'It's time to take action' Sheriff appeals to Kasich, Trump for armed school guards, end of fire drills

Published: Feb. 16, 2018 at 3:48 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 19, 2018 at 3:53 AM EST
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Four students were wounded when a Madison Jr/Sr High School student opened fire in the...
Four students were wounded when a Madison Jr/Sr High School student opened fire in the cafeteria in February 2016. (FOX19 NOW/file)

HAMILTON, OH (FOX19) - The deadly Florida mass school shooting is prompting a local sheriff who responded to a school shooting in his county two years ago this month to appeal to Gov. John Kasich, President Donald Trump and the public for change.

In letters to both men Thursday, Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones is calling for armed retired police and military veterans to guard schools and an end to fire drills.

"Action needs to be taken now - not assigned to committees and studied until time fades the memory of the tragedies," Jones wrote. "Prevent the crimes. Our youth are depending on us. Our families are depending on us."

Jones also posted a video to his agency's Facebook page outlining his ideas.

'We've had another school shooting in our country, sad to say, and I get asked 'when is this going to end?'" he said in the video, which has been viewed 79.,000 times as of 11 a.m. Friday and shared more than 2,200 times.

'The current way we do things in the school system needs to be changed. We don't need the fire drills that we've had. We've had a fire where kids have been killed in the schools, I believe it's been over 50 years."

The  Florida shooter, who was equipped with a gas mask and smoke grenades, set off a fire alarm to draw students out of classrooms shortly before the day ended at one of the state's largest schools, Broward County's sheriff has said.

Jones said he is concerned others will copy that tactic.

"I'm going through you, the public," the sheriff said. "You need to make your feelings heard. We need to stop the shootings. We need to put armed personnel in school. We need to look at metal detectors.

"This is not going to stop or go away but we need to be prepared and we don't need to have our heads in the sand."

Jones said he feels he has the expertise to speak out about school shootings.

He and his deputies responded to a shooting at Madison Jr/Sr High School in on Feb. 29, 2016.

A 15-year-old student fired a handgun at classmates in the cafeteria, wounding four.

He threw the weapon down and ran from the school.

A sheriff's deputy working as a school resource officer at the school, was inside the building at the time.

He had just left the cafeteria minutes before the shooting and was talking with the principal in the principal's office when the shots went off, according to Jones.

The school resource officer sprinted back to the cafeteria, chased after Hancock and apprehended him shortly after.

Hancock was convicted of attempted murder and bringing a gun into the school and was sentenced to be locked up in a state juvenile detention facility until he turns 21.

"I can speak because we've had a school shooting in our community and it's a terrible thing to go through," Jones said in his video this week.

"We need some help, maybe we even need like a czar in charge of school safety for the whole United States or the state of Ohio. "We've got to do it now while people are talking about this and we need to make it happen

He said armed personnel in schools can be teachers trained to use firearms or retired law enforcement officers or military members.

"We need to do something," he said. "We talk about it every time, then as time fades...we need to act now."

Some teachers and staff members are armed at schools with Georgetown Exempted Village in Brown County. The district permits teachers and staff to carry weapons if they maintain a concealed carry license issued by them state and undergo training with Georgetown police.

Finding retired police officers willing to work guarding schools and students would be no problem, said the leader of the union that represents Cincinnati police.

"In this state, the police officers pension system does not have good health care therefore dozens of police officers would work in schools for reasonable salaries along with health care," said Sgt. Dan Hils. "They would be experienced, trained and could be armed. Cops would be all over that. It's a no-brainer. It's an absolute no-brainer."

A school resource officer was assigned to work at the Florida high school where the gunman is charged with killing so many this week, but the two never encountered each other, authorities have said.

Hils said Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is so big, "putting one guard at that would be like putting one cop at a Reds game. If you want to have a school of that size protected, you might have to have 3 or 4 retired police officers or veteran officers."

Hils noted that armed guards are "all around our government buildings where all these politicians work" but not in many schools.

"You protect City Hall with armed guards. Why won't you protect our kids?" he said. "You are inviting them into a soft target. When you put a 'Gun free zone' sign on your school, you might as well put a sign up next to it that says 'Come victimize my children because this is a soft target.' You've not allowed it to be protected.

"I stand with Sheriff Jones on this."

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