Friday's Campus Lock-Down - UPDATED 5/12/08 at 4 p.m
Posted by Philip Poole on 2008-05-09
Official Statement from Dr. Andrew Westmoreland, Samford President Samford friends-
After my frequent messages last Friday, I am loathe to continue to add to the burden of your inbox, but I think that it is important for us to tie up a few of the details from the incident that caused so many disruptions for the campus. Here are my brief comments:
Although we would have preferred a less stressful test run of our operations, we learned that our alert system worked, that our people responded quickly and without panic, and that our communications plan assured an orderly flow of information. We also discovered a few gaps in our system, and the information that we've gleaned will help us to revise our plans. (For instance, I reported early Friday that personnel had conducted a room-by-room search of Smith and Vail halls. In fact, we have discovered that not every room was searched.)
The safety officer who fabricated the story is no longer a Samford employee. After several hours of questioning, he admitted Friday afternoon to members of the Homewood police department that he invented the story because he thought it would help to raise the level of support for campus safety. We will be in communication with local authorities to determine the next steps for filing charges as a result of the fabrication of the story. I was personally offended that the officer chose, for whatever reason, to include within his fictionalized account the information that the suspect was a black male. Among the many bad decisions that the officer made last Friday morning, this was among the worst. It taints the reputation of the men and women who serve with quiet dedication as members of our safety staff. I apologize for the sad implications of the remark. If we stand for anything at Samford, we stand for the dignity of all of God's people.
The fact that the safety officer was not carrying a firearm at the time of the alleged encounter on Friday morning has led to the rumor that none of our officers are armed. That rumor is entirely false. We have armed personnel available during each shift.
Another question that has emerged is the extent to which we screen applicants for employment in campus safety. All officers hired in campus safety undergo several elements of review, including criminal background checks, psychological evaluations, and past employment verification. I regret that the lapse of one person has called into question the integrity of our existing safety staff. They deserve our appreciation.
One more time: sign up for the alert system at http://www.getrave.com/login/samford.
Again, I extend my sincere appreciation to the entire campus community for the ways in which you responded to this unfortunate event. It is an honor to serve alongside you.
Official Statement from Dr. Andrew Westmoreland, Samford President Samford friends-
After an intense investigation, we have learned that there was no mystery gunman on the campus this morning. The safety officer who filed the initial report has admitted that the event did not happen. Appropriate disciplinary measures are being taken.
Even in light of this latest information, I remain grateful to our campus safety leadership and the Homewood police department for their superior efforts to ensure the well-being of our students and employees. Our people acted on the basis of information that they considered to be credible. We would never run the risk of placing lives in jeopardy by failing to respond to real or perceived threats.
I apologize to everyone concerned for the confusion that this episode has created, but I am grateful-beyond measure-that our people are safe.
Official Statement from Dr. Andrew Westmoreland, Samford President
Here are a few additional items of note, following up on my message from earlier today regarding the person who was seen with a gun in the parking deck across from the law school:
• Our staff members in campus safety have combed the area, looking for evidence for why the person may have been on campus. There is no indication of attempts at forced entry for any vehicles or buildings.
• The Homewood police department remains at work in looking for clues on campus and in the surrounding neighborhood.
• There have been no additional reports of sightings of anyone matching the description of the person.
Questions that we have received include:
• Why did we declare an "all clear" notice before the person was apprehended? The rationale for allowing regular activities to resume was, first, that the person was observed fleeing from campus, rather than toward campus. The room-by-room searches and other activities were undertaken as precautionary measures. After campus safety and Homewood police officers were convinced that there was no threat, I approved the decision to resume normal operations. If we had waited until the person was apprehended to open the campus to regular traffic, we might never have opened the campus.
• Why are we allowing the normal flow of traffic through the gates? The person who was seen on campus this morning may be within a few blocks, or he may be 200 miles away. Regardless, we have no reason at this point to disrupt the normal routine.
• Do we have any reason to believe that the person was accompanied by someone else? No.
• Are we expanding our safety presence on campus for the remainder of the spring term, as an added precaution? Yes.
• Have we recently sent out an e-mail message to students, suggesting that they should not sign up for the alert system? Absolutely not! We did send a message a few days ago, letting students know that they could opt out of the system if they're away for the summer or if they are graduating. (By the way, this is a perfect opportunity for me to say that everyone should register for the alert system. To register, go to http://www.getrave.com/login/samford.)
I promise to provide additional information, whenever it is made available to me.
Thanks to each member of the campus community for the poise that you've shown today. We will be vigilant in seeking to protect our students and employees.
Official Statement from Dr. Andrew Westmoreland, Samford President I'm writing to provide you with a detailed report regarding the events of the day.
Early this morning, one of our safety officers was conducting a routine patrol of the north campus. He reports that, upon driving his vehicle into the lower level of the parking deck across from the law school, he saw a suspicious person at the far end of the deck. The officer reports that, as he approached, the person pointed a gun in his direction. Immediately thereafter, the person jumped over a railing and fled down the hill, away from campus.
The person in question is reported to be a black male, about 5'10", "average build." He was dressed in black, with a black toboggan on his head.
Immediately following the encounter, the Homewood police department was notified and responded. Soon thereafter, staff members in facilities and residence life were notified. At approximately 5:35 a.m., an e-mail and text alert was sent to students and employees. A combination of Homewood police officers and Samford safety officers conducted a room-by-room search of Smith and Vail halls, as a precaution. The main gate to the campus remained closed, and all traffic was directed to the west gate, where each vehicle was checked upon entrance and exit. Vehicles were directed to the south stadium lot. At about 7:30 a.m., an "all-clear" notice was given. We have resumed our regular schedules.
There is no indication that the person is still on campus. At this time, as part of the ongoing investigation, the officer who made the initial report is being interviewed by the Homewood police department. Campus safety has extra personnel on duty and they are continuing with their due diligence. At this point, our safety officers are looking for evidence for why the person may have been on campus. The Homewood authorities will continue to monitor the neighborhood surrounding the campus.
A story has also surfaced that we encountered another suspicious person on campus this morning. In reality, this person turned out to be a faculty member who had simply walked to campus.
As always, we are grateful for the support that we receive from campus safety and the Homewood police department. I will continue to make you aware of details as they emerge.
The campus resumed operations at 7:30 a.m. Students and employees may come back to campus.
The Samford University campus was in lock-down after a suspicious male was confronted early this morning in a university parking deck near Robinson Hall. The man pointed a gun at a campus safety officer and then fled on foot. The man was described as Black, wearing all black clothing and black head covering, average build and about 5 foot 10 inches.
The Homewood Police Department is working with Samford's campus safety officers.
All residence facilities were in lock-down. Persons entering the campus must show a valid Samford identification card and are being directed to a secure parking lot on campus.
The university activated its RAVE emergency alert system at 5:35 a.m.
Samford President Andrew Westmoreland and other university officials are on site monitoring the situation.
Additional information will be posted as it is available.
ABOUT SAMFORD UNIVERSITY -- Samford University is a premier nationally ranked private university deeply rooted in its Christian mission. Founded in 1841, Samford is the 87th oldest institution of higher education in the United States. U.S. News & World Report ranks Samford 3rd among regional universities in the South. Samford enrolls 5,509 students from 45 states, the District of Columbia and 29 other countries in its 10 academic units: arts, arts and sciences, business, divinity, education, health professions, law, nursing, pharmacy, and public health. Samford also fields 17 NCAA Division I teams that compete in the tradition-rich Southern Conference.