No one stopped James Ray Palmer as he walked into the rural Crawford County, Ar., courthouse unusually dressed for a hot afternoon in a long coat, hiding two handguns and an assault rifle, reports the Associated Press. With no metal detectors or guards at the building’s six entrances to deter him, he asked to speak to a judge. Then he opened fire. Before dying after a shootout with police, Palmer injured a receptionist and terrified workers. He highlighted the vulnerability of small, rural courthouses where the guards, armed police, and metal detectors common in larger cities are often too expensive.
When Crawford County reopens its courthouse today, only one entrance will be open and the other five will be alarmed and locked from the inside. Sheriff’s deputies will be posted at the main entrance, and employees and visitors will be subject to search. Police say Palmer, 48, went to the courthouse to speak to a judge who may have handled Palmer’s divorce and child custody proceedings in 2008. When the judge’s receptionist told him that the judge wasn’t there, Palmer pulled out a gun and shot her in the leg as she tried to flee.