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Violence can happen anywhere

Posted on 04.24.2013

When her mother called, panicking, freshman environmental science major Gwen Debaun said she already knew why. Reports of a gunman on an Indianapolis college campus had started circulating earlier in the afternoon of March 19. But her mother did not know whether or not that meant the University of Indianapolis.

“They freaked out because, a downtown campus, it could be UIndy, it could be Marion, it could be IUPUI,” Debaun said.

Although the reported gunman at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis was not confirmed, that campus was placed on a “high alert” until it received an all-clear from Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department. These precautions are not without warning.

Debaun said that although she knew what was taking place at IUPUI, it still would have been nice to get some sort of notice from UIndy.

“It’s just kind of shocking, though. I heard it from every outside source besides our school. I mean, I heard it from Twitter,” Debaun said. “…I just think they could have sent something out and said, ‘This is happening at a nearby campus.’ And they could have said, you know, ‘It’s IUPUI.’”

According to Chief of Police and Director of Campus Security David Selby, gun violence has escalated on college campuses in recent years. Selby, who dealt with an active shooter during his time at Butler, said that this has caused emergency personnel to change how they respond. Selby said that, prior to the Columbine High School shooting, SWAT teams would clear crime scenes room-by-room. But they found out that a faster system was needed.

“What we found out after Virginia Tech was that as police officers we need to change the way we do business,” Selby said. “So now we have active shooter training, which I’m a trainer in.”

Selby explained that in the new system there is a five-officer cell that goes straight for and neutralizes the shooter. Then a second wave comes in to clear the rooms and assist victims.

According to Selby, media coverage of the situations at Virginia Tech in 2007, and more recently at Ball State University and Lone Star College near Houston, Texas, this year, have made it seem that students are only in danger at school. But Selby said that is not the case.

“We bring these up because they’re much more memorable. But the truth is [that] it can happen at McDonalds. It can happen at a law firm downtown, a post office—wherever you work,” Selby said.

Selby said that most active shooter situations are over before the police arrive, and many times the shooters end up taking their own lives. According to Selby, that is why students need to start thinking about their personal safety.

“Let’s face it, when you leave UIndy and you go to Chicago, there’s not going to be a campus police department that’s going to bend over backwards to make sure they jump your car, unlock your car, [or] give you an escort. They’re not going to do that stuff; you’re on your own,” Selby said. “So the best thing for students to do now is learn personal safety.”

Selby said that UIPD officers are still happy to escort and assist students as much as they can. Selby said that as students begin building their future careers, they should also begin thinking about their own personal safety.

“Personal safety is just what it is—it’s personal. Whether you’re walking home from a class, whether you’re parked in your car to go into a shopping center at Christmas, you need to be conscious of car-jackers, people that might assault you, people with weapons,” he said. “You need to know where all the call-boxes are, how to get ahold of the police. In an active shooter situation, it might come down to the simple thing that you might have to fight for your life.”

Selby said that students should watch the video called “RUN. HIDE. FIGHT. Surviving an Active Shooter Event” on Selby said that the city of Houston, Texas, made the video, using funds from the Department of Homeland Security. Selby said that most videos like this are so long that nobody wants to watch them, but this one is short and accessible.

Debaun said that living in a world where unpredictable violence is possible is unsettling but also just something that happens.

“Sadly, it’s just part of society. I mean, I don’t like it. I don’t think it should be that way,” Debaun said. “If it was my world, people would just be nice to each other.”


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