Suspect charged, security strengthened after Bainbridge school intruder

William Christopher Merritt, 32, was charged with a slew of crimes, including assault, voyeurism and indecent liberties.

William Christopher Merritt, 32, was charged with a slew of crimes Thursday, including assault, voyeurism and indecent liberties. Police say he walked into a girls bathroom at Bainbridge Island High School, Wednesday, undetected. He allegedly peered into a stall with a female student inside. When he was spotted, he ran into another building where he allegedly grabbed the breast of a female student. While on the run from police, prosecutors say he tried to lure yet another girl into his car.

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"I'm frustrated and angry he was able to come into our school," said Bainbridge Island Superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen.

Police also allege Merritt hit a police officer with his car as he tried to get away. The incident culminated in a low-speed chase with officers stopping the suspect with a PIT maneuver. Prosecutors say Merritt spit blood at one of the officers during the arrest.

Until now, he had a clean criminal record.

Security was very visible at Bainbridge High, Thursday, with police and school security officers trying to restore a sense of safety.

Superintendent Bang-Knudsen said his staff did everything right.

"I had two heroic staff members who engaged the intruder to make sure he was not interacting with any more students while the rest of the school was on lockdown."

But the question remains: How did the man get inside the school?

Bainbridge High is an open, community college-style campus with several buildings and lots of doors. Administrators are now reducing the number of entry points for each building to one or two and closing bathrooms that are not easily monitored.

"We're really trying to take what is a 1970's style campus and do some short-term, interim measures to try to create some additional security measures," said the superintendent.

As students returned to class Thursday, it was lost on no one how much different this scenario might have been if the intruder had been carrying a gun. Bang-Knudsen said he is forming a task force to look at new security options, including the possibility of stationing a police officer on campus.

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"Unfortunately, it's different than it was in the 1970s and 1980's. We're really having to take a look at some more intensified security measures."

Merritt pleaded not guilty and is being held on $500,000 bail.

His trial is scheduled for April 23.