The Big Story Blog

Morrison County '08 shooting sparked courthouse worries

Posted at 10:15 AM on December 16, 2011 by Paul Tosto
Filed under: Public Safety

The Cook County shooting on Friday wasn't the first at a rural Minnesota courthouse.

In 2008, the shooting of a gun-toting disgruntled citizen at the Morrison County Government Center prompted officials across the state to rethink security.

MPR News reporter Tim Post wrote:

The Morrison County government center in Little Falls reopened Wednesday, one day after a fatal shooting at the building. Gordon Wheeler Sr. was shot by three law enforcement officers after he brandished a gun during a county board meeting. The incident has kicked off a statewide discussion on safety inside Minnesota's public buildings, as people who work in the government center try to make sense of what happened.

Reevaluating county building security and its cost is something a lot of people across the state are thinking about in light of Tuesday's shooting.

The Lac Qui Parle County courthouse in Madison is typical of rural public spaces. There are many entrances, and little security. That doesn't seem to bother employees or visitors to the courthouse, county auditor Jake Sieg says.

"Do we ever really feel threatened? I haven't felt that yet. I'm confident our law enforcement would be able to take care of that for us,"

The Morrison County incident has people in his building talking about security, Sieg admits. That's just fine with him, he welcomes the conversation. While metal detectors are not an affordable option for his county, he's thinking about other less expensive options.

"That does not have to be high tech. It could be low tech as installing one of these cordless door bells that are just battery operated...and the bell rings in another office and if that bell goes off that office knows that something is going on."

About Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto

Paul Tosto writes the Big Story Blog for MPR News. He joined the newsroom in 2008 after more than 20 years reporting on education, politics and the economy for news wires and newspapers across the country.

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