York City's police chief says "a breakdown in the system" allowed an enraged father to terrorize an elementary school last week.
By system, he means the court system.
After all, Eric Schelmety had been arrested for terroristic threats at the same school, Phineas Davis K-8, a day before Thursday's violent outburst — yet a district judge set bail at just $1,500.
Since suspects in Pennsylvania can post 5 percent of their bail to be released, the 30-year-old was back on the street the next day, having posted just $75.
At 4:10 p.m. Thursday — about 90 minutes after Schelmety's release — police rushed to the school for a report of shots fired. Inside, 31 staff members and 83 students had been ordered into "lockdown" mode.
Arriving officers found Schelmety — unarmed, as it turned out — in the lobby, smashing windows in an attempt to get into the school office, according to charging documents.
He was arrested and charged with making terroristic threats, ethnic intimidation, institutional vandalism, reckless endangerment, defiant trespass and criminal mischief.
This time his bail was set at half a million dollars, and he remains in York County Prison.
At a meeting with parents and district staff Monday, Kahley noted a police officer had "asked for high bail" after the first incident, during which Schelmety allegedly threatened to "murder and shoot" people inside the school.
"The courts set the bail — in my opinion, set the bail way too low," he said. "The system failed, in my view."
The chief said he intends to ask local legislators to consider changing the law so suspects accused of threatening children in a school are less likely to be released so quickly.
It's an opportunity, Kahley said, "and I feel like it might get lost in looking for someone to blame."
While it never hurts to listen to ideas, we're not sure a solution lies in new legislation.
We agree $1,500 bail was low. Even if District Justice Walter Groom believed Schelmety — reportedly upset his daughter being bullied — was merely venting, he should have erred on the side of caution.
However, the same can be said of the school district and city police.
If Schelmety did indeed threaten to murder children and adults at Phineas Davis on Wednesday, why weren't officers from the district's newly formed police department stationed at the school's doors on Thursday?
Why wasn't a city police cruiser in the school's parking lot for as long as people were in the building?
City police were concerned enough to ask for a high bail, so they should have been concerned enough to take extra precautions when that request was denied.
Hindsight, of course, is 20-20.
And ultimately the only person to blame is Schelmety, if he's found guilty of the crimes he's accused of committing.
However, we believe there are lessons to be learned by many, and we're confident everyone involved is reviewing their actions.