools and helped steer troubled students into better career paths.
The presence of the SROs was one of the strengths of the response to the incident documented in the report, which is titled "Reynolds High School Active Shooter Response: An analysis of the response to the Reynolds High School Shooting on June 10, 2014." It was prepared with the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and involved extensive debriefing with the multiple public and nonprofit organizations that responded to the incident, both when it happened and in the weeks and months that followed.
Voss says it is the first so-called After Action Report prepared by the county that involved dozens of organizations. They ranged from law enforcement to education to social service agencies and more. Although the report took a long time to prepare, Voss says the organizations that participated have worked to resolve issues as they became identified instead of waiting until it was completed.
Another strength identified in the report was the quick response of all the organizations to the incident. The flood of first responders and health professionals to the campus allowed officials to process all of the other students and release them to their parents and guardians in a reasonable amount of time.
But, the report says, the sheer number of those who rushed to the scene created a problem that is now being addressed.
"The question came up, who is in charge? No single agency was. Multiple agencies took charge. It worked, but going forward, lines of responsibility will be better established," Voss told the Portland Tribune.
One area identified in the report that constantly needs work is joint training exercises, Voss says. Federal, state and local agencies cannot spend enough time practicing for large-scale incidents, including both natural and man-made disasters. Voss admits that financial and time constraints restrict the number that can be held, however.
"Elected officials see two, three or four needs, but only have enough resources for one of them and have to make decisions. I'm proud of how much we've been able to accomplish so far," Voss said.
Another issue raised that Voss says needs addressing is the impact of soclal media at such issues. Voss told the commission that numerous people at the school and in the community almost immediately began communicating about it. Some of the information was inaccurate and added to the already confusing situation.
"People shared a lot of information without checking with the reality on the ground," said Voss, explaining that agencies like his want to control the flow of information in such incidents, especially during the early stages when false rumors can hinder the responses.
You can read the full report at https://multco.us/file/57742/download.