Thursday, February 26, 2009

Students Brandish Airsoft Guns in Suites

Around 3:00 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 8, 2009, several students occupied Providence College's Suites Hall Pavilion, threatening passing students with what appeared to be real guns. Although it was later determined that the guns were not real, students who encountered the scene were uncertain whether or not they might be in danger.

According to students who witnessed this display of potential violence, there were about five or six students carrying the airsoft guns. Several students kept an eye on the situation from the third floor of Suites Hall, which overlooks the pavilion through a glass window.

Stephanie Kanniard said that one student pointed an airsoft gun at her and told her that she "better run" when she entered the Suites Pavilion.

"I had just walked into the Suites, so I did what they said and kept walking," said Kanniard.

"The guns looked pretty real," said one witness who requested anonymity. "They didn't look like airsoft guns or anything at first glance."

The student reported what he saw to his resident assistant, who later went down to the pavilion to investigate.

"I guess the RA found out that the guns weren't real, but when we asked him, he refused to tell us," said another anonymous student. "So for all we know, those airsoft guns could have been real."

Many students said that they were frustrated with the way the resident assistants handled the ordeal.

"I think they should have made some sort of report about the incident," said Kelly Sheehan '11.

"If they can tell us when someone's purse gets stolen off campus, why can't they tell us about something that happens in our dorm?" said Kiley Phelan '11.

Major Jack Leyden, executive director of the Office of Safety and Security, said that his office was only contacted once on Sunday morning. According to Leyden, two students were reported to be shooting air guns in front of Suites Hall on Feb. 8 at 3:37 a.m.

"Officers responded and located the two students walking toward Fennell Hall," said Leyden. "The weapons were confiscated and found to be plastic airsoft pistols."

According to Leyden, the students were only shooting at each other, based on a report from a witness.

"The students were referred to Student Conduct," said Leyden. "These airsoft guns are not allowed on campus."

"With all the recent school violence, this activity is taken very seriously," said Leyden.

However, this was the only incident reported to the Office of Safety and Security on Sunday morning. According to Leyden, there were no reported incidents inside the pavilion.

Students are still wondering exactly what happened in the Suites Pavilion that morning and why the Office of Safety and Security had no record of it.

"Clearly something happened in the pavilion," an anonymous student said. "There was an RA there. So why doesn't the security office have any information?"

The student also said he believes that RAs should be required to give out information that pertains to student safety.

"For all they tell the students, the guns in the study lounge could have been real," the student said. "If there was a threat to students, I think the campus should be made aware. We don't need to know the students' names, just that something happened."

Leyden said that the Office of Safety and Security has a procedure in the event that there is a gunman reported on campus. According to Leyden, a supervisor is notified immediately to respond to the area, and then officers are deployed to set up a perimeter. Then, the Providence Police and Fire Departments are notified, with appropriate communication between these departments and the PC Office of Safety and Security.

Leyden said that the next step would be to contact the executive director and the director of Emergency Management. The final step is preparation for activation of the College's Emergency Notification System, overseen by Koren Kanadanian, director of Emergency Management.

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