7 Lessons From the Oikos U. Shooting

Last week’s shooting highlights the need for intelligence sharing, mass notification, access control, security officers, cooperation with local law enforcement and media management plans.

In the interest of providing professional and productive dialogue for breaking events, Campus Safety posts blogs about incidents that must, by their very nature, be based on incomplete information.  We encourage all readers to consider that additional and even contradictory information will sometimes become available after a thorough investigation has been completed that can alter the viewpoints of the contributors to our blog.

The murder of an administrator and six former classmates in Oikos University by a former student was the worst mass shooting in California in over two decades and possibly the first mass shooting incident in a small private university setting.

Though the investigation is in its early stages, after discussing the incident with several of our law enforcement professors, the conclusion is that there are several preliminary lessons that can be learned from this tragic event. 

The Incident

On Monday, April 2, a 43 year old former student, One Goh, walked into the private Christian Oikos University’s single-building campus. At the time of the shooting, 35 people were at the school. According to several reports and the individual’s admission, the former nursing student first took the college receptionist hostage, forcing her into a classroom. He then proceeded to kill the receptionist, six former classmates, and injure three others. The suspect then took a victim’s car and drove to a nearby supermarket several miles away. He apparently handed himself in and confessed to a grocery store security guard he had shot several people.

According to the Alameda County District Attorney, Goh had been angry at a school administrator over his unsuccessful attempt to get his tuition refunded after he voluntarily left the school last fall.

Police said he spent weeks planning to kill administrators and classmates at Oikos University who had angered him. Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan said Goh went to the school in search of a female administrator whom he felt had wronged him, and, even after being told she wasn’t there, opened fire with a semiautomatic pistol he had recently purchased.

The instructor said that Goh was an eager student but seemed mentally unstable and consumed by an inability to get along with women at a college where women made up the majority of the nursing faculty and student body.

The individual had no prior criminal record. His mother and brother died within the last 13 months.

Initial Lessons Learned

  • “Connecting the dots” and communications: There are several different accounts of the shooter’s behavior during and after his time at school. The instructor’s description of Goh’s mental state, his ongoing attempt to receive a refund for his classes and his anger about its denial, his relationship with other students, possible fellow students knowledge of his personal tragedy along with additional indicators could have arguably indicated a need for heightened campus awareness of the specific individual.
  • Mass notification: The Oikos University Web site crashed shortly after the incident and remained extremely slow three days afterward. No immediate actionable information was posted hours after the incident, and limited information existed on the Oikos Web site for several days. Similar technical capacity challenges should be expected in similar incidents to both hot lines and Web sites. Mass notification redundancy and E-mail oicemail ext capability can solve this challenge but require constant student staff and faculty information updates by the campus and headquarters.
  • Access control: The individual acted violently as soon as he entered the university. Immediate emergency means of communications (panic buttons, radios, etc) at the campus entry point and supervised entrances can shorten the response time of law enforcement and alert the campus to such a situation.
  • Security presence: The manner in which the gunman gave himself up to a grocery store security guard might indicate that campus security might have deterred him from entering the university.
  • Police response: According to several reports, police first isolated and contained the area and only then entered the university. Emergency responder familiarity with the location, structure and internal layout can save valuable response time.
  • Media response: The university had limited, if any, organized media response to the incident.
  • National media response: It appears that compared to previous incidents of this magnitude, the overall media exposure of the incident on a national level was relatively lesser then in previous campus shootings.

Oren Alter is the associate vice chancellor of crisis management at Keiser University.

Note: The views expressed by guest bloggers and contributors are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, Campus Safety magazine.

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