Security Expert Who Was at Columbine Reacts to Recent Colo. School Shooting

Updated: 12/14/2013 7:38 AM
Created: 12/13/2013 8:02 PM
By: Stephen Tellier

Friday's violence at Arapahoe High School in Colorado was even more heartbreaking because it came on the eve of the anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre in Connecticut. Not only that -- Arapahoe High is about eight miles east of Columbine High School, where 12 classmates and a teacher were killed in 1999.

5 Eyewitness News sat down with Rick Kaufman, a school security expert who was at Columbine that terrible day 14 years ago, and used to work for Columbine's school district. He now works as the Director of Community Relations and Emergency Management for Bloomington Public Schools.

He watched Friday's violence from afar, but said the emotions such tragedies evoke come back far too often.

"No one wants to have to live through what the folks at Arapahoe High School will experience," Kaufman said.

Kaufman knows, because he did.

He arrived at Columbine 15 minutes after two students opened fire on their classmates in April 1999. On Friday, an old colleague from Colorado was the first to alert him to the shooting at Arapahoe.

"Immediately turning on the TV and seeing the news accounts -- it was deja vu," Kaufman said. "You look back and you say, 'Boy, not again,' or your heart just drops."

Kaufman's immediate concern was that a mass casualty calamity might be unfolding again.

"How bad is it? And are we truly seeing another Columbine or another Sandy Hook?" Kaufman asked.

He said he was soon thankful more students weren't injured or killed. But it is still an act of senseless violence inside a school.

"It really wears at the fabric of our society that these kinds of things just continue," Kaufman said.

He said it should prompt one question.

"Are we doing enough to keep students and staff safe?" Kaufman asked.

He said school security has improved greatly since Columbine, and that Minnesota's schools continue to improve.

"I think we're seeing more and more schools that are doing significant training, building the culture of understanding what to do in the event of an incident," Kaufman said.

But he said Arapahoe proves there is no such thing as a perfectly safe school.

"Are we safer than a year ago? Yes. But there's a caveat to all of this, that we cannot offer with 100 percent certainty that every child and staff member will be safe," Kaufman said.

Kaufman's preliminary assessment of the Arapahoe shooting is that there seemed to be an effective, orderly police response, and he said he was told the in-school officer may have engaged or tried to engage the suspect during the shooting. But he said we will learn a lot more about what happened in the coming days and weeks.

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