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Delayed alert for campus shooting leaves students apprehensive

ORACLE PHOTO/ADAM MATHIEU

Last week, a USF football player fired multiple gunshots at the exterior of the Holly D residence hall. University Police (UP) quickly assessed the situation and arrested offensive lineman Benjamin Knox. However, the university did not notify students of the incident until nearly 12 hours later, causing many to question the effectiveness of USF’s emergency notification system. 

Knox was shown on video surveillance shooting a gun at the dormitory building around 4 a.m. He was charged with discharging or possessing a firearm and shooting into an occupied dwelling. 

A student called in a report of gunshots and screeching tires around the same time a USF officer near the Greek Village became aware of the situation. The officers immediately did an initial sweep of the area where they found a parked car that contained an open gun case and a box of ammunition “in plain sight.” Tracing the vehicle to Knox was simple, and they easily located him and the weapon inside his dorm room. 

When asked why students were not notified, UP assistant Chief Chris Daniel claimed there was never anything that “indicated an ongoing threat. It’s very difficult for us to send out a message about something we have no confirmation of and really have no direction for the community or anything to tell them.”

Students, however, are not pleased with the way the situation was handled. Rachel Janeck, a freshman majoring in behavior health care, told the Oracle, “We only heard about it because people started complaining.” 

It is understandable that the police did not immediately send out a notification to students as the message could have informed Knox they were aware of the situation and caused him to run. However, waiting 12 hours to alert the community is ridiculous. 

This generation of students has grown up in a society where school shootings are prevalent. Many of us were in pre-K or kindergarten when Columbine occurred. There have been a total of 164 school shootings since that tragic day in 1999. We can recall in specific detail the anxiety felt by students across the country due to two of the larger incidences: the Virginia Tech shooting of 2007 and the Sandy Hook shooting of 2012. 

We have been told since we were old enough to begin our education to always be on guard. Never relax — any one of your peers could become the next mass murderer. We have prepped for disaster since we were 4, learning to hide under desks and stay motionless with the lights off as we wait for the signal that all was well. 

Authorities have to recognize that our mindsets are different. We desperately crave information, especially when our safety is at stake. Yes, UP did the correct thing in making sure they had a firm standing on the incident and apprehending the culprit before sending a notification that could have led to his escape. But there is no excuse for waiting so long to notify students. 

Luckily, it does not appear as if the recklessness shown by Knox was intended to hurt anyone. However, that may not always be the case and the response shown by USF is unsettling, at best. We should be able to say with confidence that university authorities will inform us if anything tragic ever does occur. 

While apprehending the culprit should always be the top priority, USF should remember who its students are. We are not naive enough to believe we will always be safe on campus, but as students, we should not have to doubt if we would be notified in the case of a real emergency.

Breanne Williams is a junior majoring in mass communications.