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‘He was swinging at parents right in front of the school’: Axe wielding suspect shot by police

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — UPDATED 10/10 at 9:59 a.m.- JSO identified the suspect as Eric David Hurley.

ORIGINAL STORY:

Parents of students at Ruth Upson Elementary were able to breathe a sigh of relief Friday night after a suspect wielding an axe was prevented entry from the school and shot by school police.

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Bruce Perkins was on his porch with his son enjoying his Friday afternoon and waiting for his daughter to be let out of school.

She attends Ruth Upson Elementary, which is just across the street from his home.

That’s when a chaotic scene erupted before his eyes.

“He had an axe and he was swinging at parents right in front of the school,” said Perkins.

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According to police, a man wielding an axe entered school grounds and attempted to gain access into the buildings where students were wrapping up their day.

Police said when the suspect was unable to gain access to the school he headed down the street.

School police followed and intercepted the suspect who they said had set his sights on a nearby church.

“At that time the subject threatened the officer with the axe. The subject then was shot at least one time,” said DCPS Police Chief Gregory Burton.

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DCPS leaders credit school safety improvements and training for preventing what could have been another horrific tragedy at a public school.

According to police the suspect attempted to gain access to the school through two entry points, one of which was a gate that led to the kindergarten building.

Thankfully, both points of entry were locked according to protocol.

It was an unlocked door that allowed the Uvalde school shooter entrance to Robb Elementary just four months ago.

When the man was first noticed by school staff on security cameras, DCPS Superintendent Dr. Diana Greene said a code red was called.

“Because that person could see the person with the axe outside trying to get into the school,” said Greene.

The first contact with the victim was made by a school guardian, a trained armed school staff member.

The guardian program was implemented by state lawmakers after the Parkland shooting in 2018 as a force multiplier.

Chief Burton said the guardian followed protocol to a tee, keeping tabs on the suspect, but allowing school police to take over when the suspect left school grounds.

“Working together, everyone saved the day. The safety protocols that have been put in place all worked together. From the personnel in the school, the staff, the SSA or the guardian in the school, to the officers that arrived on the scene,” said Burton.

Also Read: DCPS: Man with axe attempted to enter Ruth Upson Elementary School, causing lockdown

But Dr. Greene made clear, while the system worked this time, there’s still more work to be done on school safety.

“Our teachers and staff members all went into action doing what they were supposed to do. So, our message is that we need to keep vigilant, never let our guard down and constantly support our schools and making sure that our children and our staff members are safe,” said Greene.

Perkins said he’s thankful his daughter, and all the children and staff, came out of the incident unharmed.

He credited the quick action of school police for the outcome.

“I’m just glad that the school cops were here. They were posted up close and you never think this is gonna happen, but there was an issue, and it was handled and everybody’s safe. So, I think it’s just the best it could have worked out,” said Perkins.

Police said the suspect was taken to a nearby hospital and is in critical condition.

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