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Ohio State Police prepared for campus shooting, violence

Andrew Collins / for the Lantern

A man kidnapped and shot his girlfriend before fleeing to the campus area in a stolen car Friday. The driver was followed by police, who apprehended him on the Olentangy Trail near the Lane Avenue bridge after he had attempted to drive his car into the nearby river.
In an urban city like Columbus, violence and the use of firearms are not uncommon, and as a result, those in charge of keeping tens of thousands of Ohio State students safe everyday must prepare for the possibility of violent crime.
OSU Police Capt. Eric Whiteside said the university has planned for dangers on campus, including shootings on and off campus in places like the Gateway Film Center and the AMC Lennox Town Center Theater.
“We do take active shooter situations very seriously,” Whiteside said. He said officers go through training to deal with active shooters at least once a year and are also trained to be “proactive” by working with other university departments such as the Office of Student Life.
Dave Isaacs, spokesman for the Office of Student Life, said in an email it’s a university-wide effort.
“(The) Department of Public Safety is the lead agency for on-campus incidents, with Ohio State University Police responding, and the Office of Student Life actively supports their policies and procedures,” he said in the email. “Our residence hall and other staff members receive training in proper response protocols.”
Whiteside said the university pays attention to safety issues nationwide.
“We do review incidents around the country (to) see what can be applicable here at Ohio State and see what we can do to improve our operations,” Whiteside said.
Those types of incidents include the Virginia Tech massacre in April 2007 where 32 people were killed. The incident was preceded by a shooting in April 1999 at Columbine High School in Colorado where 12 students and one teacher were shot to death.
More than a month has passed since the theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., which resulted in 12 deaths and 58 wounded before the shooter was apprehended. Though the incident occurred more than 1,200 miles away from Ohio State, security officials said the Columbus campus is prepared for a similar situation.
Whiteside briefly touched on the mutual agreement between University Police and the Columbus Division of Police.
“We have a very good working relationship with the Columbus Police and we do have agreements where we respond if requested,” he said.
While the Gateway Film Center is OSU property, Whiteside said a response to an active shooting at the AMC Theater would be carried out differently since the area is not under campus jurisdiction.
“If they ever call us, we will respond the same way: rapidly and quickly and if we ever (are) in a position to go into the movie theater to apprehend the person responsible, we’ll do that.”
However, not all students feel that OSU is prepared for an active gun shooting.
“I feel like there needs to be more visible security,” said Emily Medakovich, a third-year in anthropology and international studies.
While she said she has seen University Police patrolling the Gateway Film Center, Medakovich said it’s not enough.
“I definitely think they should focus more on criminals that have an intent on harming people,” Medakovich said.
Abdul Kazeem, a second-year in management and industry exploring, disagrees.
“I think they’re ready,” Kazeem said, adding that students need to be better educated on what to do if faced with a dangerous situation.
But Whiteside said educating people on what to do in an active shooting might not be enough.
“You never want to give definitive advice to someone in that situation,” Whiteside said. “You don’t know exactly what’s going to transpire and that’s going to be up to the individual person.”
Whiteside said during an active shooting that any option such as to run, hide or fight could be the best one. Yet, Medakovich and Kazeem are both critical of the general advice.
“In the wake of the shootings, they need to prepare the people for such occurrences and give them more strategies,” Medakovich said. “Every situation with a gunman is different.”
Kazeem said he agreed that it is a “subjective decision” on whether to run, hide or fight but said he would personally rule out fighting.
“You don’t want to escalate it,” Kazeem said. “It’s better than to gamble with your life.”

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