On Wednesday, February 19th, 2020, students were startled when they heard gunshots on Northampton Avenue, across the street from the Magna Dorm building. The shooting took place around 4:15 PM. Then at 4:30 PM, there was a report of shots fired on Andrew St. AIC students in Amaron were asked to remain inside while Springfield Police Department took a suspect related to the second shooting into custody.
All students and staff, even those who were not on the main campus, were notified by campus security through both text message and email when these events took place. The text gave some information about the suspects and what car they could be driving, an orange Jeep Wrangler.
One person had serious injuries during the shooting. Ultimately four suspects were arrested relating to the two incidents, although two of the arrests were ultimately deemed unrelated, according to WLLP. The identities of these suspects have been released by the police.
The shooting has caused some talk around campus about the safety of the students.
Sarah Tomczyk, a first-year new media student, was outside when the shooting occurred. “I was outside the Arts Center waiting for the shuttle and I heard three gunshots.”
Other students were in their dorm when it happened. Some students in Magna Hall were startled, so a couple of them went to look out the window to see what was going on.
The students looked outside and saw ten police cars speeding on State Street. They didn’t realize what was going on until they all received a text from campus police.
It is important for the students here at American International College to be aware of the situation as events unfold. More shootings are taking place, and we need to be prepared for the worst. Tomczyk felt like the campus security could have done a better job communicating the situation to students.
There was some confusion as to whether students needed to shelter-in-place during the events. Lieutenant Richard Alexander, head of AIC Campus Police, said, “No shelter-in-place order was broadcast, as the situation developed, and ended, quickly.” He believes the confusion may have come when SPD officers were taking a suspect into custody and officers may have asked students in Amaron to “stay put” momentarily while they secured the area.
Lizzie Fisher, a junior majoring in occupational therapy, said, “I was on the shuttle back to Edgewood when the shooting happened. I saw the jeep and a guy running down the street being chased by a cop.”
“We were on the corner near the parking lot of Magna and State street,” another AIC student reported. “Cops were banging on the police car doors to get inside and chase the suspect. It was extremely chaotic.”
Creating a secure and stable routine, whether in the classroom, dorm rooms, dining commons, or elsewhere is important. When a crisis occurs, controlling people’s emotions is key. Drills can be used so students feel prepared for moments like this. Students need to know what can happen in the blink of an eye in order to feel safe day to day.
We, as a community and school, need to come together and make these situations as calm as possible for everyone. This will help everyone during these circumstances.
Fisher described the confusion and lack of awareness of the situation on campus. “I heard that one building was on lockdown, but people from the Hive could come and go as they pleased.”
Overall, students believed that the text message was helpful, but some felt that there was a long gap between the time the shots were fired and the text message.
The important thing is to make sure students at American International College feel as safe as possible when these situations take place. Having multiple updates for the students, faculty, and staff could give peace of mind for future events. Being safe and feeling safe in the environment is the number one thing.