Review: Virginia campus police responding to shooter did not have floor plans

By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Campus police responding to an active shooter on the Northern Virginia Community College campus in Woodbridge last fall did not have floor plans or master keys to enter rooms or buildings, and 36 of the 45 security cameras on campus were not working, according to internal reports the college has released.

Police allege that a freshman math student, Jason M. Hamilton, walked into a classroom with a .30-06 rifle Dec. 8 and fired two shots at his instructor. He missed. The gun then jammed, and as terrified students fled the room, Hamilton reportedly leaned the rifle against a wall, sat down and waited for police to arrive. His trial is set for August.

College president Robert G. Templin Jr. ordered an "After Incident Review" from the Office of Emergency Planning and also appointed a commission to review safety and security practices across the college's various sites in Prince William, Loudoun and Fairfax counties and in Alexandria. The college posted the commission's 16-page report on its Web site last week, but the after-incident review was contained in an appendix that must be requested from the college. Neither report contains any discussion of the incident itself.

John Dever, the college's executive vice president for academic and student services, chaired the commission. He said the college took many security steps after the 2007 Virginia Tech shootings, "and all of that was severely tested on Dec. 8. In many ways, we came through well," particularly in communication with Prince William police. He said the commission recommended strengthening mental health treatment and coordination among campus emergency responders.

The commission report notes that business managers on each of the college's six campuses are also the designated emergency response coordinators, and suggested that they have limited time to focus on security and probably have insufficient training. "The college needs to clarify organizational responsibilities," the report concluded.

The report states that the college is installing locks on all classroom doors that can be operated by those inside the rooms. Two of the campuses, in Springfield and Annandale, also are having electronic card access devices installed on doors to the buildings.

After the December incident, students said they weren't given good information on what was happening and whether they should evacuate or stay where they were. The commission said the college was installing an Early Alert Warning System in Woodbridge and Springfield that can be heard anywhere in campus buildings, but that there wasn't enough money for similar systems on other campuses.

The report also said that only nine of the 45 security cameras on campus were operating at the time of the shooting, and that the software used to run the cameras "is not reliable." Efforts have begun to monitor the system and replace the software, officials said.

The after-incident review, in addition to stating that campus police did not have keys to handle room-by-room searches, said that officers were too busy to activate emergency alerts to the campus community. It also noted that "the campus was not prepared to immediately issue emergency alerts" and that the "limited access and functionality" of the security cameras "made situational awareness difficult."

Staff writer Jennifer Buske contributed to this report.

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