Two days before Thursday’s fatal shooting of a campus police officer, CollegiateTimes.com, the Virginia Tech newspaper’s Web site, posted an article questioning the school’s alert system. After the deadly 2007 shooting on campus, the alert program went into place, and five years later, the school newspaper said the program still had issues and students had expressed dissatisfaction with it.
Coincidentally, on Thursday morning, college officials appeared at an administrative hearing in Washington to appeal a $55,000 fine imposed by the Education Department, which said the university did not appropriately alert students in 2007.
An hour after the hearing began, the first alert went out: Gunshots near the Coliseum parking lot. A gunman had shot and killed a campus police officer. Later, news went out that another body had been found in a nearby parking lot. Students were warned to shelter in place.
School officials and police announced Friday that it was being considered a case of murder-suicide, and that the second body was that of the gunman, who had killed himself. The same gun had been used in both shootings.
For hours Thursday, the school was kept on lockdown as police secured the campus. It was a short leap in memory to five years earlier, when an undergraduate went on the devastating shooting spree that killed 33 people.
But time had changed some things. This time, alerts and updates were prompt and continuous. Buildings were secured and police officers everywhere. The very question on the the student newspaper’s Web site that morning was answered that afternoon: The alert system seemed to have done its job.