The only security measure preventing Francis "Gus" Glaser from entering the Jackson County Courthouse on Tuesday with a handgun was a small sign on the building's front entrance that read: "firearms are prohibited."
At the end of the public meeting, Glaser, 71, was fatally shot with his own gun inside the courthouse after firing and missing his target.
Joe Feller, president of the Iowa State Bar Association, said the shooting and death could have easily been prevented with a properly enforced courthouse security plan.
“Adopting a policy and posting a sign that no weapons are allowed, as was the case here, is woefully inadequate,” Feller said.
Anyone can enter the Jackson County Courthouse without passing through a metal detector or greeting an armed bailiff, a lack of security detail that was exposed in Tuesday’s fatal shooting at the Maquoketa courthouse.
The Jackson County Courthouse remains the only courthouse in the 7th Judicial District — which includes Scott, Clinton, Cedar, Jackson and Muscatine counties — that does not house either a metal detector or an armed bailiff, Marlita Greve, Scott County District Chief Judge, wrote in an email Tuesday.
Cedar and Muscatine county courthouses do not have metal detectors at their entrances, but both the Cedar County Sheriff’s Office and the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office provide a full-time armed bailiff, Greve said.
Jackson County does not have armed bailiffs in the courthouse unless they are specifically requested. The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office is across the street from the courthouse.
Scott and Clinton have metal detectors staffed full-time by the county sheriff’s departments, and a person entering either of those courthouses must pass through that security before entering the courthouse at all times. Only 10 courthouses in the state, including Scott and Clinton, provide this type of security, and the county is responsible for the security of the courthouse since it is a county building and has to bear the costs of that security, Greve added.
Scott County has one public entrance to its courthouse that has a metal detector, 11 full-time bailiffs and five part-time bailiffs who work security.
“What happened in Jackson County proves the point why we do what we do here in Scott County,” said Sheriff Dennis Conard.
The security system has been in place since the new courthouse opened in 2007.
Steve Davis, communications officer for the Iowa Judicial Branch, said the court has been concerned about courthouse security for quite a while.
“The safety and security of every person working or doing business in all 100 Iowa county courthouses is of the upmost importance to the justices of the Iowa Supreme Court,” Davis wrote in an email Tuesday afternoon.
In 1999, the Iowa Judicial Branch formed a task force and published a report suggesting strategies to improve courthouse security throughout the state.
In 2005, the Iowa State Bar Association conducted a similar effort, publishing a 115-page report.
“The days of saying this will not happen in my community are over. Basic security measures need to be implemented in all courthouses statewide," Feller said.