Lockdown or evacuate? Confusion follows Friday gunfire

By Inkwell Editorial Board

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) and Armstrong officials continue to investigate a shooting incident that took place Friday, Sept. 18, at Armstrong’s main campus.

Armstrong police say that at approximately 3 a.m., an individual entered a dorm in the Compass Point 8000 building and fired a single gunshot. No one was hurt. After a conducted search, Armstrong officials determined that there was not a larger threat to campus. Friday classes began as normal and the university operated under regular business hours. According to officials, the act was not random, but now both the GBI and Armstrong are seeking who is responsible and why.

Armstrong President Dr. Linda Bleicken met with the SGA and Faculty Senate Monday, Sept. 22, to review Armstrong’s Crisis Communication Plan. In a letter to the Armstrong community, Bleicken writes, “This incident allows us to identify weak spots and address them through a comprehensive debrief process incorporating valuable feedback from students, parents, faculty, staff, alumni, and supporters.”

A number of students were upset with how the university presented the news. The first notification from BLAST, Armstrong’s emergency communication system,  was sent more than an hour after the shot was fired. Armstrong Police Chief Wayne Willcox says he was “concerned that alerting students at the time of the initial response could have increased the risk to the students if they came out of their apartments while the police were searching the campus…This was the safest option in my opinion.”

The first message at 4:24 a.m. implored students to evacuate campus immediately if they could do so. However, information on Armstrong’s website stated that the university was on lockdown.

Multiple offices and organizations on campus are responding to the incident by offering opportunities to learn more about the incident, as well as to raise awareness on gun and campus safety. On the same day that the shot was fired, the Division of Student Affairs notified the Armstrong body that trained staff members were available to talk to students and answer questions. Staff members were also available throughout the following weekend and counselors continue to be available for anyone needing assistance.

Armstrong Student Government Association (SGA) President, Matthias Downs, notes that SGA has planned events in order to “provide the students [with] venues to learning proactive measures they can take if such an event were to happen again.” On Thursday, Sept. 24, SGA will partner with Armstrong Police and Student Affairs for an Active Shooter presentation in the Ogeechee Theater. If you are unable to attend, other Active Shooter presentations will be available in the future.

Thursday, Oct. 1, at 12 p.m., students are invited to the Student Union Ballroom for a speed meeting. This will give students a chance to share their concerns with administrators before SGA’s town hall meeting Thursday, Nov. 5. Matthias says, “These are just a few things [that] SGA is doing to address the incident that occurred last week and to ensure the students of our campus continue to have a positive experience at Armstrong.”

Anyone who has any information regarding Friday’s event is asked to call the University Police Department at (912) 344-3333.

The Inkwell editorial board will continue to investigate the incident and address student concerns.