Hastings reinforcing school windows after attack

3:43 PM, Apr 8, 2010   |    comments
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HASTINGS, Minn - Everything seemed to work in favor of Hastings middle-schoolers when a 14-year-old boy entered several classrooms with a gun on Monday. But school officials aren't taking chances they'll be so lucky the next time.

The school district has put out bids for 33 impact-resistant interior windows to replace the standard glass currently in use.

Glass durability has become an issue in Hastings, after the 8th grader, armed with handgun, broke windows alongside locked classroom doors to gain access to classrooms where students were huddled on the floor and behind lab tables.

Five interior windows were broken during the incident, according to Jim Huberty, director of buildings and maintenance for the Hastings school district. Three of the windows broke completely away, allowing the intruder to enter the classrooms. But Huberty said wire reinforcements in the two other windows kept the armed boy from entering.

It's not the first time in Minnesota a window has allowed an intruder to bypass a classroom door. "It actually happened at Red Lake," said Wade Setter, deputy director of Homeland Security and Emergency Management at the Minnesota Department of Public Safety.

During the 2005 shooting at Red Lake High School, a 16-year-old student bypassed a classroom door by shooting out its window. He then killed several students and a teacher inside.

But Setter said that doesn't mean every school district should start replacing its interior windows with reinforced glass. "To replace ever classroom window in every school in the state of Minnesota is an exorbitant amount of money."

Setter concedes reinforced windows may have made a difference in Hastings, but added each school shooting is different and schools are best served "by focusing on the broader range of threats."

On Wednesday the 14-year-old suspect was charged in juvenile court with five felonies. The Dakota County Attorney's Office also petitioned the court to try the boy as an adult or under the extended juvenile jurisdiction statute.

Investigators paint a frightening picture of what might have happened if the boy had been savvier around weapons. Police recovered three unfired bullets in the school - one in the gun, one in the hall, and one in a restroom. Later tests revealed all three shells were too long to work properly in the .22 caliber revolver the boy had taken from a locked gun cabinet at the home of his foster parents.

A school administrator told police he heard a "click" as the boy pointed the gun at him. The administrator thought the boy was trying to shoot at him.

The boy told investigators he had tried to fire the gun earlier in a school restroom. "Whether he was test firing it or trying to see how it worked is unclear at this time," said Phillip Prokopowicz, chief deputy with the county attorney's office.


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