Delaware College Reacts Quickly to Campus Shooting

Published: December 5, 2007

DOVER, Del. – When the Sept. 21 shooting occurred at Delaware State University (DSU), the campus’ Chief of Police James Overton and his staff reacted promptly to protect the students who had been shot, as well as the campus community as a whole. Colleagues from around the nation praised the team for their quick response.

The incident occurred shortly before 1 a.m. A group of students were leaving the campus café when they heard gunshots. One student was targeted, and two innocent bystanders were hit. Seventeen-year-old freshmen Nathaniel Pugh III and Shalita Middleton were injured. Pugh was shot in the ankle and Middleton wounded in the abdomen. Middleton died from internal injuries related to the shooting. The shooter was identified as 18-year-old freshman Loyer D. Braden.

Verbal, Written Warnings Quickly Issued

According to Overton, upon hearing about the incident, Residential Life immediately sent a verbal warning out to students living in the residence halls informing them to stay inside their rooms until all was cleared by authorities. An hour later, a written warning was distributed throughout the campus. Notification was posted on the school’s Web page as well. Access into the school was suspended temporarily until officials could gather more information about the case. According to the chief, the school was already in limited access mode because visitors can only enter and exit through the main entrance after 8 p.m. Throughout the day, campus police chose to maintain the same policy, requesting that visitors show valid identification and provide a reason for entry. This is the same procedure used during the regular evening hours when classes are not in session. Classes were canceled for the day.

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Outside agencies, including the local police department and the FBI were quick to respond as well. “We had assistance immediately from the Dover Police Department,” says Overton. “They sent uniform officers to help us out, and State Police responded.” DSU’s public safety department was also able to contact the secretary of Homeland Security and the state director through the use of the Delaware Information Analysis Center (DIAC) to inform them of everything happening with the investigation. Additionally, NASCAR had scheduled an event to take place during the weekend at a facility not too far from DSU. The event brought out the FBI, Marshall Service and ATF. After hearing about the shooting, the agencies responded without delay, says Overton. The Sprint/Nextel Company also contributed their services to aid the situation. The company offered 47 programmed phones so each of the agencies could communicate with each other.

Security Camera Footage Helps with Investigation

Advantech Inc., an electronic integrator that regularly works with DSU, retrieved the video footage from the surveillance system and made surveillance DVDs at 5:30 a.m. Overton and company then reviewed the information to conduct the investigation to look for clues and witnesses. Overton says this tactic helped authorities capture the suspect.

The International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators, Inc. (IACLEA) commended the DSU Police Department and Administration for its prompt response to the episode. In a statement, IACLEA stated that “campus public safety leaders must constantly examine and strengthen the training they provide to their officers and staff to ensure that they are doing all they can to protect the precious lives entrusted to them.”

Chief Overton agrees. Although he is pleased with how quickly his team responded, he also knows that there is also room for improvement. He says the university is looking into improving the mass communication system. “I wrote a grant through COPS for an outdoor notification system. We’re hoping to get the grant so we can get a mass notification system outdoors, almost like a loudspeaker type of situation,” he said. The school is also looking into a program that involves text messaging important information to students, staff and faculty. And while he is extremely grateful to Sprint/Nextel for their assistance, he believes that a communication system should already be in place prior to an incident, so the system can be activated immediately.

The chief also stresses that the response was not a one-man show. “It was a group effort and we really learned a lot from this.”

As for the suspect, Braden was charged with attempted murder, reckless endangerment and assault, and gun possession. At press time, he was being held at $192,000 bond.

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