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Security guard fired, charged in Wilkinsburg High School gun incident

By M. Ferguson Tinsley, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

May 05, 2005 - A security guard assigned to Wilkinsburg High School for more than a decade has been fired and charged because she failed to detain a teen who brought a gun to school in a jacket pocket.

Deborah Hoy, who had been at the school for 12 years and had achieved the position of security director, allowed the student to walk away and discard the handgun on April 22 after school metal detectors sounded as the teen started to enter the building, said district spokeswoman Kitty Julian.

Hoy was terminated April 25, and police later charged her with providing false information, obstructing justice and hindering apprehension.

The teen, whom school officials declined to identify, had said that she shared the jacket with her boyfriend and did not realize that the gun was in one of the pockets. She was arrested over the weekend.

Julian did not know what charges police filed against the young woman. Wilkinsburg police could not be reached for comment.

After the student, who is over 18, got rid of the gun, she returned to school and "the gun was recovered within hours," said Julian. It was found in a nearby trash bin.

"The problem wasn't that the security system didn't work," said Julian. "It worked well. The problem is that a person -- both of them -- made very poor decisions."

To prevent a repeat, the district is working with security provider Gentile-Meinert & Associates Inc., of Center Township, to improve security at the school, said Julian.

"Unfortunately, it's a reality in [some] urban communities," she added. "Guns are a part of people's lives. That's beyond the scope of the school district."

Lou Gentile, the president of Gentile-Meinert, Hoy's former employer, said when Hoy recovered the weapon and told Wilkinsburg police that she found it, they called him.

He said it bothered them that a security guard would spot a gun and handle it without calling them first.

Gentile, a former director with the state narcotics bureau, has been in law enforcement 27 years.

He said, after the call from Wilkinsburg police, he questioned Hoy and turned over his findings to them.

"This woman was a professional, not just a security guard," said Gentile. "I said, 'Deb, why'd you do this?' "

He said Hoy, who was known for stopping students with nail files in their backpacks and had been an exemplary employee, felt sorry for the student.

"She said it was a moment of weakness," he added. "She wanted to see her graduate."

(M. Ferguson Tinsley can be reached at or 412-263-1455.)

Taser Prevails in Wrongful Death Suit

LOS ANGELES, July 19 /PRNewswire/ -- After two years of contentious litigation, a federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit against Taser International, Inc., brought by the City of Madera. The City of Madera alleged that one of its police officers shot and killed a man after mistaking her Glock service weapon for her Taser M26 stun device.

In 2002, after responding to a disturbance of the peace call involving several youth, City of Madera police officer Marcy Noriega shot and killed 24 year old Everardo Torres, an up and coming Golden Gloves boxer, who was handcuffed in the back of a squad car. Noriega claimed that she mistook her Glock for her Taser M26. Torres' family -- represented by the famed and recently deceased attorney Johnnie Cochran and his firm -- sued the City and Officer Noriega.

The City and Noriega sued Taser, claiming the Taser M26 was defectively designed due to it's similarity to a real firearm, and that Taser failed to warn about the possibility of confusing it with a firearm. In a rare 50-page dismissal order, a federal judge dismissed the case Tuesday, saying the resemblance was obvious.

"Assuming that Plaintiffs' allegations that the M26 is defectively similar to a handgun in functionality, design, and muscle memory, then the possibility of weapons confusion is obvious, especially when the M26 is worn close to a firearm," U.S. District Judge Anthony Ishii wrote in the order. "Under these circumstances, there is no duty to warn."

Ishii dismissed all the claims, including negligence, design defect, and indemnity, that the City brought against Taser.

Attorneys Daniel A. Berman and Aneta B. Dubow of the firm Wood, Smith, Henning & Berman LLP represented Taser International, Inc.



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