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Courthouse security: can eastern Iowa counties stop weapons from coming in

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BENTON COUNTY (KWWL) - Keeping courthouses safe is on the minds of many county leaders in Iowa. This is after a scare in Madison County a week ago.

Cory Daugherty allegedly pulled out a gun in the courthouse while he was there to be sentenced on drug charges. He escaped -- though he was arrested shortly after. He now faces multiple charges including being a felon in possession of a firearm.

In Benton County, the  Board of Supervisors has been discussing improving courthouse security, even before the Madison County incident. Now, there are three, unsecured entrances and just one part-time deputy.

"Right now we have a part-time deputy there but when we're in court we always have a security person there," said Don Frese, Chairman of the Benton County Board of Supervisors. "We're talking about, and we have it in our budget, to have a full-time deputy in the courthouse."

 It's a much different story in Linn County, where most doors are locked. Visitors walk through metal detectors and their bags are screened.

"We have security very similar to that of an airport,  said Brian Gardner, Linn County Sheriff.

Gardner says the system is designed to prevent people from bringing in weapons, like in Madison County.

"We do know that our system works," said Gardner. "We have taken weapons off of people before."

It's a system Johnson County wants to see, though voters have twice turned down a Justice Center that would build a secure entrance for the courthouse. In November, voters will likely be asked to approve a courthouse annex that would add security, including metal detectors.

But back in Benton County, officials think deputies are enough and don't metal detectors are necessary.

"Because of cost and it is a historic building and we just never thought that we'd need that in a rural county, like Benton," said Frese.
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