e had quite a scare Monday here in Jackson County when reports surfaced of a lockdown on the campus of Southwestern Community College after students reported seeing someone with what they perceived as a gun near Café 64.
College and local law enforcement deserve kudos for their response during this tense and uncertain situation.
Active shooter incidents are numbingly common these days, and we are well past the point of anyone being so naïve as to think “it can’t happen here.’’ “Here’’ has happened in El Paso, Gilroy and Dayton just in the last few weeks, adding more spots on a map increasingly crowded with sorrow.
So when word got out Monday, everyone hoped it was a misunderstanding but activated to face the real deal.
The school issued a lockdown at 11:05 a.m.
A Jackson County Sheriff’s Office sergeant who serves on campus was on scene; more Sheriff’s Office personnel were immediately dispatched to the scene. Security footage was reviewed, witnesses were questioned, and a determination was made that the students reporting the suspected weapon were mistaken.
The lockdown was officially lifted at 2:15 p.m.
With the incident over and the facts in hand, this episode will likely be forgotten by week’s end. But it’s important to look at it and see what those dealing with it got right.
First things first: In response to shooting incidents across the country, school officials and law enforcement have trained endlessly to deal with the possibility of such deadly situations. No one had to make up a response on the fly Monday; the training kicked in and showed the way.
SCC has Sheriff’s Office personnel on campus during all operating hours. It also has an alert system available at www.southwesterncc.edu/notifications. The response to the perceived threat from JCSO was swift; the college gave updates on the situation on social media as the facts came in and the picture began to clear.
Getting those facts out carries an additional challenge these days. Dealing with a rumor of an active shooter means dealing with the blizzard of comments/speculation/panic that pops up on social media. There are times useful information comes from Twitter of Facebook. There also times the information there is as useful as launching a leprechaun hunt.
In the end, thankfully, there was no shooter. College officials met Tuesday to review their response and to see what, if any, improvements could be made. In a statement, SCC President Don Tomas said, “Above all, we are glad that all of our students and employees are safe. We are extremely grateful for the prompt and thorough response of local law enforcement. Due to unfortunate events across the country, we live in a time when we must be hyper-vigilant about any threat to campus security. We would far prefer to err on the side of showing an abundance of caution. It has been an extremely stressful and emotional day, but it’s a tremendous relief to know that everyone is safe.”
It’s a sad comment that we live in such times that preparation for such an event is necessary.
That said, being prepared is a lot better than being caught flat-footed. We’re glad the training is in place.
And we pray it’s never necessary.