Virginia Tech Lockdown
Virginia Tech was put on lockdown after three campers reported a man with a gun. Image: Flickr / virtee / CC-BY-SA

The Virginia Tech campus was put on lockdown this morning, but it has now been re-opened for normal operations. Three teenagers reported seeing a man who may have had a gun. Despite five hours of searching, authorities could not find the suspected gunman.

Reports of an unknown gunman

Four teenaged girls, about 14, were on the Virginia Tech campus for summer camps. The girls reported seeing a tall, light-haired individual near Virginia Tech dormitories with a gun, covered by fabric or a piece of clothing. Authorities believed that the girls had observed a legitimate threat and issued a campus-wide warning to stay indoors and keep doors locked. Campus authorities and police began a search for the individual described by the girls once the lockdown alert had been issued. President Obama was also briefed on the situation as it was developing.

Campus lockdown lifted

After five hours of scouring campus and the surrounding area for the alleged gunman, authorities decided to lift the Virginia Tech lockdown. No person that matched the description of the gunman was found. During the five hours of the lockdown, authorities made use of the campus-wide alert and notification system that was developed after the 2007 shooting that killed 32 and wounded another 25. Authorities, in announcing the re-opening of campus, asked individuals to “remain vigilant” and report any activity that may be seen as suspicious.

Balancing safety on campuses

After the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, the school was fined $55,000 for not alerting students and staff of the risk to their safety more quickly. The Virginia Tech incident was one of the worst campus shootings in U.S. history. For many schools, keeping an open, welcoming environment and keeping students and staff safe are difficult goals to balance. In Virginia, where public universities cannot bar guns from campus, it’s even more difficult. Today’s lockdown is the second time the Virginia Tech lockdown system has been tested and proved relatively effective.

Sources

Business Week http://www.businessweek.com/news/2011-08-04/virginia-tech-lifts-alert-after-reports-of-gunman-on-campus.html
Montreal Gazette http://www.montrealgazette.com/news/Lockdown+Virginia+Tech+ends+gunman+found/5205058/story.html
MSNBC http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/44018807/ns/us_news-crime_and_courts/?ocid=ansmsnbc11#.TjsAimOP-_0

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