Text by Christina Lieffring
Audio clips courtesy of Michaela Hines of ECAV Radio
Editor’s note: We will be sure to keep everyone posted as new information surfaces. Be sure to read additional coverage of this topic in the next issue, which comes out Thursday, Sept. 11.
Crime prevention officer Dan Robles believed the lockdown “worked out really well,” he said.
Robles spoke with The Campus Ledger about the reported armed individual, the subsequent shutdown, including what he believed went well yet could be done differently in the future.
Christina Lieffring: First of all, when did [campus police] initially get the call about the suspicious person on campus?
Dan Robles: We got the call at 3:11 p.m. yesterday, about a person on campus, possibly armed with a sidearm, a firearm or a shotgun.
CL: And there were mixed reports: there was a text message coming out from the college that said there were two reports? But then I saw a news interview with you which said there was one.
DR: Yes, what happened is we think it was the same person overheard somebody saying something and they just — it’s like when you tell somebody next to you something and then you pass it on down the line like that game. If you’ve ever played, that gets mixed like that. And that’s what we think probably happened was it got mixed like that. But we had the one initial report.
CL: This is the first major incident like this, is that true?
DR: Yes this is. For our college, it’s the first major incident we’ve had like where we’ve actually received national attention on that scale, it is. But I think when you look at the scale and the way things turned out, I think it all worked out really well for us.
CL: So this was kind of a first run of the A.L.I.C.E. procedures. How do you think faculty, staff and students did following those measures?
DR: I think we did actually really well. When you look at the type of situation that we had: a report that came out, classes going on — just a lot of activity going on, that we were able to go ahead and get the campus for the most part shut down, hallways clear; some people locking themselves in the classrooms, people leaving the campus… I think when you look at the type of incident … that happened, it occurred really well. It couldn’t have gone any better for the most part.
CL: Were there some areas that could have used some improvement?
DR: I think some of the things that we do, you know, trying to get the message out; some people not hearing the message being broadcast, seeing the TV monitors, those types of things that we can try to improve on. I think that’s part of, if we’re going to critique it, that’s some of the things that we’re looking at. Just trying to get the students out maybe a little bit faster. Faculty, staff getting them aware of what’s going on, those types of things.
CL: And then the Overland Park police came out–
CL: How many police force were actually on campus?
DR: We had representation from Overland Park police, highway patrol. We had Johnson County Med-Act was here. Johnson County Park Police and the sheriff’s office here. So we had about an additional 50 to 60 officers here on campus, which was great support.
CL: Yeah, I was impressed with the fact that you were able to block all the entrances and exits onto the campus because there’s a lot of them.
DR: Oh yes, there are a lot, and we try to do the best we could with the people, the personnel we had available to do what we did; to not only block the access/entrance but also to make the campus as safe as possible. You know, during this incident.
CL: I saw an interview you did with one of the TV stations and you pointed out that you’re trying to find one person out of 15,000 students with a 250-acre campus.
DR: Yes, when you look at it like that it makes it very difficult, especially when a person may gel in, they look kind of like all the other people that are here. It makes it a little more difficult.
CL: So is there anything from this experience that you guys are going to carry forward about? Just the scale of trying to find that one person and realizing how challenging it may be. Are there going to be any changes to how you guys may approach this type of situation in the future?
DR: I think we’re probably going to use a similar approach but maybe lockdown the whole campus instead of locking down part of it, which is what we did, have the whole place locked down. And when we say that, you can go ahead and get off campus using our A.L.I.C.E. principles, but the other is if you are in your room and you don’t think you can get out or do not feel safe getting out, locking yourself in. And the A.L.I.C.E. principles worked great during this event because we did find out during the incident that people had barricaded their doors, they had put file cabinets against the doors. We realized this when we were going room to room, looking for the individual but at the same time also making sure that the doors and rooms were secure.
CL: When you guys were going room to room did you get a sense if the students felt prepared or that the teachers felt prepared? Or that they felt a little not sure of what they should be doing?
DR: I think we had – I want to say that the majority of them felt prepared on what to do with the ALICE training, with what their teachers and instructors have been through with that training. That helped a lot. There were students who were unsure. Some didn’t receive the message right, they didn’t have a phone — you know, those types of things; didn’t know what was going on and that happens. Not everybody is going to be in the know. Can’t have your phone on if you’re in class and the class lets out and you’re standing in the hallway and you see all these people running around, that type of thing. That’s understandable. So with our officers, we try to just get the message out and with our system here that we have with the dispatch. Get it out to as many people as possible. Trying to keep that confusion down but at the same time getting people informed.
CL: Was there ever confirmation of the presence of the suspicious person or a weapon on campus?
DR: Well, we did have a person tell us that they did see what they saw, a weapon on campus. And we have to go with that like that being 100 percent truth with what that person is saying. We still are doing an investigation on it. We have our detective following up on any leads that they have, phone calls that came in, making the contacts, etc. But we never did find any person on campus. But, that being said, you’ve got to act like there is a person like that on campus.
CL: Nothing was seen on security cameras?
DR: No. Not that we know of yet. We still have to review cameras. Hundreds of cameras on campus, to sit there and look at video, between those time frames you know how long that could take. It can be a long process.
CL: I was actually in the Regnier Center. We were actually stuck in there for like three hours.
DR: Yes, we understand that. There were some people who were in some places for a long time and when you are in a place like that and you’re not prepared for that, it can make it difficult for you. And that’s why we try to get things done as, I don’t want to say as quickly as possible, but get done things in a professional matter we could let the people what was going on.
CL: Any other last thoughts about what happened yesterday?
DR: I just want to — I would like to say just keep your updates on your phone, keep abreast of the monitors, take some A.L.I.C.E. classes training if you have not and just be aware of your surroundings.