Junction City police chief defends actions after school lockdown criticism

During a school board meeting in June, parents said their children were traumatized during the lockdown alleging police shoved guns in their faces, allegations which Chief Bob Morris says are untrue.

Posted: Jul 22, 2019 7:35 PM

JUNCTION CITY, Ore. -- The Junction City police chief is defending the actions of his department after staff, parents and students criticized their response to an 911 call that put an elementary school on lockdown.

Chief Bob Morris said in late May they put Laural Elementary School on lockdown after they received an incomplete 911 call where children could be heard screaming in the background before the caller hung up. Morris said a GPS ping found the call was made from inside the school.

In body camera footage of the response, Morris and another Junction City officer enter the building with their guns drawn. Lane County deputies and other police can also be seen in the video with their weapons drawn. The video shows Morris and the other officer search rooms in one of the wings in the building. Each time they enter a room in the video, they are heard telling staff and students to put their hands up, asking if anyone was there that didn't belong and telling them to lock the door.

In the end, Morris said they found nothing wrong at the school.

"We absolutely are confident we did what we needed to based on the information we had at the time we got it," Morris said.

During a school board meeting in June, parents said their children were traumatized during the lockdown, alleging police shoved guns in their faces.

Morris denies the allegations, and the video does not appear to show officers pointing their guns at others.

During the board meeting, the principal also made a number of other allegations, but Morris said all of of them are false and can be disputed with the video.

"Junction City officers followed our procedures to a T, and the way we responded to this was in a calm, organized, orderly and controlled fashion is the only way in which this could've been responded to," Morris said.

Superintendent Kathleen Rodden-Nord said she was not aware of the lockdown till 20 minutes after it happened. She said she wants to learn more about whose responsibility it is to let them know about situations like this and feels the police response was overblown.

"The response, at least that has been reported to me, was different than what would be typically triggered by what the precipitating incident was," Rodden-Nord said. "I feel like what we need to do first and foremost is to understand each other's policies."

Morris said two days after the lockdown, he came back to the school to debrief with staff but said the principal kicked him off the property, saying teachers don't want him there. He said he also wants to sit down with district leaders in an effort to improve communication.

"In the areas that we can improve our communication efforts, by gosh we will do that, we will work aggressively to do that," Morris said.

While Morris showed KEZI 9 News the body camera footage, he would not share the video with us for our broadcast.

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