Geauga County Sheriff Reflects on Chardon Shooting

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CHARDON, Ohio --  Feb. 27, 2012, was a normal Monday morning for Sheriff Dan McClelland with the Geauga County Sheriff's Office.

"The call came out, 'shots fired, Chardon School, active shooter at the high school.'  My first thought was, 'I hope it was a drill and nobody told us,'" said McClelland.

But it wasn't a drill.

A student shot five classmates inside the high school, three of whom later died.

McClelland was among the first responders on scene.

"Inside, it felt a lot different than I thought it would feel.  Staff, students, were remarkably calm.  I had envisioned there would be far more panic in the school," McClelland explained.

Deputies immediately started to attend to students.

"We saw the victims.  But we were focused.  You go back to the training, to the job that has to be done," said McClelland.

McClelland said the fact that students practiced this situation before saved lives.

He did not want to comment on the alleged shooter, T.J. Lane.

In April, McClelland will finish his 36th year with the sheriff's office.

He grew up in Chardon, went to Chardon High School and even met his wife there.

"Inside the school, it feels different.  I was back inside that Monday and every day moving forward.  And it is different.  There is a spirit, a community spirit there," McClelland said.

He said he has spoken with each of the victims' families since the tragedy.

"They are remarkable people.  The organ donation is such an unselfish act.  Trying to make something good out of something so terrible.  I think about them everyday," added McClelland.

McClelland was even there when students went back to class.

So was the police dog, Midge.

"Different than her narcotics training," McClelland laughed. "It's amazing what animals can do.  Students petted her and smiled.  Dogs help the healing in people."

McClelland said the community has received support from Geauga County, northeast Ohio, the United States and the world.

"The Chardon shootings changed Chardon forever.  It brought Chardon together," he added.

One town, one heartbeat.

"Chardon changed.  I changed.  Life throws you events that help you rearrange your priorities.  And going home and hugging your family needs to be your number one priority," said McClelland.  "You don't know.  You don't know what tomorrow is going to bring.  Enjoy today."