March 7, 1995 in City

Courthouse Crackdown Security Guards Begin Patrolling Courthouse, But There’s No Money For Metal Detectors

By The Spokesman-Review

Security guards began patrolling the Spokane County Courthouse on Monday as officials try to prevent tragedies like last week’s shooting outside a Seattle courtroom.

Courthouse visitors won’t be electronically searched any time soon, however, as some Spokane judges would prefer.

“It gets back to ‘must-haves’ and ‘nice-to-haves,”’ said County Commissioner Phil Harris.

“It’d be nice to have the metal detectors and all the stuff that goes with it. We just don’t have the money for that now.”

Commissioners asked for the four security guards after a man armed with a handgun fatally shot three women in the King County Courthouse. An unborn girl also was killed.

The King County prosecutor on Monday charged Timothy Craig Blackwell, 47, of Kirkland, Wash., with three counts of murder and one count of first-degree manslaughter. The victims included Blackwell’s wife, who was pregnant and seeking a divorce.

Some Superior Court judges say the shooting could have happened in Spokane’s courthouse, where people come for divorces and to settle child custody and other disputes.

A courthouse security committee, chaired by Superior Court Judge Robert Austin, last year recommended a security package that would have cost $350,000 to $400,000. The suggestions included equipment similar to airport security systems.

Harris said the system, which he described as “a Cadillac,” may not be needed.

“Keep in mind that in the area where it (the Seattle shooting) happened, there were no uniformed officers,” Harris said.

Commissioner Skip Chilberg said commissioners should increase parking fees at county lots and use the money to pay for the improvements. Parking costs $10 a month at the lots, which are used primarily by county employees.

“A guard who’s walking around isn’t going to accomplish anything if somebody’s packing a gun and gets mad,” said Chilberg. “All we end up with then is a dead guard.”

Commissioners said they’ll start requiring courthouse employees to wear name tags so the guards can identify people walking into secure areas.

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