A Texas elementary school's administrators say that student resource officers are to blame after a school security test last week went awry.
One officer, however, says that the school is way off base.
What are the details?
According to KJAS-TV, the incident took place on Oct. 27 when two Buna, Texas, Independent School District student resource officers conducted a security drill as reportedly requested by the administration.
Reports say that school officials reportedly failed to warn teachers, staff, and students before one of the officers began jostling the handles on one of the school's exterior doors. The station also reported that one of the officers — who was reportedly dressed in camouflage and with his face covered — was running around Buna Elementary School trying to break in through doors and windows.
The action reportedly led teachers, staff, and students to believe that the school was under imminent attack.
School officials immediately placed the school on lockdown, and called 911 to report what they believed was an armed intruder. A bevy of Jasper County sheriff's officers rushed to the scene with their guns drawn, only to discover that there was no armed intruder.
Needless to say, the incident sparked widespread concern, which prompted school administrators to issue an apology to parents for the unannounced school security test. In the apology, administrators also placed the blame squarely on the shoulders of student resources officers for conducting the test last week without warning.
Jasper County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Scotty Duncan told KJAS, "[The officers] could have easily been shot and killed by one of our guys, and that's after we risked our lives driving as fast as these patrol cars can go just to get there. If it's a real situation, yeah, we'll risk killing ourselves wrapping a patrol car around a pine tree to protect a child, but doing this without notifying anyone that it was just a drill, that won't work."
Buna ISD Superintendent Donny Lee said that the two school resources officers were to blame and created an extremely dangerous situation for all involved.
Lee told KLTV-TV that Buna ISD Officer Mark McKinley directed his "fairly new" co-worker Officer Mike Henderson to wear camouflage clothing to school that day, as the two were reportedly planning to conduct an intruder drill. Lee added that neither McKinley nor Henderson communicated the plan to anyone at the school or within law enforcement.
"Our school resource officers decided it would be a good idea to just go ahead and do this thing live where nobody knew, so that, according to their story, 'We would get the realest reaction' out of the deal,'" Lee said. "Well, hell no it wasn't a good idea! That was the dumbest idea I've ever heard! I mean, my goodness!"
He added, "It could have been a disaster. Much worse could have happened. The teachers responded perfectly to the situation. But it should not have happened."
According to the station, Duncan reportedly had a "very stern conversation" with McKinley and Henderson following the incident.
What is the SRO saying?
Henderson says that the administrators' claims are bogus, and that the school district is at fault.
Following mass outcry from parents and local residents demanding the department take action against the two officers, Henderson took to social media, where he issued an impassioned statement in his own defense.
I've been called a lot of things in my life. Some bad, some good, some true, some not. I take exception to the untruths, addressing some and ignoring others. It comes with the job. When it comes to my integrity and my reputation, I draw the line there.
Regarding the situation at Buna Elementary this morning, there are a number of outright lies being circulated. Since some who were involved won't do the right thing, I'm more than happy to. The chips will fall where they may, but truth is truth and I while I can abide a great many things, having my reputation tarnished by those seeking to shield themselves from the fallout is something I can't abide. Not one dang bit.
1. This was a PLANNED EVENT. I was notified by a school administrator LAST WEEK that it would be taking place some time THIS WEEK. I wasn't aware of the date or time, only that I was asked by this administrator to “show up in plain clothes" and check the exterior doors of the Elementary and High Schools. If you have an understanding of school security and basic common sense you'll also understand that in order to test the effectiveness of any system, you need natural reactions. In other words, don't warn people ahead of time. So, this wasn't spontaneous. We did NOT “Take it upon ourselves" to conduct the drill. This was a SCHOOL SANCTIONED AND REQUIRED EVENT and I was TOLD to do it by ADMINISTRATION. I have good reason to believe that I know why these lies were told and it's unfortunate. However, regardless of their source or intent, they are still outright LIES. Given the nature of the “exercise" and the response it could potentially generate, once at the Elementary School I removed my duty weapon and magazines and left them in my patrol car. Which, I might add, was parked prominently in the FRONT of the Elementary AND High Schools. Additionally, I waited as long as possible for as many little kids to be inside so as not to scare them from any possible response from staff.
2. Mark McKinley did not participate, other than to monitor my actions on video. Contrary to what was reported on the apparent fake news website, KJAS, and what was also reported by a member of Jasper County Sheriff's Department administration, there were NOT camouflaged “officers". There was just ONE officer and that was me. I wasn't even “camouflaged", I had been wearing a camo jacket which was over my district-issued blue polo shirt which says, in large letters on the back, “POLICE" and has a small BUNA ISD POLICE logo on the left front breast. Once I made my way back to the front of the school it was removed. KJAS also contradicted itself in its biased and misleading article, as it states one time there were camouflaged officers then another time states that I was the only one dressed in camo. Let's not let the facts stand in the way of a good story though.
3. I was NOT trying to “break in through doors and windows". I was tasked with checking to see if the exterior doors were locked or not. Nothing was mentioned to me about windows, I did not touch any windows. I did not even attempt to “break in" period, merely check to see if the doors were locked.
4. To those saying I should have notified someone, that's not how things work. I'm not running or in charge of anything and it's my job, especially as low man on the totem pole, to do as I'm asked and not question if the proper plans or steps have been taken. My assumption was that since this was a SCHOOL SANCTIONED EVENT, those steps had been taken prior to me being involved in this. My fault lies in believing that had been done.
5. To those who have chosen to believe the lies being perpetuated by some on KJAS and other sites, I'm curious to know how you view CNN, MSNBC, and other mainstream media sources in their treatment of our President. I'd be willing to bet a very large percentage of you call them for what they are-fake news-yet here you all are, shoveling in more lies without even stopping to think that there is ALWAYS more to the story.
6. Some have called for Mark and I to be fired. I say if you can do this better, feel free. Come on out, lend your expertise. With all the law enforcement experts there should be no shortage of willing volunteers. Just don't try your hand at investigations because based on what I've seen just from this one incident, most would do a piss poor job at gathering facts before pronouncing guilt.
7. To those who know me (and those who don't) and have offered words of encouragement, it is more appreciated than you know. To those who don't know me yet still feel somehow qualified to weigh in on something you didn't witness nor have reliable information about, your opinion and 99 cents will get you a cup of coffee anywhere in town. God knows the truth and that's all I'm concerned with.
On Wednesday, KLTV reported that Lee said Henderson had been cleared of wrongdoing in the incident.
At the time of the station's reporting, McKinley had not been cleared.
(H/T: The Police Tribune)