Text message warns Witt students about suspect with gun on campus Click-2-Listen

By Bridgette Outten , Michelle Everhart

Staff Writer

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

SPRINGFIELD — A text message alerted Wittenberg University students about an armed suspect on campus late Tuesday night.

Wittenberg Police Chief Carl Loney said one or two airsoft guns were recovered. The guns shoot soft projectiles and are considered a weapon banned from campus. The campus has a "zero-tolerance" policy on all weapons, Loney said.

The text message about the incident went out to students at 10:41 p.m. and read, "FR: Wittenberg emergency SUBJ: Armed suspect MSG: new residence hall; suspect, blonde male with spiked hair. See e-mail follow up."
A witness called Wittenberg police around 10:15 p.m. and said someone had what appeared to be a gun going into the new residence hall with a group of people. The witness said the person cocked something and said "This won't take too long," according to police radio traffic.

Wittenberg and Springfield police responded to the building at the corner of Cassilly Street and Woodlawn Avenue. They surrounded the building and began searching for the group. At least a dozen Springfield and Wittenberg cruisers lined the streets around the residence hall.

Police got a description of the vehicle that the group got out of and determined the owner lived in the new residence hall.

Springfield and Wittenberg police took four men and one woman away from the residence hall in handcuffs. All are Wittenberg students, Loney said.

"We were able to secure these people quickly and return the building to normal," Loney said.

Charges, whether criminal or with the university, have yet to be determined, Loney said.

During preliminary interviews, police found out the apprehended students were participating in a birthday prank, Loney said.

A second text message was sent at 11:05 p.m. and read, "FR: Wittenberg emergency SUBJ: Armed suspect update. MSG: All subjects have been apprehended and the weapons recovered. No threats were made. See e-mail follow up."

Wittenberg began offering the emergency text message in September. The service, through e2Campus, allows university officials to transmit a message to thousands of cell phones in a matter of minutes. The university offered the service after the Virginia Tech shootings in April where a student killed 32 people before committing suicide.

Wittenberg student Alex Wendt, 19, signed up for the alert system, saying it was a good idea and that police response Tuesday night was fast.

"I was kind of shocked to say the least," Wendt said about the text message.

Cory Shoemaker heard about the incident as he was coming back from his fraternity house.

"I was impressed with Wittenberg and Springfield police," Shoemaker said.

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