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Nancy Lageson, director of the state’s School Safety Center and a retired police officer, said that in many ways, schools are “more prepared” for potential trouble than they were a generation ago.
“They have visitor procedures. They have controlled access. They have controlled doors,” Lageson said. “When I was growing up, that was not the case.”
Schools also are required by law to have a crisis management plan and threat assessment teams that assess a student’s personality, family and school dynamics and the student’s peer group to help determine risks.
The safety center trains school officials to respond to threats. Like other experts, Lageson said that establishing strong relationships with students is essential. A former in-school officer, Lageson said she recovered guns several times in school. Each time, she said, a student tipped her off.
Even with the greater scrutiny and awareness, Waseca came perilously close to disaster.
Bomb squad shocked
LaDue was caught just in time, and by a tip from a caller who thought a teen was acting suspiciously on a visit to a storage unit.
Bomb squad members called in to confiscate the explosives were “shocked by the amount of bomb making chemicals and components” he had in a storage unit, according to the criminal complaint. “Bomb squad members said they have never seen that much of some of those chemicals in one place.”
Investigators found three bombs in LaDue’s house and seven firearms in his bedroom, along with ammunition. Three more bombs were discovered at the storage unit, along with chemicals and materials to make them and 60 pounds of metal ball bearings. The storage unit also held a black trench coat, an item of clothing that the Columbine shooters were fond of wearing.
How near was Waseca to Columbine’s fate?
Based on LaDue’s statements to police and the completed bombs and weaponry found in his bedroom and storage unit, police concluded: “Officers believe that LaDue intended to carry out his plan to kill within the next week or two.”
Staff Writer Libor Jany contributed to this report.
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