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Student-involved gun shooting sparks discussion about safety

By Staff reports
On February 27, 2018

Channel 26 WGNO reporter Jacki Jing is one of many reporters that visited campus on Friday, Feb. 23 after news broke of a shooting that occurred in the parking lot near the University Center. Don lawrence/The Lion’s Roar

The campus community was stunned to hear reports of gunshots last Friday. 

The incident, which resulted in the injury of redshirt senior forward James Currington and an unidentified student athlete, occurred in a parking lot outside of the University Center around 2:20 a.m. on Feb. 23. 

In an interview with The Lion’s Roar, basketball Head Coach Jay Ladner shared his thoughts on the shooting in regards to Currington’s absence on the court and the future of all the parties involved.  

“Whoever the young man was that shot into the crowd and injured several people, his life is changed forever as well as the young men who were injured,” said Ladner.  “Thank goodness that there wasn’t a death involved, but this certainly is a tragic thing and something that we’re just sick about. We’re doing all that we can do in terms of keeping things together and trying to stay focused.”

Some of the individuals involved in the incident on North Campus shared their accounts of the initial event and perceptions of what followed.

Freshman accounting major and member of Pi Kappa Alpha Brandon Stewart recounted waking up around 2:30 a.m. to gunshots. He witnessed some members of other fraternities and sororities peaking out of their windows and saw a university police car outside of a sorority house. 

“It didn’t sound like gunshots at first,” said Stewart. “I thought it was fireworks. I started texting everyone to see if they were OK. I have friends on campus including some in Greek Village.”

Upon finding out about the incident, University President Dr. John L. Crain admitted that his first concern was that of the safety of the students. According to Crain, he felt relieved after finding out that the incident was isolated. It followed a dispute between individuals off campus. He believes that it was not an act of aggression towards the university in general. 

Crain said, “The investigation has determined that both students and non-students were involved with the incident. The University Police Department has good working relationships with all neighboring law enforcement agencies. Offers to assist from HPD, the TPSO, LSP and ATF were not turned down. All of those involved in the incident, who are believed at this point to have broken the law, have been arrested, charged with crimes, and are in the custody of appropriate authorities. Disciplinary action will be pursued against all students involved who violated the university’s relevant rules of conduct. Students and non-students, who are believed to have done anything that leads us to consider them a possible danger, have been barred from campus.”

Alerts from the university’s emergency app were sent at 4:01 a.m. and again at 7:35 a.m. in the hours that followed the shooting. 

The initial alert said that the University Police Department would be investigating a report of gunshots that were heard near the University Center and that there was no immediate threat to campus. At 7:35, the alert clarified that UPD would continue to investigate an incident involving gunfire near the University Center. 

Throughout the day and evening of the incident, the university released reports through email and social media platforms such as, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, detailing that two arrests had been made in connection with the shooting incident and that the two students involved were student- athletes and were being treated at a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. 

 Gov. John Bel Edwards issued a statement, offering his assistance to the university during the investigation. 

 “I have promised Southeastern that the state stands at the ready to mobilize every available resource we have to assist them in this investigation,” said Edwards. “We will support Southeastern and law enforcement as they aggressively pursue the criminals who are responsible for the shootings. As we await more details, I encourage students, faculty and parents to continue to pay close attention to information from school officials and local law enforcement, and would remind them to report any suspicious activity to the proper authorities.”

Crain stated that those arrested will be handled through the criminal justice system, and the two student athletes involved are expected to recover following medical treatment for their wounds. 

Although the Hammond Police Department had previously stated that they were not assisting in the investigation on Friday, the university stated that following the two suspects going into custody, they will assist in the ongoing investigation with UPD and the Tangipahoa Parish Sherrif’s Office. 

Following the incident, Stewart explained why he believes that the university responded to the incident in a positive and efficient manner. 

“I feel like the school responded in a good way,” said Stewart. “The email said that there is no longer a threat on campus. I guess they stopped it all. I think they did good. One of the guys in our fraternity called UPD, and they said they would watch over everybody.”

Sophomore criminal justice major Cameron O’Neil revealed why he felt unsettled by the way that he believes UPD responded to the incident. He shared what changes can be made to campus safety. 

“The police didn’t come until other people had called them,” said O’Neil. “Gates aren’t necessary because we have emergency polls. We just need more university policemen patrolling the areas at all times. I would like to see some walking on their feet sometimes.” 

The alerts that the university sent out following the incident were well received by Crain. He feels that this incident has prompted a significant lesson about security and safety on campus.

“We all have to be vigilant and report anything of concern to the appropriate authorities,” said Crain. “I am pleased that many of the security measures we have implemented in recent years helped safeguard our campus community.”

 

Contributers:

 Larshell Green (Editor-in-Chief)

Sarah Hess (Staff Reporter)

Don Lawrence (Staff Reporter)

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