Reviewing UNC Charlotte’s campus shooting
CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - University officials at UNC Charlotte say they intend to do a top-to-bottom review of everything before, during and after the campus shooting on April 30.
“Still in gathering and information phase. We will be looking at everything from our initial response to the incident through to include our preparedness activities, our training. No rock will be left unturned” said Chris Goynar, Director of the Office of Emergency Management in the Safety & Security Division.
UNC Charlotte’s Chancellor Phil Dubois says “We’re going to use our external review to come in and help us understand, as Chris said top to bottom. What did we do? How did we do it? When did we do it? How did we communicate with the campus?”
Whenever a school shooting happened, police departments across the country looked for lessons to be learned.
UNC Charlotte Police Chief Jeff Baker says he did just that with prior active shooter incidents.
“One of the things that we try to do is review consistently and train consistently as well and also at the same time talk with others and research,” said Chief Baker. “Research is very important on this topic and that’s something that we did. That all combined – it’s been an ongoing eight-year process for us where we were consistently planning and training for this exact type of situation.”
Chief Baker says when he heard the radio dispatch last week of a shooting on campus, he put the department’s active shooter procedures into action.
“Lock down the campus. Second step send out all emergency messaging that we have at hand and third step make entry into the building.”
An expert at Threat Suppression Inc. says the response to the UNCC campus shooting stands out.
“The speed to the response. So obviously we know the quicker we can get the quicker response from law enforcement or campus security that’s armed, the quicker that the threat will be mitigated,” said Dominick Pagano.
Many people still remember the school shooting last February in Parkland, Florida when a sheriff’s deputy was accused of dereliction of duty during the mass shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School.
Police say rather than going into the building to try and stop the gunman - the deputy waited outside.
“We’ve always taught that during active shooter events we don’t wait. We don’t stage. Officers take an oath and we need to go in there and do our job and that’s to stop the threat, said Pagano.
But, that high school shooting stands as a reminder to police what not to do during an active shooting.
“Most agencies had already been doing it and that was – hey listen – shots ring out, especially during an active shooter event, we know time is life. Time is not on our side and it’s not on our victims’ side so we need to get in there and we need get in there very quickly,” said Pagano. “So we learn from every event. We learn the good, the bad, the ugly and the only thing we can do is learn from those events and try to improve on our response. Not only our protocols but also our response times and our procedures.”
Chief Baker at UNC Charlotte Police says rapid response is part of his department’s policy.
“We have a written order that if ever we were faced with this that our officers are to go immediately to the sound of gunfire or to the incident itself whatever falls in place – that’s the standing order,” said the Chief. “There’s no conferring. We go. And we’re to stop the incident.”
Two campus officers ran to the classroom where the shooting was happened, and along with a student who later died, were able to stop the gunman.
“Absolutely. I think there were a number of factors that saved lives,” said Chief Baker. “Certainly, it was one of our students. There’s no doubt about one of our students and the heroics of him combined with rapid response and a variety of safety messaging and the lock down.”
The lockdown button in UNC Charlotte Police Emergency Dispatch Center is evidently one of the things others are now asking about and trying to learn more about from last week’s shooting.
"It is something that I think a lot of college campuses are being asked now" said Baker.
The Chief says the lockdown system, Open Options, was “manpower intensive to program and install in all buildings” but was an investment that the University decided to start doing about a decade ago.
“It’s an expensive process. It takes a lot of resources but it’s something our Chancellor absolutely felt was necessary for the entire campus” said the Chief.
Baker says over the last seven years, UNC Charlotte spent approximately $3 million on upgrades to the lockdown system.
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