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Mr. Weichold, La Salle’s Campus Safety Officer, Has Something To Tell You

He’s our first face to any student, staff, or visitor, whether that visitor is a lost parent or, as happened on one occasion, a man with a knife

Shak Saidjanov, Editor

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The next time you walk through the front doors of La Salle’s newly built entrance, take a glance at our main office to your right and you might find a man behind a desk staring directly and intently back at you.

“People notice me just staring [at them] as I am sitting down or I’ll stand up to get a better view,” says Matthew Weichold, La Salle’s campus safety officer. Mr. Weichold has worked with La Salle and has been a security presence at our school since 2015, but only recently has moved to our campus as a full-time La Salle employee.

“What’s funny for me… is that it’s totally understandable that students notice that I’m staring, but I don’t think they get exactly why,” Mr. Weichold remarks, describing the sometimes awkward and confusing situation of having a man in a uniform with a gun stare at you. “It’s not even that I’m really staring at the student; I just literally am having to take that part seriously and really focus on who is around and coming into the school.”

Though many students most likely recognize Mr. Weichold from seeing him make his daily patrols around campus, very few actually know what his normal workday entails. Some of it is routine, such as making sure doors are locked and windows are shut; but some of it may be a bit more surprising to students, such as chasing off transients, checking the outer perimeter for gang activity, and preventing a man from walking into La Salle with a knife.  

Every day starts the same for Weichold: As staff members, students, and faculty walk into La Salle, Mr. Weichold watches, making sure “all the people coming into the school are students or staff, and if there’s anybody that I don’t recognize… I’ll try to flag them to come into [the office] and check in.”

“Once the bell rings, my normal schedule starts,” explains Mr. Weichold. At intervals during the day (Mr. Weichold estimates “between every 30 to 40 minutes”), he’ll do a random patrol. Mr. Weichold has multiple campus patrols he must do at some time during the day. They are as follows:  

Full exterior patrol – An extensive look at the full perimeter of campus, including the outer fence line and dugouts, all the way out to Christ the King.

Small exterior patrol – A look around the entire outside of the school building, including the La Salle Center, checking for open windows, doors, or anything else out of the ordinary.

Interior patrol – A thorough examination of the inside of the school, in which Mr. Weichold walks from “A hall, to B hall, to the science wing, to the cafeteria, as well as the courtyards and the gym.”

While on these patrols Mr. Weichold checks for open windows, doors that are ajar, and people who are not where they should be. He also checks for possible safety hazards — like liquids spilled and left uncleaned, or fire extinguishers out of place.

And being a safety officer includes a lot of reporting as well; photo, video, and written reports are all documented on Mr. Weichold’s computer.

This may seem tedious or unnecessary, but Mr. Weichold can name many times when these patrols proved vital and beneficial, giving “merit to a security presence” here at La Salle. Mr. Weichold reiterates that “there are gangs around in the area, [and] a lot of vandalism” that he encounters traces of while on exterior patrols, including vagabonds on Fuller Road, remnants of vice found in the baseball dugouts, and instances of objects being thrown in staff members’ car windows.

Even so, real incidents that have threatened the safety of students have been limited. Mr. Weichold observes that “a big reason for not many incidents [occurring] is people know that I am here now. And that can be a deterrent in itself.”

Lunch time at La Salle is an important part of the day for Mr. Weichold. “During lunches I’m not going anywhere” he says. “During both A and B lunch, I am up front and I don’t move.”

Why?

“During lunches is when students are most vulnerable. They are all in one area; they’re all having a good time,” he says. That’s why “we’ve decided that the correct protocol is [that] during break and the two lunches, I stay up front.”

Throughout the day Mr. Weichold monitors most of the school through a surveillance system he can watch from his desk. He admits that “it’s limited right now because we don’t have many cameras up but I still do have a good range. I can see if anyone is going behind the gym or anything like that.”

Mr. Weichold has proven himself to be thorough and adept at keeping the school safe, even when keeping the school safe is usually as simple as locking a door, closing a window, checking a parking pass, pacing the hallways, or watching kids as they enter and leave the school.

It’s simple, but not at all trivial; and in one particular case last November, potentially lifesaving.

“The incident with the guy who came in with a knife was only caught because I was paying attention in the morning,” Mr. Weichold described.

“It was [just] before the bell was supposed to ring for students to be in class,” he remembers. “The last kids were bustling in through the front door and I was at my station standing up watching when I noticed a strange figure. He looked like a teenager, because he had a hoodie on and a backpack, but he had his hood over his head and by the way he walked (and the fact that I have a good idea of the faces of our students), I knew he was a stranger.”

Immediately, Mr. Weichold went on alert.  

“My eyes went to his hips and I noticed that he had a knife in a sheath on his belt buckle. I immediately turned to [Ms. Fisher] and [Ms. Powell] and said, ‘there’s a guy with a knife walking into the school.’ I didn’t immediately go red alert, but I did run out of the office. I yelled towards him saying, ‘Can I help you with something? What brings you in here?”

The stranger didn’t answer. “He looked under the influence of some sort of narcotic,” Mr. Weichold remembers, “and was completely unresponsive; that was where things got a little uncomfortable.”

When Mr. Weichold confronted him, “he just stared. We’re in the main entrance, I’ve got kids to my left, kids to my right, and in the middle of them all a man under the influence with a knife on his waist.”

Mr. Weichold states simply that it was “a very bad combination.”

Eventually, Mr. Weichold was able to convince the man to meet with him outside, just beyond the front doors of La Salle.

“I looked over at Brian Devine, everyone in the front office was just staring at us… Mr. Devine was looking and waiting for my cue, and I nodded to him that he should be hitting the lock-down button. As soon as we exited the building, Brian Devine hit the lock-down button.” Finally, Mr. Weichold was alone with the man outside.

“It got very interesting very quick,” he says.

At this point, Mr. Weichold could hear the sheriff’s sirens, still about two minutes away. He remembers that “outside in front of [the main] doors I was only like six feet away from him and I asked, ‘what are you doing here, why are you bringing a knife to a school?’ And when I said that to him he began to unbuckle his knife and put his hand on the sheath.” Mr. Weichold was left with no other options.

“I had to put my hand on my gun and scream at him, ‘don’t pull out your knife.’”

Thankfully when Mr. Weichold raised his voice the man “threw his hands up in the air… about one minute later the sheriff’s showed up with guns drawn and they took over. They had previous experience with him.”

The story that Mr. Weichold tells is captivating and intense, but told with the simple posture of a man just doing his job. Asked about the specific procedure or plan to deal with these kinds of hostile situations, Mr. Weichold says humbly that “if we have an intruder, if we have an active shooter, if we have an angry violent parent, or anything that’s going to harm a student or harm a staff member, the protocol is to call me to intervene, be a buffer… before the police show up.”

And if there ever was a gunman, a question Mr. Weichold has to “think about a lot,” he would “have to somehow make my presence known with whoever that person is, and if a firearm is presented and is pointed at me or simply un-holstered I would have to draw my weapon and try to make dialogue.”

He admits that he is “not superman” and that he does not have “heavy firearm power,” but still proudly and dutifully states that he “would put my life on the line for the safety of others. I am the one that intervenes. That’s what I’m here for,” Mr. Weichold says. “I want all students to know that I’m not here for student discipline necessarily; not at all really. That’s not my job.”

Mr. Weichold, a surprisingly modest man considering the immense responsibility given to him over the safety of our campus, has been acting as La Salle’s silent, and often unnoticed, watchdog and guardian. And starting just this year, he is officially a part of the Lasallian family.    

“I worked for a private security company before [being a full-time employee of La Salle] for about two years,” Mr. Weichold explained. Initially, he worked at La Salle through the company, but after having a falling out because they didn’t “line up with what was going to be best” for his family, he gave the company his two weeks notice and told La Salle that he would be leaving his current position to do something “unrelated” to security.

“But then [La Salle’s President] Denise Jones said, ‘Well, hold on a minute, we really do hate to see you go… what would you say if we put a contract in front of you?’”

Mr. Weichold answered “absolutely,” saying that he loved it here, and wanted to stay.

And since he is now at La Salle as a full-time employee, he is absolutely available to the La Salle community. To Mr. Weichold, the benefits of being full time are astounding:

“Now that I’m a La Salle staff member, it’s better because as a private contractor you can’t do as much. For example, my contact with students was very limited because I was not a La Salle staff member… I couldn’t talk to students on a more personal level, and I’d have to strictly just do my job. But now I feel more a part of the La Salle family, and it’s much easier to talk to students because I don’t have any legal restrictions.”

So what does Mr. Weichold have to say to you?

“One, don’t be a stranger to me. I’m not gonna bite anybody’s head off; I’m super nice,” Mr. Weichold emphasizes. “And if you ever encounter me and I’m perhaps upset about something you are doing that’s not safe, don’t take it as an attack; try to listen to what I’m saying and why it’s an issue. Remember that I am here to make sure you guys are safe.”

He also says there are things that all students can do to help make the school more secure. “Help me out by making sure doors are closed,” he says, and don’t let anybody in: “completely ignore a person you don’t recognize asking you to open a door.”

And finally, “please don’t be afraid, now that I’m a La Salle staff member, to come up to me and tell me about something you heard from another student. I think that’s the biggest [benefit to working full time here]: students can come to me and tell me those things. Please if you hear something, something threatening, in this day and age, you can’t take it as a joke anymore.”

“We need to think about each other in the grand scheme of things,” Weichold says. 

Ultimately, Mr. Weichold sees himself as campus security officer, watchdog, silent guardian, staff member, and friend. And though he is a part of the staff, he is probably unlike any other teacher or adult at La Salle you will meet.

Mr. Weichold doesn’t want you to be silent, or simply listen to what you hear around you. He wants your concerns to be heard.

“Don’t be quiet,” he says. “And that’s pretty much it.”

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5 Comments

5 Responses to “Mr. Weichold, La Salle’s Campus Safety Officer, Has Something To Tell You”

  1. Rebecca Ly on November 8th, 2017 10:48 pm

    I’m so happy and thankful that Mr. Weichold has become a full-time Lasallian. Thank you so much, Mr. Weichold, for everything you’ve done for our school and our community. Because of him, students and staff can go to school everyday without worrying for our safety. He’s kept us safe during the incident with the man with the knife, and as the article suggests, many other issues that we are not even aware of. Thank you for making our school a safe place!! We are so grateful! 🙂

    [Reply]

  2. Ryan Dooris on November 9th, 2017 9:21 am

    Incredible article! I always wondered about the day to day of Mr. Weichold’s job and I’m relieved to know how dedicated and thorough he is. Welcome to the family Mr. Weichold.

    [Reply]

  3. Nicole Khoury on November 9th, 2017 9:43 am

    Wow Shak what a great article! I was always interested into what happened on the day of the knife incident that happened last year and now I know the ful story! La Salle appreciates all the work that Mr. Weichold is doing, I appreciate it and am very thankful. Thanks to him for being there for our school’s community to protect it and im so grateful that he’s joined the Lasallian family! 🙂

    [Reply]

  4. Ted Johnson on November 10th, 2017 8:11 am

    Thank you, Mr. Weichold. Great job! It is comforting to know that we have a pair of diligent eyes fixed on our most precious gifts. Many thanks.

    [Reply]

  5. Alex Jenne on November 11th, 2017 2:22 pm

    Thanks for the interesting story. Mr. Weichold’s presence definitely makes me feel safe while being at school. Thank you Mr. Weichold for all that you do.

    [Reply]

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Mr. Weichold, La Salle’s Campus Safety Officer, Has Something To Tell You