“Shots fired on campus. The last thing you’d expect to hear.” This is the first line from a video Butler University Police Department tweeted Friday evening outlining the options someone has if faced with an active shooter situation.
BUPD Assistant Chief of Police Andy Ryan said the message of the video, “Shots Fired,” is to either get out, protect yourself or to make the decision of whether or not you will fight.
This tweet, combined with the shooting at Purdue University on Jan. 21, has raised a question for the community: Do Butler students really know what to do if shots are fired?
The basic procedure for BUPD when dealing with an active shooter starts with a phone call.
Butler Assistant Chief of Police Bill Weber said that when someone calls dispatch reporting an active shooter, every officer on campus drops what they are doing and quickly responds to the scene.
“It’s any officer’s natural reaction to get to the scene as fast as possible and go toward the gun shots,” Weber said.
Once the officers are at the scene, they must search for the threat. Weber said not a lot of people understand that they cannot stop to help anyone who is hurt.
“If there’s somebody lying in a hallway and they’re bleeding, we’re just going to go right past them,” Weber said. “You go where the threat is.”
In the event of a crisis, students are automatically notified by a main default for information: email. If a student has signed up for Dawg Alert, they will receive a text and a voice call alerting them of the situation at hand and giving further instructions.
But Weber said students will not receive an alert if there is only a report of a shooting. Officers are given the chance to investigate the scene before making the decision to alert campus.
“If someone called and said, ‘Hey, there’s a man with a gun,’ we’re not going to immediately start sending out alerts,” Weber said. “You can imagine the havoc that would be caused. If we did find somebody, we would deal with it.”
As for students and faculty, the procedure is less clear.
Butler students and staff have not gone through formal Butler training to prepare for an active shooter situation. English professor Carol Reeves said she understands why.
“It would be hard to prepare us,” Reeves said. “I understand why they have not given us any training, because these are random events.”
Reeves would, however, want such training.
“I feel that there could be some workshops, brochures or a guide,” Reeves said.
Freshman Kyra Sanford said she wishes the university would give students a generalized protocol for what to do.
“I want to know what you’re supposed to do during a lockdown,” Sanford said. “Butler’s never said anything about it to us. We knew in high school, so why not here?”
Ryan said there is a possible plan for this summer to help train staff across the university how to react to an active shooter. Discussions for this will start in the middle of next week, Ryan said.
Neither Weber nor Ryan can give a cookie-cutter answer as to what a student or professor should do when faced with an active shooter situation.
“I can’t provide a one-size-fits all answer,” Weber said. “For example, let’s say a shooter came into Atherton near the bulldog (in front of the building). You’re at Starbucks and you were told (previously) to get into a building and hide. In that case, I want you to get out of the building. But those people on the third floor would have to decide to get out or lock their doors.”
Ryan said that one must look at his or her available options and decide whether he or she is going to fight.
“If a shooter came into my classroom, my response would be to start throwing chairs and things at them, versus letting someone shoot me,” Ryan said. “If there’s 30 people in a classroom rushing the shooter at once, chances are there’s going to be some collateral damage, but not everyone’s going to die.”
Reeves said she would put the students before herself.
“I don’t know the extent (of damage) a 125-pound English teacher could be on tackling somebody with a semi-automatic, but I’ll tell you that I wouldn’t hesitate to create a distraction,” Reeves said. “I mean it when I say that my students’ lives are more important than mine.”
Sanford said she doesn’t know what she would do.
“I’d be scared, so I would probably just sit there and stare at them,” Sanford said. “I guess I’d try to hide if I knew what to do.”
Both Weber and Reeves agree that envisioning a threat and planning would one’s response would help a person in the moment.
“I’m a worrier,” Reeves said. “I think, ‘If I heard a gun shot, what would I do?’ You can be traumatized by worry or you can make plans. Having a plan makes me feel better.”
The Butler community experienced a shooting threat on campus in 2012 during parents’ weekend. Two people robbed a nearby CVS and turned into the heart of campus when police pursued them. The two jumped out of their cars, ran in different directions and were eventually caught by BUPD and the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department.
In that case, the school was put on lockdown. BUPD can control ID access doors from the police department. They can lock all of those doors so that either no one can get in the doors or only those with IDs can.
Another situation is 100 percent lockdown. Weber said that would require more time because an officer would have to go around and physically lock all non-card access entrances.
To prevent a possible threat, Reeves said the community needs to be observant and reach out to fellow students.
“You can pay attention and try to reach out to people who seem troubled and offer kindness,” Reeves said. “I think that kindness, observance and generosity in our community may be the main tools we have to prevent these kinds of actions.”
The reporting of suspicious student behavior goes through The Assessment and Care Team. This team is a group that gets together to discuss students who have been reported and think about how to get them engaged.
Ryan said it is better to say something than to not and have something bad happen.
“A lot of cases when someone has been involved in a shooting, there have been indicators or warning signs that there’s something wrong with this person,” Ryan said. “It doesn’t hurt to be cautious. Just because they’re acting in a weird way doesn’t mean they’re a threat to the community, but in the bigger picture, we need to look out for them.”
In the aftermath of a shooting, the Counseling and Consultation Services utilizes the Butler University Response Team. Shana Markle, associate director and CCS practicum coordinator, said the team responds to critical events and gives support to students.
“Our role at CCS would be to support that team,” Markle said. “This might mean going to a classroom on the days following an event, meeting with groups of students involved in the crisis, having extra staff available for walk-in appointments, or extend the hours we are available for students immediately following a crisis.”
Markle said psychological impacts can occur to students who have witnessed a shooting.
“In general, it’s expected that experiencing a shooting could lead to heightened fear, anger, shock and even guilt,” Markle said.
Ryan suggests that all students watch the video “Shots Fired” to better prepare themselves. The video can be found on BUPD’s website.