18-year-old carries handgun into courthouse, DA pushes for better security

Eighteen-year-old Christopher Leon Turlington has been arrested and is facing charges of Place Where Weapons Prohibited and Theft of a Firearm after walking into the Gray County Courthouse Wednesday with a loaded handgun.

Surveillance cameras on the elevator caught Turlington acting funny and putting something into his pants. A dispatcher at the Gray County Sheriff's office notified a deputy, who ran over to the courthouse and patted down Turlington. When asked why he had the handgun, Chief Deputy Cary Rushing said, Turlington claimed to have forgotten he had the stolen weapon on him. When he remembered the weapon was on him, he then tried to find a better hiding place in his clothing.

31st District Attorney Lynn Switzer said it was a fight to get surveillance cameras installed in the courthouse. And although the camera in the elevator busted Turlington, Switzer said she wants to see even more security in the courthouse.

"I'm concerned for people who come in and out of our courthouse," she stated. "We've got early voting downstairs right now in our courthouse. When we have trials in our courtroom, we have open courtrooms, you know. By law, that's what we do, but we still need to be able to monitor who comes in and out of that courtroom."

Metal detectors and a full-time deputy are what Switzer is pushing for, but she acknowledged the budget could put a damper on that.

"I know that money is tight. Money is tight everywhere, but it's my understanding that there may be some federal funds available for courthouse security. And, so, that may be something that we need to look at."

Courthouse shootings appear to be occurring on a more frequent basis, and Switzer added she feels it is the court's responsibility to provide a safe environment for the people coming into the courthouse.

"Even though we live in a small community and we are an open and friendly community, we still need to deal with the reality of it," she said. "And this is reality, this is the way our life is now."

If Turlington is convicted, he could face time in prison.