School shooting survivor thinks new 'unbreakable' screens could' - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Shooting survivor thinks 'unbreakable' screens could've made difference

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MEMPHIS, TN -

(WMC TV) - Jon Newman's career path was set on the grounds of Westside Middle School in Jonesboro, AR, 15 years ago.

He was a frightened 6th grader manning the gym door when shots rang out March 24, 1998.

"I actually stood holding the door for everyone who was coming in," said Newman. "And as (one of the students) was coming in, he's holding his arm, and a bullet has actually gone through his arm."

Classmates Andrew Golden and Mitchell Johnson shot and killed 6th grade teacher Shannon Wright and students Natalie Brooks, Paige Ann Herring, Stephanie Johnson, and Brittheny Varner. Nine other students and one other teacher were injured.

Fifteen years later, a memorial honoring the slain teacher and students stands on campus.

Also 15 years later, Newman is a social studies teacher at Jonesboro High School and a member of the school's crisis team.

"That's no coincidence," he said. "I would say that directly correlated (with the Westside shootings). That event having happened is what ended up me being who I am."

Newman took a special interest in our test of Tupelo, MS-based Tapco, Inc.'s security screens for windows and doors.

We first tested Tapco's screens in 2009 as a shield against severe weather and home invasions (for that report, please click here or watch it on the Tapco link above). The stainless steel screens and aluminum frames can be fitted to cover windows, doors or entrances to homes, offices or schools.

After the December shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown, CT, Tapco decided to test its screens against a weapons assault.

"If we can keep (a school intruder) from reaching in and unlocking that door...keep them outside of the school so that the law can deal with them," said Tapco's Don Roberts.

In coordination with the Tupelo Police Department and the North Mississippi Law Enforcement Training Center, the Action News 5 Investigators had two Tupelo SWAT officers attack windows and doors equipped with Tapco's security screens.

The officers were armed with:

* 12-gauge shotgun, buckshot & slugs

* MP5 9mm sub-machine gun

* AR-15 .556 tactical rifle

* Glock 9mm handgun

The test revealed Tapco's screens are not bullet proof or bullet resistant. But even with more than 30 rounds of ammunition, the officers could not penetrate the screens enough to pry them apart and compromise the doors.

"It still hasn't given me enough to defeat that lock," said Officer Scott Speaks, Tupelo SWAT officer and lead instructor at the training center.

Then Tupelo Police Chief Tony Carleton arranged a time test of the screens, installed on the glass windows of make-shift doors to simulate a typical school or classroom entrance.

"If this product will keep (the officers) on the outside until the police get there, then we've beat the battle," Carleton said.

With a battering ram, tools, their weapons and an additional 60 rounds of ammunition, both officers attempted to breach the window/door for 40 seconds.

Then Carleton simulated a 911 call, ordering his dispatch to send an officer to the scene. The officer arrived in four-and-a-half minutes.

By the time of the officer's arrival, both tactical officers still had not breached the window/door protected by Tapco's security screen.

"That screen right there would be tough for someone to get in," said Carleton.

"We're not in. Really, we're not even nearly in," said Speaks. "He's here long before we get anywhere inside.

"I would put this on my house and protect my child and family at home."

The 1998 shootings at Westside Middle School took place on the school grounds outside the gym. Golden lured the victims outside by breaching a door and pulling a fire alarm.

Newman said the existence of Tapco's screens back then may have helped save lives that day if Westside also had then what it has now:  locked exterior doors.

"If you also, then, in addition to that, have these screens, then door's locked, can't get in, can't shoot through the window to get in, so our circumstance might have been avoided," he said. "Golden would not have been able to get inside and pull the fire alarm.

"There's no way to guarantee perfectly that everyone is ever safe, but you take all of these things together, it's the safest you can be."

Tapco's screens could also deter vandalism and may also earn an insurance discount, depending on the residential or commercial policy.

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