Lisa Childress, whose son Jesse was killed in the 2012 Aurora theater shootings, greets Arapahoe County sheriff’s deputies, at an awards ceremony during Victims’ Rights Week in 2016. The mass murder was just one of many violent tragedies Sheriff David Walcher has helped investigate over the years, including the 1999 Columbine High School massacre. File photo
Arapahoe County Sheriff David Walcher
BY PETER JONES
In the wake of the recent school shooting in Florida that left 17 people dead, Arapahoe County Sheriff David Walcher instinctually has his radar up.
“I think that’s a natural reaction,” he said. “You get nervous of the copycats. We’ve had more than our share of active shooters in the south metro area. It makes me nervous when things like this happen. But our deputy sheriffs are as well trained as anybody in this state.”
At the same time, Walcher is heartened that many members of the community have also increased their own diligence. He says last week he received a phone call from a woman who was worried about her son and other students at his school.
“That was, in my opinion, a direct result of what has happened in Florida,” the sheriff said. “She has heard things that he has said or someone else has said that she is concerned about as a parent. I talked to her for a half hour and got some good information and I gave it to somebody to check into. We try to be as absolutely responsive and as available as we can.”
Amid reports that the FBI may have not followed protocols with respect to early reports about the activities of the Florida shooter, Walcher says his own department strives to follow every lead it receives within the confines of law and the Constitution.
“We just arrested a kid on some school threats, and we try to pay attention to the intelligence or the situations in the schools that come to our attention,” he said. “We are so aggressive in a good way, ensuring we do everything we can to cover all our bases to make sure things don’t slip through the cracks.”
Walcher has had more than enough experience in the increasingly too common world of mass shootings, having responded to Columbine High School in 1999 as a deputy in the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office and playing a part in the multi-agency response to the 2012 Aurora theater murders, among other violent tragedies.
He says interagency partnerships in the south metro area—especially among the five law enforcement agencies that serve Cherry Creek Schools—have been crucial in creating consistency and efficiency in joint responses to such events.
“We have come together as a group and developed what we refer to as the standard response protocols, so everyone is absolutely on the same page,” the sheriff said.
A major component in both prevention and immediate response are the 14 school resource officers or SROs that are stationed in Arapahoe County schools—two in each public high school, one in each middle school and three that rotate through the elementary and private schools stretching from Littleton to Byers and Deer Trail.
“We are so lucky that out Board of County Commissioners and the Centennial City Council have really seen the values of having SROs. We have a very robust program,” Walcher said.
Even so, the sheriff says the partnership is a constant learning experience.
“I go way back on this stuff and there’s always things we can learn and do better,” he said.
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