Hallsville schools eye tighter security in wake of lockdown spurred by inmate's release

Tuesday, October 22, 2013 | 8:06 p.m. CDT; updated 6:20 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 23, 2013

COLUMBIA — Hallsville school officials are considering tighter security measures following a two-day lockdown last week sparked by the release from jail of a man who police said had threatened to shoot students at a local school.

The schools were locked down Wednesday and Thursday after Neil Hockley, 61, posted bail and was released from Boone County Jail. He had been charged with second-degree assault. School was already scheduled to be closed for a faculty event Friday. 

Hockley had been brought to the Missouri Psychiatric Center for an evaluation on Sept. 29. There, he threatened to kill a hospital employee's children by entering their school and shooting them and other children, according to a probable-cause statement filed in Boone County.

Hockley, an IT employee at University Hospital, named the school the employee's children attended. Through his job, he could have accessed personnel files with the employee's address, according to the statement.

At the hospital, Hockley was restrained and secluded after attempting to assault an employee and breaking an officer's elbow, according to the statement.

In addition to threatening to go to the employee's children's school, he threatened to go to the employee's house, urinate on the children and then shoot them in the head, according to the statement.

Hockley was arrested and then released from Boone County Jail after posting a $25,000 bail on Wednesday. Assistant Prosecutor Tracy Gonzalez said the amount was more than five times the normal amount for second-degree assault.

Hallsville School District Superintendent John Robertson said school officials are considering hiring more school resource officers as a precaution after the lockdown. The district now has one who patrols three buildings in two separate locations.

Hockley's photo and the description of his car have also been distributed to all buildings in the district, Robertson said.

Robertson sent a letter to parents Monday, saying that officials will remain alert but that it would be impractical to keep the school on lockdown for the rest of the year. He said he has not pulled his own children out of school, which he hopes will make other parents feel safe.

At least one parent is still concerned. The parent posted fliers around businesses in Hallsville connecting the lockdown to the release of Hockley. On the fliers, the parent expressed concern that not enough families were aware of the connection.

Hockley's initial arraignment is set for Nov. 8 in Boone County Associate Circuit Court.

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