Students grabbing guns from officers highlights dangers of weapons at school

Recent incidents raise questions of possible dangers of more weapons in schools.

— -- A third-grade boy was able to snake a finger inside a school resource officer's holster earlier this month, firing one shot from the officer’s department-issued Glock 22 pistol into the floor of a Minnesota gymnasium earlier this month, Maplewood Police confirmed.

A high school student in Michigan is accused of grabbing a sheriff deputy’s holster during a struggle after he allegedly assaulted his ex-girlfriend in a school hallway in August. He grabbed the officer’s retention holster so hard that the weapon fired, discharging one bullet through the bottom of the holster, hitting the floor and ricocheting into a wall, according to ABC affiliate WJRT.

The same month in Kansas, school resource officers were called to Garden City High School to deal with a student who was upset and agitated. When the 16-year old student saw one of the officers, he began yelling and threatening the officer. A struggle ensued and the boy tried to grab the officer’s gun, Garden City Police said in a media release.

No one was injured in these incidents, but the idea that students -- in one case a student as young as 9 -- have been able to fire or grab the weapons of officers whose presence was intended to keep students safe is sure to give pause to those who doubt the argument that more weapons are needed to keep schools safe.

School resource officers are in the spotlight after one assigned to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, was captured on video waiting outside the building where the shooting was unfolding.

“He should have went in, addressed the killer, killed the killer,” Sheriff Scott Israel said of the officer. But a lawyer for the deputy calls that criticism "unfounded," accusing Israel of a rush to judgment and saying the sheriff omitted key facts and that his statements about Peterson's actions were "at best, gross oversimplification of the events that transpired."

In response to the Parkland shooting, which claimed 17 lives, President Donald Trump has called for arming some teachers, a proposal that has been roundly rejected by the two biggest teachers’ unions in the U.S., while others have said more armed school resource officers are needed to deter school threats.

The National Association of School Resource Officers (NASRO) estimates that only 20 percent of schools in the U.S. have resource officers and believe that every school would be safer if an armed officer was on campus.

“Kids are absolutely safer with a resource officer in their schools,” Mac Hardy, director of operations for the NASRO, said.

Despite incidents that have made news when students were able to fire or grab an officer’s weapon, Hardy said such happenings are extremely rare and if a student does try to disarm an officer, officers are trained to deal with it.

“We are trained not to let that weapon come out of the holster,” Hardy said. “That training is physical and very intense to make sure we are able to secure that weapon.”

Dave Harvey, deputy director of the International Association of Directors of Law Enforcement Standards and Training, told ABC News that officers go through rigorous training on how to keep their weapons safe and out of the wrong hands -- including using proper holsters -- how to lock their weapon down with their elbow in a physical confrontation, and even how to stand with their weapon away from people when dealing with members of the public.

Hardy advised that school resource officers wear retention holsters and a duty belt while working in schools, gear that makes it much more difficult for someone to remove an officer’s weapon.

But even that gear may not prevent everything.

The officer in the Minnesota incident in which a third-grader was able to get a round off was, in fact, wearing a retention holster and duty belt at the time, Maplewood Police Cmdr. Dave Kvam said. The holster was a Safariland model 6360 retention holster.

Safariland did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment, but according to its website, the company manufactures and distributes law enforcement and security products, including duty gear and holsters. The website describes the holster the Minnesota officer was wearing as “sturdy, lightweight, and provid[ing] an extra measure of security while on patrol.” The website details the holster security mechanisms including “patented ALS locks” which immediately lock the gun in place upon holstering and a “rotating hood and tension device” which offers added security.

“That is baffling how that child got his finger in there,” Hardy said. “I would think that holster would be enough to keep somebody from reaching down.”

“We certainly were not aware it was possible to get a finger in there and pull a trigger,” Kvam said, noting that during their investigation into the incident, they have heard from other police departments who have had similar incidents with weapons in this particular holster.

Kvam believes the issue with the holster may have been made worse by a weapon light the officer had on his pistol at the time that affected the fit of the holster.

“We are likely to forbid that particular holster when our investigation into this wraps up,” Kvam said.

While school resources officers are not a guarantee against gun violence, Hardy believes that even with the possibility of a student getting ahold of an officer’s weapon, they’re still the best hope.

“I don’t know of anything that is 100 percent,” Hardy said. “But I do think school resource officers is our best way to keep our kids safe.”

“I think it is much better to have them in schools than not,” Harvey agreed. "I would rather have that person, that police officer with training on carrying and using a weapon, in my school than someone who doesn’t have that practice.”