Lockdown Logistics

After a long week of fear, St. Catherine tries to recover.

Walking back from the gym at St. Catherine University with a friend Tuesday September 12, first-year  Bre Daoust had no way of knowing that across campus at 9:25 p.m. an officer reported to have been shot. After half an hour of being outside, Daoust was told by a third party that an university security officer had been shot.

            “You had no idea what was happening,” Daoust said. “We expected the worst. It was really terrifying.”

Daoust explained that an hour after finding out about the shooting, word got out that they should go inside and stay inside. The next morning the lockdown was lifted and students were told there was no threat of a shooter. The same day St. Catherine held a conference to discuss safety, but no answers were still given until the St. Paul Police released information and University President Becky Roloff sent out an announcement that night.

The St. Paul Police had arrested a St. Catherine University Public Safety Officer, Brent Patrick Ahlers who reported being shot. Ahler is expected to have misdemeanor charges for falsely reporting a crime filed against him. Like Hamline, St. Catherine University prohibits weapons on campus. University Public Safety Officers are not permitted to carry guns. The weapon involved was reported by the St. Paul Police to be Ahler’s own weapon and while handling it, the gun accidently discharged.

            “So much emotion wasted,” Daoust said, when asked how they felt when they learned the full story. “We were scared for our life and really there was no threat at all.”

When asked about communication from the school and St. Catherine’s Safety and Security Department, Daoust said there was not any until an hour after the incident when they were told to go inside.

            “A lot of people found out by family members and social media,” Daoust said.

They said that St. Catherine had an alert app put into place to notify people when emergencies happen on campus, but that students had a hard time utilizing it.

“Barely anyone had the app, or a phone on them,” Daoust said. “Most people found out by a third person…. A solid half an hour happened [with no information].”

            Daoust believes that communication should have been better the night of the incident.

            “They should have [told us about the threat] as soon as they found out, and told at least head staff, if not students.”

            Hamline University also has an app put into place for emergency alerts called HU Alert. This alert system can send texts and emails to students on the system. Along with emails, HU Alert is Hamline’s Safety and Security’s main form of communication to students.

            “All faculty, staff and students are automatically enrolled into [HU Alert],” Director of Safety and Security at Hamline University, Andrea Vircks said. “But weather information changes, such as your cell phone number or you want to add additional numbers, that’s on the end user to change the information.”

            At the moment Hamline University doesn’t have a communication system put into place with all the schools around them for emergencies such as an active shooter, but since this incident, Hamline and its sister universities are trying to add each other to their alert systems.

            When asked if Hamline University would be locked down if an active shooter was on campus, Vircks responded that the technology is not in place to remotely lock down every building on campus.

            “We would lock down as much as we could, but [Safety and Security] doesn’t have card access to every external door, so that makes it difficult, so ‘locking down’ would be an officer physically locking every door. There’s a lot of what ifs, so depending on the situation we would make decisions based on information and lock down what we could if we could safely.”

            Vircks explained that in any situation, Hamline’s Safety and Security would try to give as much information that they can give everyone on campus to stay safe.

            “Our goal is to communicate as much as we can as quickly as we can,” Vircks said, “But we also need to be thoughtful to what we are sending out to the community and that we are doing our due diligence of sending out accurate information.”

In an active shooter situation, Vircks says that St. Paul Police would be called right away and that they advise everyone to use the technique of Run-Hide-Fight. If you can run to safety, do so, if you cannot, hide and if hiding isn’t an option, fight.

“St. Kates has a lot of healing to do,” Vircks said. “It’s good to have these conversations and to have these conversations before an incident like this ever happens, but it’s also good to understand the importance to come together as a community and support one another…. My hope would be to have that open dialogue come from a place of curiosity and real support of each other in that public safety department… It’s important for that community to come together and Hamline is that community.”