Notices about security shouldn’t take 10 hours

Finding a man with two guns on USF’s campus is scary. When it happens a mere eight days after the tragic events at Virginia Tech, it’s horrifying. When USF doesn’t notify its students of the event until nearly 10 hours later, it’s frustrating – very frustrating.

And USF’s reasons for not informing its students and faculty were, frankly, not good enough.

The campus wasn’t in any danger, according to University Police spokesman Meg Ross. Cloal Lang Leatherman was found at 3:58 a.m. sleeping in his car beside a Rossi .38 caliber handgun, a Snake Charmer .410 shotgun, ammunition and a survival knife. He has no affiliation with USF, and it’s unknown why he was there. At press time, he was being held in the Orient Road Jail. Although he was originally given a $2,000 bond, it was revoked Tuesday night for unknown reasons, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Web site.

It would appear, therefore, that a man sleeping in his car – who just happened to have guns on him – decided to park for the night in the wrong place. He was then caught and placed under arrest for possession of a firearm on school property, which is a felony of the third degree, punishable by not more than five years imprisonment, according to Florida statutes.

That may not be a good enough explanation for USF students, however. It wasn’t good enough for Jamie Smith, whose letter to the editor appears in today’s paper. She wrote, “Regardless of whether this man intended to use the weapons, I insist that anyone on campus between the time that (Leatherman) arrived and the time that he was arrested was, in fact, endangered.”

It’s difficult to disagree with her. It’s also difficult to reconcile the fact that Leatherman was placed under arrest around 4 a.m., but according to Smith and other students, no notification was sent out until around 1:30 p.m., when University officials sent out a campus-wide e-mail. Since it’s USF’s contention that a full disclosure of the events would have caused panic and a full disclosure would not have fit in a text message, the University waited.

But the University could have done better. It could have sent out a text message saying, “Man with guns arrested on campus.” It could have – indeed, should have – sent out the campus-wide e-mail sooner.

Even though no one was hurt in this instance, no one will ever know what would have happened if Leatherman had more malevolent intentions.