Friday, August 5, 2011

Va Tech

Virginia Tech, scene in 2007 of the deadliest shooting at a U.S. college, lifted its campus alert Thursday afternoon after three children attending an academic camp said they saw a man holding an object that looked like a gun covered by a cloth.
The campus was locked down after the campers reported seeing a man near a campus dining hall, walking quickly toward volleyball courts, at 9:09 a.m. Police went to the area, and university administrators issued a campuswide alert at 9:37 a.m. on the university's website, text-messaging system, Twitter feed and classroom electronic bulletin boards.
The alert instructed students and employees to stay inside and lock their doors and said emergency personnel were responding to the situation.
Officials didn't find anyone but said there would continue to be a large police presence on campus throughout the day.
Amanda Huchler, 20, received the first alert in class on a digital bulletin board and as a text message on her cellphone at 9:38 a.m.
A few minutes later, "different professors came around to make sure we were locked in the classrooms," Huchler said. Although her professor advised her to stay indoors, Huchler left the building when class ended at 11:30 and went to her car.
More than 45,000 people subscribe to the school's alert system, along with an e-mail sent to the entire campus, school spokesman Mark Owczarski said. The school's outdoor sirens also sounded, he said.
Early in the afternoon, officials released a composite sketch of the person on the university website as officials continued the slow process of searching campus buildings. Classes were canceled.
"We're in a new era," university spokesman Larry Hincker said. "Obviously this campus experienced something pretty terrible four years ago. … Regardless of what your intuition and your experience as a public safety officer tells you, you are really forced to issue an alert, and that's where we believe we are right now."
The suspect was described as 6 feet tall with brown hair, wearing a blue-and-white striped shirt, gray shorts and brown sandals.
S. Daniel Carter, director of public policy for Security On Campus, a non-profit organization that monitors how colleges react to emergencies, said it appeared Virginia Tech responded appropriately. Carter's organization had pressed for an investigation into the school's handling of the shootings in 2007.
"You have to take all of the reports seriously because you cannot take the risk that there's something serious going on and you failed to act," Carter said. "The key is the community was informed, so they were able to take steps to protect themselves."
Federal education officials fined Virginia Tech in March for its response to the massacre that left 33 people, including the shooter, dead on April 16, 2007. The officials found that university administrators violated federal campus safety laws by waiting more than two hours to alert students that two students had been shot to death in a dorm and that the gunman remained at large.