Hertz says courthouse security will be reviewed in light of Texas shooting

Christina Stueve Mar. 15, 2012, 6:00am

Nick Wehrle, 17, of Alton passed through security swiftly on Thursday. His tennis shoes and gym clothes did not set off the metal detector, allowing him to pass through easily.

A shooting Wednesday outside a Texas courthouse that left one person dead and three injured prompted Madison County Sheriff Robert Hertz to question whether recent security enhancements here are sufficient.

"This is an ongoing problem," Hertz said of the shooting outside the Jefferson County Courthouse in Beaumont that claimed the life of an innocent, elderly bystander.

The Texas gunman was identified as a 41-year-old male who allegedly opened fire outside the courthouse at around 11:20 a.m. The suspect had been on trial for aggravated sexual assault of a child. Two of the shooting victims were witnesses against him at trial.

The suspect, who was out on bond for the sexual assault, left the court and went to his truck in the courthouse parking lot. There he retrieved a gun and opened fire.

A 79-year-old woman, an innocent bystander who was at the courthouse to renew a motor vehicle registration, was pronounced dead at the scene.

Over the past few months, Hertz has developed stricter regulations for courthouse patrons, modeling local procedures after federal court security measures. Visitors are not allowed inside with cell phones, bottles, computers, food, matches or cigarette lighters.

Except for lawyers of the Madison County Bar Association and employees of Madison County government, all visitors must pass through a security test upon entering the courthouse.

"Who really needs a cell phone, lap top or a soda to conduct business in the courthouse," Hertz said.

He said he would be reviewing Madison County's security procedures to see if there are any "loopholes" in the system.

"One incident is too many," he said. "Law enforcement didn't create this atmosphere, but we're expected to deal with it.

"I'm sure that they're (Texas officials) sitting down and rethinking their plan."

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Madison County Government
157 N Main St
Edwardsville, IL 62025

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