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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    Gunman Threatens Stony Brook, No One Harmed

    Stony Brook University students and officials held their breath on Feb. 25 after police sent out an SB Alert! informing community members that a man armed with a gun was reportedly seen in the academic mall.

    Eyewitnesses reported seeing an individual leave the Student Activities Center (SAC) and run between Harriman Hall and the Old Chemistry building at around 1:30 p.m., heading in the direction of the sports complex. He was chased by a plain-clothes security official.

    The individual, who police describe as a 5′ 9” male between 25 and 28 years of age with a tattoo on his right hand, was approached by a Faculty Student Association (FSA) employee in the SAC cafeteria after it was determined that the individual was trying to steal food; more specifically, a slice of pizza.

    According to the FSA employee, who asked for anonymity, the suspect then pulled back his jacket to reveal what looked like a gun. According to another FSA employee that was at the scene, who also asked not to be named, the gun was a 9-mm Beretta.

    Police were unable to confirm the sighting of the gun, and it remains a possibility that the gun was not real.

    The police responded to the initial phone calls within minutes and sent out an estimated 11,000 text messages alerting students of the situation, not long after the first calls came in.

    As of Monday night, the suspect had not been caught, but Assistant Chief of Police Doug Little said that the university was no longer in any immediate danger.

    Another text message was sent out a little before 4 p.m. informing students and staff that the university was deemed safe.

    Little told the media that there was surveillance footage in the SAC and that police would be reviewing the video for clues to the identify of the suspect.

    The incident at SBU gained national media attention.

    CNN reported on the story as breaking news midday on Monday, while every local news organization appeared on campus to talk to students and attend a press conference held at Dutchess Hall, the University Police Department headquarters, later that day.

    University President Shirley Strum Kenny addressed the media shortly after 4:00 p.m. Monday afternoon, at the press conference, where she reassured students that the University had a “terrific police department.”

    When questioned whether she believed the University was prepared to deal with a more serious situation like what occurred last year at Virginia Tech and earlier this month at Northern Illinois University, she responded, “Yes, I do.”

    However, students don’t quite agree.

    At a town hall meeting in H-Quad on the night of the incident, four students out of the more than 20 present thought the University was prepared to deal with a more severe situation based on the performance today.

    Despite the speedy response by the university police, there was a lot of criticism by students who felt they were uninformed.

    One common objection was over the university website, which did not broadcast the incident until 2:51pm, almost an hour and a half after police received the first phone calls.

    “After I got the text message, I went to the website for more information, but there was nothing up at that point,” said one Benedict resident.

    One of the overarching themes of the day was confusion. The original text message and website update told students to continue with their daily routine but to do so with caution. But other officers were reportedly telling students to remain where they were.

    Part of the confusion students were experiencing was because of conflicting reports by media organizations. Several students told the Statesman that CNN and News 12 were telling students via their broadcasts to remain where they were.

    Many other news outlets were using the term lockdown to describe the situation, a term that Kenny and Little rebuked.

    “We did not lock down the campus,” said Little. Lockdown “is a term being used quite a bit in our society today,” he added, referring to the media’s embrace of the word after incidents on campuses nationwide.

    Kenny reminded those in attendance that a lockdown is impossible on an open campus like Stony Brook.

    Regardless, many professors chose to cancel their classes, and many students chose not to attend afternoon classes. Some midterms that were scheduled for today were postponed.

    In other circumstances, entire buildings were closed by managers of those facilities. For example, the Wang Center was closed for several hours.

    Other reports of closures from students included offices in the Melville Library, the Humanities building, and some Engineering Quad buildings. Some students also said that SINC sites were placed on alert, and students had to show their ID cards to gain entry.

    The Statesman was unable to confirm those closures with the police.

    The campus text messaging alert system got its first heavy workout Monday, after its launch following the Virginia Tech tragedy. This was the first usage of the SB Alert system during peak campus traffic hours.

    But, there was also some concern over those text messages.

    “The university was sending a very strange message,” said student Katie Gommel of the text messages and the conflicting reports from the media and some campus officers.

    One attendee at the town hall meeting Monday night asked why the University couldn’t send a message telling students that “the university is open and classes are in session instead of remaining somewhat vague on the situation.”

    “Messages like that insights fear,” said Gommel. “They should have told us that it was a probable robbery.”

    The original message both online and in the text message informed students that there were reports of a man armed with a handgun on the academic mall. It encouraged students to continue with their day but to proceed with caution, but that didn’t alleviate students’ fear.

    “I had class in Javits 100, and there was a palpable fear,” said one H-Quad resident. “We were in the biggest classroom on campus, maybe a target for a gunman.”

    “I didn’t know anything,” said Krystina Randazzo, a Resident Assistant (R.A.) in Benedict. “I didn’t know what to tell my residents.”

    Campus police are encouraging students to call 2-TIPS if they have any information on the suspect.

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