Cleveland County Courthouse Improves Security
By Gan Matthews, NEWS 9
NORMAN, Oklahoma -- Last week a convicted sex offender tried to cut his own throat at the Cleveland County courthouse rather than return to prison. He was prevented by the quick action of a deputy.
Now that incident is prompting major changes in courthouse security.
The courtroom scuffle that put sex offender Troy Leal in a coma--and left Deputy Steve Lucas with several knife wounds--has many people worried about security at the Cleveland County courthouse.
"Obviously, I have two very important concerns, one is the safety of my staff and the people that work for me, but also the public who are in and out of this courthouse all day," Cleveland County District Attorney Greg Mashburn said.
Mashburn remembers that last summer a woman brought a loaded firearm to the District Attorney's office and demanded to see him.
Since then a security camera has been installed outside the DA's office, joining the 60 or so security cameras inside and outside the building. There are plenty of armed deputies patrolling the building. And there are metal detectors, large and small, though right now they're only used for high-profile trials.
But since last week everyone agrees that something more is needed besides printed warnings at the entrances.
"Sheriff Lester and I talked and he wants to institute a new system over there to try and beef up security," Cleveland County Undersheriff Rhett Burnett said.
Starting next week, change is coming. Visitors to the courthouse will have to pass through metal detectors before they're allowed to enter.
The locations of the detectors are being worked out. An entrance to the courthouse may have to be closed. But it will all be done using the existing Sheriff's staff.
"We're taking other people doing other jobs, combining jobs and trying to free them up so they can go over there and assist at the courthouse," Burnett said.
Burnett says the shuffling won't affect the number of deputies on courtroom security. Everybody will have to adjust.
"We're all going to have to be a little bit uncomfortable, but it's going to be for the safety of everybody and if I have to wait in line to get to the office, then so be it," Mashburn said.
The metal detectors could be operating as early as next Monday.