Dear members of the university community:
After a most thorough and exhaustive police investigation, I am greatly relieved to report that the instrument that was originally reported as a gun on November 20 at the Visual and Performing Arts Center has been positively identified as a portable light stand used by our art students.
Security cameras in the building captured photos of a professor and later a student who carried this piece of equipment under their arms as they walked down the hallway next to the classroom where a student called 911 to report seeing a man with a gun.
After examining the photos, the eyewitness and supporting witnesses who had been in the classroom acknowledged that the tripod-like light stand, and the student carrying the stand with a shoulder-slung book bag, matched the description from the 911 call. This was corroborated by additional witness accounts.
We are most grateful to Chief Roger Connor and the members of the WCSU Police Department as well as the Connecticut State Police and Danbury Police Department for both their quick response and the countless hours working to complete the investigation in a timely manner. We are most fortunate to have professionals of such high caliber devoted to our safety.
I also want to recognize our faculty, staff and especially our students for their bravery and courage during and after the event. This has been a difficult and traumatic time for us. We want to believe our university is safe and secure, and any indication that it is not causes understandable anxiety and anger. So the calm, understanding and patience displayed during this difficult and trying time is deeply appreciated and reflective of our outstanding students, faculty and staff.
However, I want to emphasize that even though this was a case of mistaken identity, we must remain vigilant. Please observe the following rule: If you see a suspicious person or activity, even if you have a doubt, CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY. The old adage of BETTER BE SAFE THAN SORRY certainly applies here at our university. In that regard, I want to recognize and applaud the actions of the student who made the 911 call. This student took the exact, right action and we should all be thankful and congratulate this student. This student’s quick and correct action is an example to us all and in an actual emergency could have saved countless lives.
Most importantly, we must take advantage of this opportunity to improve the safety and security of the University. We can accomplish this by initiating immediate measures and also implement improvements to campus security from the recommendations and suggestions we have received.
As I noted in my previous email message to you, campus police have increased foot patrols in the Visual and Performing Arts Center, Counseling Center staff has provided additional support and outreach to the university community and several hundred more people have signed up to receive notices through the campus emergency notification system. Changes to infrastructure of the center are being considered to improve communication within the VPAC building as well as security access controls. Additional training for all members of our university community is also being developed.
I, and the senior members of the administration, are committed to your safety and well-being and we are determined to make the necessary improvements on an “as soon as possible” basis to restore your sense of safety and security at the university.
Again, my thanks to all involved in facing this potential danger in such admirable fashion and I want to wish everyone an enjoyable holiday season and a Happy New Year!
My very best wishes,
Dr. John B. Clark
Western Connecticut State University