Industry Focus

Random Campus Tragedies are Painful

An active shooter on campus has no rhyme or reason. When something stupid like this happens, everyone’s first question is: Why? Followed by: What was the motive?

I say there is never a good reason for this kind of social misbehavior.

Last month, an active shooter incident occurred at North Lake College in Irving, Texas. We know this is not the first time an event like this has happened on a college campus—probably not the last. A little too late, but the Dallas County Community College District will now beef up security.

Janeera Nickol Gonzalez was gunned down while attending classes on May 3. It was later reported that the gunman had been stalking her for quite a while. She didn’t make anything of it, thinking the stalker was harmless.

Sadly, this was not true. Her parents, Lucia and Juan Gonzalez were concerned when their daughter failed to return text messages, especially after local news reported a shooting at the college she attended. Someone other than Janeera knew this was happening, and it would seem, didn’t heed all the warning signs.

Some people on campus saw the entire murder-suicide scene unfold. Witnesses say that the gunman, Adrian Victor Torres, walked up to Janeera and yelled, “You know who I am and you know why I’m here.” He shot her three times.

It is difficult, at best, to secure the open environment of a higher education campus. For all the protection that the University of Texas at Austin provides its students, staff and employees, a man wielding a hunting knife was no match for any security system the first week in May.

Harrison Brown, a freshman from Graham, Texas, was in the right place, attending school at UT, but at the wrong time when Kendrix J. White randomly stabbed him and several other students as he “calmly walked around campus.” UT Austin Police Chief David Carter said that the suspect may have been “suffering from mental health issues,” and had recently been involuntarily committed and later released in another city. Security is such a necessary component to our daily lives. Harrison’s last thoughts were of his mother, asking that he be able to speak to her before he died.

“His family and our community will never be able to hear Harrison play [music] and sing again and, for this, our hearts are breaking and we are deeply, deeply saddened,” said university president Gregory L. Fenves.“It was an incredibly difficult time for them—unimaginable,” he said. “Mrs. Brown talked about her son Harrison and how much he loved being a Longhorn in his first year here.”

I honestly don’t know what the answer to this puzzle might be. However, I am certain that proper security procedures on campus, and off, have likely saved untold number of people the pain and anguish that follows when someone with mental health issues has a weapon of choice in their possession.

It is incumbent upon lawmakers and campus officials to go beyond the pale of finding ways and means to secure every corner of the campus. While cost is a factor, students’ safety is the goal.

This article originally appeared in the June 2017 issue of Security Today.

About the Author

Ralph C. Jensen is editor-in-chief of Security Today magazine.

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