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Havoc Reigns in Oklahoma City CC Lockdown

A series of "telephone-game"-like miscommunications and the subsequent misfiring of a campus security worker's gun pushed the students and staff of Oklahoma City Community College into lockdown mode in late February.

The debacle started on the morning of Feb. 26, when a broad e-mail message was sent out by the Oklahoma Information Fusion Center warning of a potential campus shooting. The center acts as a state-wide clearinghouse for information from law enforcement and public safety agencies. According to coverage in the college's school newspaper, the Pioneer, the alert wasn't specific to the college, nor even to the state of Oklahoma.

That e-mail made its way to the State Regents, which sent it onto the college's Safety and Security Office, which sent it onto the Community Outreach and Education office, the non-credit arm of the college, which happened to be hosting a swim-meet on that day.

The college reported that administrators think a worker in that office shared the information with a visitor who shared it with others in the campus library where she worked. From there, the message made its way onto the broader campus, where a faculty member in Main, a major campus building, heard a student use the term, "active shooter." That faculty member transmitted a signal to campus police about a possible shooter.

In response, the director of the campus police staff, Ike Sloas, set off an alarm through the IP phone system; but he dialed the wrong number, which set off a fire alarm. That drove students outside of Main, where they stood in front of the library to await further instructions.

Meanwhile, over at the library, word had gotten out that a shooter was located on the fourth floor, and students and staff were placed into shelter in place procedures. Oklahoma City Police were called in at that point to assist with the shooter situation.

An intruder alert was issued by IP phone to the rest of campus, putting them into lockdown, while police secured the fourth floor of the library. At the same time, a shot was heard on the fourth floor of the library. Panicky people began racing away from the library, according to witnesses. Just minutes later, an all-clear was issued and the campus was closed for the rest of the day. Students were told to leave.

The only shot fired that day, according to the student newspaper, came from a campus security officer's unholstered gun while he was helping in the search for an alleged suspect. That officer has since been put on desk duty.

The following Monday, college President Paul Sechrist issued a campus letter declaring a "top to bottom review of what happened, including the actions we took or failed to take before, during and after the incident." He put Jerry Steward, executive vice president of the college, in charge of the review. He also said a communications task force would be formed with both staff and students to improve communication procedures and systems and held two open forums to obtain feedback from the campus community about the incident.

Sechrist said that he considered many of the actions that took place that Friday at the Oklahoma campus "appropriate and helpful in the situation." Other actions, he added, "clearly were not."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.

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