Forty-four years ago, a man named Charles Whitman terrorized the University of Texas campus when he climbed up into the school bell tower and went on a sniping rampage, leaving 16 people dead and 31 more people wounded.
Yesterday, we were reminded of that haunted day as the University of Texas was again shut down when 19-year-old math Sophomore, Colton Tooley, fired shots from an assault rifle near the fountain in front of the UT Tower and then ran into the Perry-Castaneda Library to escape. No one other than Colton was injured. Tooley ended the episode by turning the gun on himself:
On its website, the university reported at 9:43 a.m. CDT that “a suspected shooter in PCL Library is dead,” a reference to the Perry-Castaneda Library, the main library on the sprawling campus. “Law enforcement are searching for a second suspect. If you are off campus, STAY AWAY. If you are on campus, lock doors, do not leave your building.”
Here is a screen capture from the University of Texas Emergency Information page earlier in the day:
The text read as follows : The university is open. Active shooter reported: last seen at Perry Castaneda Library (PCL) and UTC. UTPD responding. Stay in place, lock doors.
Many of the early reports of the shooting came via Twitter which simultaneously lends some credibility to Twitter as it confirms people turn to Twitter in a time of crisis.
A little bit later, with the library shooter having shot himself, the Emergency page updated with the following notice :
The university is closed.
The university is locked down. All organized classes for today, Sept. 28, are canceled. If you are off campus, stay away. If you are on campus, lock your doors and do not leave your building. Law enforcement are searching for a second suspect.
Announced September 28, 2010 at 11:20 am
We cannot help but think of the deadly Virginia Tech shooting from 2007 that shook us to our core as we wondered what would possess a person to place such a low value on human life that it could just be dispensed so easily.
Earlier in the day, police at the University of Texas were searching for a second suspect. Differing descriptions of the gunman led the police to believe that someone other than the Library shooter was involved. Police ultimately gave the all clear and found that there was no second shooter.
What is to be done when people become fearful to attend places of higher learning because of terrifying incidents like this? How can we prevent another tragedy like the University of Texas shooting?