ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Security training and a fast response from police helped Wednesday’s shooting outside an Anchorage elementary school have about as good an outcome as there could be, school district officials say.
A 26-year-old man was arrested Wednesday outside Denali Montessori Elementary School in downtown Anchorage. Laquinton Robbins had reportedly just dropped off a child when he walked back to his vehicle and got into an argument with the victim, whom he then shot in the upper body.
The victim ran toward the school and was able to enter the first set of doors, but staff in the school quickly reacted to what was going on and automatically locked the interior doors into the school.
A school psychologist heard the shot, said Ruth Dene, the school’s principal, and alerted the office staff. “Within seconds,” Dene said, her administrative assistant pushed the emergency lock down button.
“We practiced our drills and the training came through,” Dene said.
Ashley Lally, the Anchorage School District’s director of security and emergency preparedness says the school is equipped with cameras that can be viewed from the school office. In this case, drop-off for preschool students was still underway when the shooting occurred, but the staff was able to lock the doors from the office.
Not all schools have that auto-locking capability, Lally said. In some schools, the doors are locked even at drop-off time, with school staff holding the doors open to welcome students.
Wednesday, Denali’s preschool program, which starts at 9:30, had just barely started when the shooting occurred. The doors would normally have been locked 15 minutes later. Dene says that policy is now being changed after what happened this week.
The school went into full lock-down mode initially, and was in lock-down mode for six minutes, Dene said. Students in classrooms had to move out of view from the door. While the school hadn’t yet conducted its quarterly school-wide ALICE drills, Dene says teachers talk with students in the first weeks about what to do in an emergency situation.
“Regardless of what the drill is,” she said, she teaches the students to “look to the adult to keep you safe.”
By the time Dene arrived – she’d been at a district-wide leadership meeting at the ASD Education center – the school had been downgraded to stay-put mode after APD officers arrived, assessed the situation and took Robbins into custody.
Some parents came to the school to check on their children, Dene says, and a few decided to take them home for the day. Due to the shooting happening right outside the main entrance, the school’s rear doors were used for entry and exit for the rest of the school day, she said.
Dene and ASD officials say it was 90 seconds from the first call to when APD first arrived.
“This is what we train for,” said MJ Thim, a spokesperson for the Anchorage Police Department. He says the call came in at 9:31 a.m. and an officer was at the school by 9:33. A shooting at a school becomes the highest priority, Thim said.
“Situations like this, it’s all-hands-on-deck,” Thim said, “so we flood the area with as many officers as are available, including off-duty.”