School Climate & Safety

School Police Officer Shoots Knife-Wielding Nevada Student, Officials Say

By Evie Blad — December 08, 2016 2 min read
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A school-based police officer shot a 14-year-old Reno, Nev., student at school Wednesday after the teenager ignored commands to drop a knife he’d used to threaten other students, police officials said.

The student was transported to a local hospital, were he remained in critical condition Thursday. The officer, who works for the district-run police department, was placed on paid administrative leave pending an external investigation by the Reno Police Department.

Procter Hug High School, part of the Washoe County school district, was placed on lockdown for several hours following the 11:30 a.m. incident, the district said, and students were eventually released and sent home. From a report by KOLO TV, an ABC affiliate:

There was a fight earlier in the day between two students, including the 14-year-old, Reno Police Chief Jason Soto said at a Wednesday evening press conference. The 14-year-old then armed himself with two knives and began threatening other students when a police officer shot him once after the student refused to follow the officer’s commands, Soto said. That officer then gave the wounded student first aid. No other students were injured.

The Washoe County School Board released a statement after the shooting that said counselors would be available for students and that the district was committed to “cooperating fully with the ongoing police investigation into the factors that led to this incident.” The statement said in part:

In the course of this incident, safety procedures that are consistently practiced District-wide were followed at both the school level and District level. Officers with the Washoe County School District (WCSD) School Police Department responded immediately, and per the Regional Officer Protocol, contacted other law enforcement agencies for assistance with the case. These agencies include the Reno Police Department, Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, and the FBI. Procter Hug High School was immediately placed in a Code Red Lockdown, and officers began a classroom-by-classroom canvass of the school in an effort to find witnesses and any other potential victims in the case. The District reached out to families via the Connect Ed call system with information about the incident, the lockdown, and the fact that the school was secured during the investigation. ... Approximately three hours after the incident, the Code Red Lockdown was lifted, and students were released from the school under controlled, safe conditions. Another Connect Ed call was sent to families with information about reunification processes, and students were sent home from school without further incident.

Few details are known about the incident, but that hasn’t stopped it from attracting the attention of groups that have questioned the role of law enforcement in schools. The Dignity in Schools campaign, a coalition of student and civil rights groups, has called for the end of school-based police officers, saying that they are too often involved in routine discipline issues, that they resort to force too frequently, and that school’s money would be better spent on personnel like school counselors and social workers. The organization began tweeting out news stories about the Reno incident Thursday with the hashtag #counselorsnotcops.

Reno Police Department officials said some inaccurate rumors are circulating about the shooting and multiple students shot cell phone videos of the incident, according to the Associated Press. They urged the public to withhold judgment.

“There’s some very disturbing video out there,” Reno Police Officer Tim Broadway told reporters Wednesday afternoon, according to the Associated Press. “But there are other events that led up to this incident, so please don’t react to those.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.