An armed juvenile was arrested after he and three others were asked to leave the Tinkham Veale University Center on Saturday, Feb. 24. While no individuals were harmed, the incident raised concerns about its nature and Case Western Reserve University’s response.
The campus community was not informed of the situation or its impact until the CWRU Division of Public Safety issued an email two days later. However, it reported to The Observer there are certain procedures which CWRU police officers must follow when disclosing information regarding incidents like that in question.
According to the Division of Public Safety, “The nature and amount of information about an incident that can be discussed publicly varies widely. Among the factors involved include the status of the investigation—that is, ongoing or closed; the ages of those involved (adult or juvenile); and conditions of those who may have been injured.”
Marilyn Sexton, a TVUC student-worker and fourth-year student, was working at the building’s information desk when the incident occurred. She described her experience via Facebook post on her personal Facebook page on Feb. 24, just hours after the youths were asked to leave the building.
While she did not witness the situation unfold, she noticed police officers rush into the building and ask the young men to leave. According to Sexton, one of the youths questioned the officer, and then attempted to enter Thwing Center; he was told to stay out of the building.
Sexton said it was not until hours later that she learned one of the individuals was armed, despite efforts to obtain information sooner.
An excerpt of her Facebook post reads: “It has been over [three] hours since the boys were inside of TVUC with a gun, and over [two] hours since one was arrested. As a student, I have received no notification (security alert/report or email) informing me that there was a gun inside one of the CWRU buildings.”
At the time Sexton published her account, neither the Division of Public Safety nor the university itself had reported the incident to the campus community. It was not until Feb. 26 at 12:25 p.m., two days later, that the Division of Public Safety issued a security alert.
According to the alert, on Saturday, Feb. 24, the four juveniles were observing and touching various auction items, which were on display for a fundraising event that took place in the building the same night. A security guard who noticed their behavior approached the individuals and asked them to leave.
After the individuals departed, the guard, still concerned, contacted campus police.
The alert stated, “Officers apprehended the juveniles south of the TVUC and discovered that one, 13 years of age, was carrying an unloaded handgun and a separate single bullet. That individual was arrested immediately; the others were held until their parents or legal guardians could retrieve them.”
It concluded by advising “all members of the university community to be aware of their surroundings on campus,” and then listed the Division of Public Safety’s emergency contact information.
Pointing out that the facility is open to the public, Sexton’s concerns regarding the Division of Public Safety’s delayed response were heightened.
“I’m kind of torn about it because I think it’s great that [TVUC is] open to the public,” she said. “[CWRU builds] these awesome buildings and [has] all these resources and sharing them with others should be a good thing, but right now, I’m still questioning if that’s the right thing.”
Due to legal implications, though, the Division of Public Safety was unable to release a statement at the time, considering certain determinations had yet to been made.
“It is imperative that no communications jeopardize an investigation, prosecution or negatively affect the safety of the community in any other way,” the Division of Public Safety stated.
Sexton, who left the information desk to “gather [herself]” after the juveniles left, pointed out the implications of this incident in the context of the recent public shootings, which have put gun control in the national spotlight.
“I think a lot of the emotions I was feeling were because of the fact that gun control and usage of guns is such a national-level problem that is being, or trying to be addressed, at least,” she said. “I think that invoked a lot of the anxiety and everything else I was feeling.”
The Division of Public Safety said that in situations where the police can not divulge information for circumstantial reasons, the Division “will notify the community immediately when it becomes aware of an ongoing threat to the campus. Additional communications will be provided should the location or nature of the threat change, and also when the threat has passed.”
It added, “These communications also will provide guidance if members of the community should avoid certain areas, remain indoors or follow other directions to help maintain their safety.”
The Division of Public Safety did confirm that no threat was posed to the campus community on Saturday or Sunday, and that CWRU chose to issue the email alert after it became clear that misinformation began circulating.
“Our top priority is to maintain the safety of the campus,” the Division of Public Safety said. “In some instances, that responsibility may mean that community members receive less information than they would like right away.”
Additional reporting by Kushagra Gupta, Director of Print.