Use of Lethal Force On Hug High Teen Raises Questions
Last week, a 14-year-old student was shot by a school police officer at Hug High in Reno. Local police have reported that the boy, named Logan Clark, was armed with at least one knife and did not follow the officer's verbal commands.
Since the incident, there have been concerns and questions surrounding the fact that the officer used a lethal weapon, instead of something like a Taser or pepper spray. To explore this further, our News Director Michelle Billman spoke to Trevon Milliard, the education reporter for the Reno Gazette-Journal.
NOTE: On December 16, the Washoe County School District emailed this statement to local media:
The Washoe County School District is very aware of the many conversations around law enforcement use of force. However, the school district cannot make any comment as it is an ongoing investigation by the Reno Police Department. The school district again asks for the public’s patience as we wait for the results of the investigation into the Procter Hug High School shooting. The Washoe County School District stands by its previous statement that it is irresponsible to litigate this in the media.
And here's the transcript of our interview with Trevon Milliard:
KUNR: Trevon, you and a handful of other reporters at the paper have been covering the shooting at Hug High. We’re a little more than a week out from that incident—what do we know at this point?
Trevon Milliard: We honestly don’t know a lot more than we knew the day of the shooting, and it’s actually pretty unusual. Having covered a lot of officer-involved shootings here and in Vegas, for example, officers who were involved, their names are released within 24 to 48 hours. The district is refusing to do that.
The district is refusing to answer any question, whether it’s pertaining to an investigation or just factual questions, like, ‘What do officers carry? Do they carry a Taser?’ Because one of the largest, overriding questions here is, ‘Was there another option? Could he have shot him with a Taser and detained him that way?’ And the district won’t even say if officers carry Tasers.
KUNR: And I want to ask, too, at this point, what do we know about the condition of 14-year-old Logan Clark who was shot by the school police officer?
TM: He’s in varying critical condition from going into surgery, having reactions that put him into a coma, or whether he’s having a stroke. It seems to not be good. At this point, we don’t know if he’ll pull through.
KUNR: Okay. And we do know that he was wielding knives at other children.
TM: The police haven’t confirmed that it was two knives, but all the videos, if you look at them, they show that he has two knives. One he seems to be holding close to his chest, almost as a protection, and then he’s swinging the other one around.
KUNR: There have been questions, like you mentioned, about why the school officer used a gun and not something nonlethal, like a Taser or even pepper spray. In fact, about 100 people, mostly students, actually marched to the school district office on Wednesday with a petition about this. What’s their argument?
TM: They’re calling for all officers to carry Tasers and pepper spray. We heard from the university police that that’s what they use—they answered our questions right away. But that’s their biggest call, to only use lethal force when it’s warranted.
KUNR: You said that campus police responded to that question?
TM: Yes, they responded almost immediately and told us what officers carry. They carry batons, firearms, even body cameras, and Tasers. They cover UNR and TMCC.
KUNR: Through your reporting, has there been response from the school district?
TM: The school district responded the day after the shooting. Traci Davis [the superintendent of schools] praised the officer’s response and some have criticized the press conference. It almost seemed unfeeling to a lot of people. They didn’t mention the kid; they didn’t say any words for the family or that they hoped that he would pull through. They just praised the officer for using the force that he did.
KUNR: What’s next? Do you have any sense of when more information will be released?
TM: It seems like we won’t get anything else until Reno Police issues their findings. We’re still working on getting the district’s policy on what officers carry and what officer was this.
There’s two officers stationed at that school and nobody will say which one it is and his employment status.
KUNR: I think there’s also been confusion about the role of school police officers. How much training are these individuals getting and what kind of authority do they have?
TM: Well, that’s where I think there’s a lot of misconception from a lot of people. A lot of people see them as glorified security guards, when in fact, they’re outright police officers who receive much of the same training as most police agencies and the same authority. They can arrest. They have authority not only on school property but surrounding school property. They’re trained to use firearms. They’re one in the same.