I had a gun pointed at my head the day of the UMC ‘active shooter’

The university should have handled this better

The foot traffic at the UMC on Wednesday, October 5th was unusually high due to the semester’s career fair, where the university hosted over 100 companies. Students printed out dozens of resumes only to leave them at the tables of the Glenn Miller ballroom as they evacuated the building in sheer panic.

The entire building was evacuated, floor by floor, in response to multiple 911 calls claiming a shooter was present in the building. Hundreds of people were standing outside, and hundreds of bags left inside.

Those on the upper floors had a harder time getting out of the building and the university failed in combatting the confusion and fear. The third and fourth floors of the UMC went on lockdown.

I was on the fourth floor. Two faculty, one visitor and myself entered an office at the end of the hall, locked and barricaded the door, and hid behind the furniture. We heard screams, doors slamming, a girl scream in fear and police yelling “hands up.” No one knew what was going on a few dozen feet from us.

Neither did the university, it seemed. Less than 10 minutes after we barricaded our door with a tiny couch at 1:14pm, CU Boulder tweeted the report of the shooter was false and it was “all clear.” Meanwhile, I was crouched behind a couch in the very building they were speaking of. The situation was evidently not all clear.

We laid there for 45 minutes before the police entered our room and in a microsecond, an officer’s AR-15 was pointed at my head. If you don’t know what kind of gun that is, please find out. The officers who entered the room yelled “hands up” and “stand up slowly.” We stood up, they asked us if it was just the four of us and we said yes. They told us to keep our hands up as high as we could the entire time and walk out slowly.  The four of us descended the stairs from the fourth floor and exit the UMC at with an officer to our rear and front both holding up guns. They were in a rush and worried about the greater safety but it was terrifying. They did not inform us they were evacuating the building – that piece of information would have made the situation a lot less confusing and scary.

Students at the UMC that day were already disgruntled and unsatisfied about the choppy evacuation that seemed to induce more chaos than it calmed. The university’s subsequent press release regarding the incident, however, only added insult to injury.

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The university Chancellor Philip DiStefano along with the Chief of CU’s Police force Melissa Zak congratulated their teams on a quick and effective response to the event at the UMC. Although there was no real shooter and no evidence of any shots being fired, they praised their teams for their response to the event. Their evaluation, which they delivered to the press, was much better than I, and many other students, would have concluded.

At a time when university shootings seem to be more and more common, we all deserve to feel secure on campus. Chaotic situations are unpredictable, that is why we have response mechanisms that are intended to minimize damage and deescalate the situation with little delay. This incident reveals that our response mechanisms may have some flaws in need of correction.

While I am happy we are all physically unharmed after the evacuation, the handling of it was not exactly success, as the Chancellor reported. I had a gun pointed at my head on October 5th. The university put me in more danger than it succeeded in protecting me from.

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University of Colorado Boulder