IUPUI reviewing procedures following Tuesday alert
Questions are being raised about Tuesday's four-hour alert on the IUPUI campus in downtown Indianapolis.
Students and staff were instructed to stay inside campus buildings as police searched for a man with a long gun. Officers never found anyone suspicious after an extensive search that included campus police along with Indianapolis Metro and Indiana State Police.
The alert also led to the lockdown of an area school and local hospitals.
Police swarmed IUPUI's campus Tuesday after a student felt threatened when she saw a gun tucked inside a musical instrument case in the trunk of a car parked in a parking lot near the dental school. The university has a strict zero-tolerance policy on guns.
The first alert was issued less than ten minutes after her report to campus police. Even though the alert was fast, the wording was confusing to students.
"I am surprised that they let us go when there is a lot of reporting lately about guns on campuses lately," said Josh Penley, student.
IUPUI Police never used the word lockdown. Police just advised students to "seek shelter." But when some of the university's social media accounts started using the word "lockdown," students seeking information on Twitter didn't know whether to stay on campus or leave.
Eyewitness News asked some students why they were allowed to leave a building during the four-hour ordeal.
"Not sure. But we want to leave this area," said Kate Yesnik, a student who was walking outside before the alert was lifted.
IUPUI Police Captain Bill Abston admits they need to make a situation like Tuesday's as clear as possible. To that end, the university will review its procedures.
"We will do an after-action review to look at organizational issues, communication issues to reinforce what we did right, to look to see where we can improve. But we do that in a lot of instances, not just this one," he said.
Some faculty and students felt they didn't get enough alerts. Others didn't know what to do.
Five alerts total were sent to faculty and staff Tuesday. The incident began a little before 1:00 pm and ended just after 5:00 pm.
Eyewitness News asked Capt. Abston if it frustrated police to see students walking around campus while the alert was still on.
"Well, that's a decision those people have to make. We sent out an alert to seek shelter. They can make their own decision. I am not going to judge them," said Capt. Abston.
Some buildings on campus were also individually locked, keeping students either in or out. But campus police never ordered that to happen. The captain says his team will review the response, but overall he says they erred on the side of caution.
"That's one of the issues to look at - what people did at the building level. It was good that they took it upon themselves. They needed to do what they needed to do; what they felt was right. We encourage decisions. But we need to look at what we said and what the end result was," he said.
IUPUI Police along with the Emergency Preparedness Department met Wednesday afternoon to discuss the alert. They also say there are no cameras in the parking lot at Vermont and Barnhill, where police say the gun was seen inside the trunk. Police want to continue to add more cameras for security purposes.
From the IUPUI code of conduct:
IUPUI has a zero tolerance practice for weapons. The possession of any weapons, especially guns, is a serious violation and cause for immediate suspension. Guns may not be kept in vehicles when visiting campus. Example of behavior: Having a gun in a residence hall room or vehicle.