MoonDawg's Den: To lockdown, or not to lockdown?

MoonDawg's Den

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

To lockdown, or not to lockdown?

When confronted with something as hideous as the Virginia Tech massacre, the mind recoils from the horror of such an event and turns to other things - like recriminations. The VT police department and the university's administration started getting heat for their actions while the smell of gunpowder still hung in the air:

John and Jennifer Shourds of Lovettsville, Va. demanded the immediate firings of University President Charles Steger and Virginia Tech Campus Police Chief W.R. Flinchum who he said "screwed up" the handling of separate shooting incidents that left 33 students dead, including the shooter.
"My God, if someone shoots somebody there should be an immediate lockdown of the campus," said John Shourds. "They totally blew it. The president blew it, campus police blew it."

But over at Dean Barnett makes the following point:

Virginia Tech has a student population of almost 30,000. Adding in the staff members, faculty, etc., the Virginia Tech community numbers over 35,000 people. If there was an unsolved murder in a city of 35,000, would the city go into lockdown mode until the crime was solved? Would the city authorities even consider going into lockdown mode? Given the facts that the authorities yesterday understood the motive for the initial killings and there was absolutely no reason to believe a mass murderer was on the loose, shutting down the campus would have been a bizarre reaction to the initial tragedies.

Yet Virginia Tech did go into "lockdown mode" when an escaped killer was on the loose in Blacksburg this past August:

Police have spent the day racing to sometimes widely separated locations around Blacksburg in response to reported sightings of William Morva, who is accused of shooting and killing a Montgomery County sheriff's deputy this morning and a Montgomery Regional Hospital security guard on Sunday, as well as injuring a sheriff's deputy Sunday...Access to Tech's campus has been largely shut down, with classes canceled and staff evacuated.

A killer on the loose in nearby Blacksburg was enough to prompt a campus shutdown and evacuation eight months ago, but a killer was on the loose who was actually on the campus initially prompted little more than a vague email - sent two hours after the first shooting Monday morning - that urged students and faculty "to be cautious".

Barnett contends that, given the perceived motive of the shooter (jealously), a lockdown would have been a "bizarre reaction". But the bottom line is, there's a guy running around your campus with a gun who's already shot two people, and you have no way of knowing for certain what his motives - and further intentions are - until and unless he's caught.

Now don't get me wrong - it's unfair to crucify the VT president and campus police with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, and people should wait until all the facts are in before making judgements. But in the coming days and weeks the question will be asked: why such a large difference in reaction between the August incident and the one yesterday? It's a fair question, and one that deserves an answer.



  • I'm not sure why the reaction would be different, except that they weren't sure of the circumstances at first, they thought it might be a domestic dispute and they had someone in for questioning.

    Possibly a bad decision. But I'm definitely not willing to crucify anyone at this point. I'm sure that everyone involved, even those who could have done nothing, are torturing themselves trying to think of ways in which they could have stopped or mitigated the tragedy.

    Heard an amazing interview on NPR today, one of the kids who survived. It is uplifting and depressing at the same time to hear their stories of survival and coping.

    By Blogger NoSurfGirl, At 11:49 PM, April 18, 2007  

  • Having been involved in first responder situations, even when you're not sure of the circumstances - no, especially when you're not sure of the circumstances, you always err on the side of caution. But Gov. Kaine in Virginia has appointed a commission to investigate, so we'll see what comes of that.

    By the way, I was very impressed with Gov. Kaine in the aftermath of the shootings. I would not be surprised to see his name mentioned for the Democratic ticket in 2012...

    By Blogger Garry, At 12:42 PM, April 23, 2007  

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