Wednesday, February 27, 2008

NIU Ripples

As the half-month anniversary of the Valentine's Day shootings approaches on February 28th, a potential date for copycats, campus alerts have occurred in the wake of the Northern Illinois University event. Two-week, one-month, first-year, and then on-going annual anniversaries are worthy of extreme caution for educational and law enforcement officials.

Here are examples of a few recent campus scares:

At Jersey City, New Jersey, St. Peter's College locked down its campus for several hours on February 20, 2008, after the discovery of a message threatening violence at the Jesuit school. At 10:40 a.m., campus security became aware of the handwritten note, taped in the stairwell of an administration and classroom building on the 3,000-student campus. The note referenced the Virginia Tech killings. No danger was found in a massive search of the campus, and an all-clear was called shortly before 3:00 pm.

In Louisville, Kentucky, also on February 20th, Fern Creek Traditional High School was locked down for a few hours after a student told officials she thought she saw someone with a gun on campus. No weapon was found after a campus-wide room-by-room police search, but police said they were looking for a former student based on the witness's description.

At Long Island, New York's Stony Brook College, on February 25th, officials sent out a text message alert at 1:58 p.m., 21 minutes after university police reported to the scene of a sighting. The message said: "There is a report of an armed perpetrator on the academic mall. Remain alert and follow directions of emergency personnel. Go to the Stony Brook Web site for updates." But the first Web site update providing more details was not posted until 2:51 p.m. No one was found.

Confusion occurred, however. Some of Stony Brook College's 23,000 students were told to stay in buildings; others were not told what to do. Campus police responded to complaints about the lack of a lockdown by saying: "It's almost impossible to lock down a city of 40,000 people."

At Decatur, Mississippi, a student was found shot to death in his Neshoba Hall dormitory room at East Central Community College on February 26th, an apparent suicide. The shooting led to a brief lockdown before authorities determined there was not a security concern. Mark McEachern, 23, of Ridgeland, was enrolled at the Decatur campus as a cosmetology student, ECCC President Phil Sutphin said. (Condolences to his family and friends.)

In Fargo, North Dakota, classes were canceled in a downtown building used by North Dakota State University after a man with a gun was reported there on February 26th. Fargo and university police said a 28-year-old suspect was later arrested a few blocks away on suspicion of carrying a concealed weapon. Minnesota officials said the man had recently been released from prison, where he served time for robbery and burglary.

At Ferrum, Virginia, a campus lockdown took place on February 26th, and classes have been cancelled for the rest of the week at Ferrum College after a young man with a gun was seen by the housekeeping staff in a residence hall. A search by police was not able to locate the individual. More than 800 of the school's 1,000 students live on campus, but most left for an early spring break.

Ferrum College, affiliated with the United Methodist Church, is less than 50 miles from Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, where a student gunman killed 32 people and died by suicide on April 16, 2007.


FilmNoir23 said...

Two shootings in Tennessee and one just in the past hour or two at The University of Arkansas in Little Rock.

Anonymous said...

Interstingly, the comes about six months after a wave of bomb threats against colleges, as reported on your website:
The bomb threats have been received for three months, but in a concentrated fashion between August 24th and 27th, and in the days afterward. Media this week are reporting that 13 colleges and universities have been the targets of the threats.
--Over a dozen American universities received bomb threats within the past ten days, though no explosives were found at any of the threatened sites.
The Federal Bureau of Investigations is still examining the apparent hoaxes.
"We're working with the college and university police and the local police to investigate these matters," FBI Special Agent Richard Kolko said. "Due to today's world, none of these threats can be taken lightly."