Campus assault explained by Chief Morris

By Jazzminn Morecraft, Branden Hopper and Andrew Doran

Wednesday, Oct. 31 was not just a normal day for CI. “On Oct. 31, at about 11 a.m., we received a report that an assault had taken place inside the Bell Tower, on the second floor, inside the restroom,” said Michael Morris, Chief of Police at CI. He went on to explain that they did not learn about the firearm until they were tending to the victim.

“We weren’t dispatched to an incident that involved a gun, we were dispatched to an assault,” said Morris. “When we got there, it was when we were interviewing the victim that we learned that there was a firearm involved.”

It is important to know that this was not an active shooter situation. It was an assault in which a firearm was brandished.

“It is important to know that although the firearm was involved in this incident, the firearm was not used to assault the victim and the firearm was never discharged,” said Morris.

After finding out this information multiple things started to happen. First, an immediate search for the suspect was launched. Assistance was called from the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, as well as CI police officers that were off duty. In addition, messages were released over the loud speakers across campus as well as to students’ email and to any additional devices or numbers that students have in their CI emergency alert settings.

Besides stating when and where everything happened, the initial message also described the suspect as a female of medium complexion, 24-25 years old. It was said she was wearing a gray shirt, black pants and gray Converse shoes. It also described the firearm as a silver handgun and that the suspect was last seen fleeing the second story of the Bell Tower.  They encouraged students to stay away from the area call 911 immediately if they saw the suspect. Lastly, they informed students that classes would be cancelled for the remainder of the day and advised students not to come to campus.

“[Canceling classes] ended up helping us and making it easier because with classes being canceled, the people who were here began to dissipate and no additional people where coming here. So the population on campus shrunk significantly, which gave us a better ability to search and ultimately come to a very strong conclusion that the threat [was] no longer here,” said Morris. “We were able to clear all the buildings and make sure that this person was not here anymore.”

However, students voiced their concern at the delay in receiving this information. As the incident took place around 11 a.m. and students were not informed until around noon.

“I heard through a friend when the incident occurred in the bathroom, said Vanessa Urrutia, a senior and resident of Anacapa Village. “However, I was confused and not sure what to do because the school didn’t release a statement until an hour after I had heard. So, it was upsetting to know that it took so long”

“There had been a delay from the time the incident happened until it was reported to the police,” said Morris. “That coupled with the vague description of the suspect, made it really difficult to locate our suspect.”

Students also felt that they were not given clear instructions on what to do and how to handle this situation.

“We intentionally did not give instructions for people to either evacuate or to shelter in place. That was very intentional. Our effort was to provide people with the information that exists, so that they have the ability to assess their own environment and make independent decisions to keep themselves safe,” said Morris. “We are going to give you the information and depending on where you are in relation to the threat, individuals need to make their own decision as to whether they are going to run or hide or fight.”

In addition to these concerns, once the message was released there was a mass exit of students trying to leave the campus.

“We intentionally didn’t order an evacuation of the campus, and so we knew some people would leave and some people would stay,” said Morris. “What we didn’t anticipate was that the number of people that chose to leave would do so at the same time.”

When word got to the police that there was a traffic jam, they were all in the center of campus trying to locate the suspect. The police sent their Community Service Officers to direct traffic and get rid of the traffic jam.

“By that time the mess was already there. Once you have that kind of grid lock it takes a while to get rid of,” said Morris. “Our preference would have been to be able to get traffic control efforts in place earlier so that it doesn’t actually become a parking lot on the streets.”

The last major question that students have is why the school didn’t go on lockdown. Chief Morris explained that a public college campus is different from elementary schools and high schools that do this drill. In these type of schools the grounds are smaller and more compact and there are usually fences around the property as well as few points of entry. Additionally, the students are minors, and teachers and staff know who should and should not be on the property. The situation is easier to control.

He further explained, CI is a public institution and our grounds are more spread out, open to the general public at all times and people can come and go as they please. Additionally, the students here are adults, so the situation is harder to control.

“It is absolutely impossible to lock down this campus, we can’t do it,” said Morris. “Now, within our campus, individual buildings and groups have the ability to shelter themselves in place. They can do that, they can make those decisions to do that.”

Some areas did choose to shelter in place, for example the Student Union.

Morris reiterated his goal of keeping student’s safe and making improvements in processes relating to incidents such as this.

 “We strive for continuous improvement in anything we do. In any type of response we are always going to identify some things we would have liked to have done more effectively.”

He welcomes all feedback that students have.

There are steps everyone can take to prepare themselves in case an incident like this ever happens again.

First, students, faculty and staff can update their CI emergency alert settings.

“Every student and every employee is already enrolled in [this] system, but only with their campus email address,” said Morris.

Students can add their cell phone number to receive phone calls as well as text messages when events like this happen. Additionally, they can add numbers and emails of loved ones so that they receive the same information at the same time. This can be done in the myCI portal.

Students can also take the active shooter training that is offered by the CI police department.

“Our plan is still to have [an active shooter training] for students this semester and I would encourage every student to enroll in the class,” stated Chief Morris.

This course goes over what an active shooter is, the run, hide, fight method and how to be aware wherever you are.

“Because of the incident on Wednesday, there is a heightened level of awareness of this class and the demand for the class has increased,” said Morris. “Our plan is that as the demand exists, we will put on as many active shooter courses this semester as we need to, to satisfy that demand.”

Lastly, Chief Morris stated, “I think it is important for students to understand that their safety is our top priority and we take campus safety very, very seriously.”

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