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The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

The Student News Site of Tarrant County College

The Collegian

Suspected armed burglar reportedly seen in area

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A SE Campus police officer alerts students that all campus activities and classes have been canceled. Photo by Georgia Phillips/The Collegian
Officer Mark Ingram alerts a SE student that classes are canceled for the remainder of the day. SE Campus was locked down April 16 following reports that a man entered a home in the area and a gun was missing. Photo by Georgia Phillips/The Collegian
Officer Mark Ingram alerts a SE student that classes are canceled for the remainder of the day. SE Campus was locked down April 16 following reports that a man entered a home in the area and a gun was missing. Photo by Georgia Phillips/The Collegian

By Karen Gavis/editor-in-chief

SE Campus was locked down briefly and later closed for the day April 16 after information surfaced that a suspected armed burglar was in the area.

“The suspect that was being pursued by Grand Prairie police was never actually seen on campus, only that he was being chased near the SE Campus,” said TCC police chief Shaun Williams. “The decision was made to err on the side of caution and evacuate the campus while providing protection for the students and staff.”

Williams said the suspect was never located near the area.

Someone had called 911 after witnessing a man walk into a neighbor’s backyard in the 6000 block of Waterford Drive, and an inventory of the home revealed a handgun was missing, Grand Prairie police detective Lyle Gensler said. After notifying TCC, a decision was made to lock down the campus.

“TCC SE Campus Emergency LOCKDOWN in effect – TAKE ACTION NOW – LEAVE IF YOU CAN,” said myTCC alert messages sent to students districtwide around noon.

Messages were sent to students, faculty and staff by phone, texts, emails, message clocks and campus computers. Those unable to leave campus were told to “STAY in your room or building, TURN OUT lights, CLOSE blinds, LOCK or barricade doors and windows, SILENCE your cell phones. Await further instructions.”

Matt Dehoogh, a NE student, said he received phone calls alerting him of the incident then read information online saying to turn off phones and be quiet.

“Well, then why did my phone ring twice then?” he said.

SE student Crystal Bennett was working the information desk when she heard a news report of an armed burglar.

“I went into [vice president of student development services] Mr. Rusty Fox’s office [during the lockdown],” she said.

Library manager Andrew Strohschein thought quick on his feet telling everyone to get in the library rooms, SE administrative assistant Denise Krajca said.

“He took everyone into the library classroom and barricaded it with the library tables,” she said. “He even turned off the lights and said, ‘No talking.’”

Strohschein said he did so because bad things happen, and people just have to do what they can.

SE government instructor Darrell Castillo said he was in his office when the lockdown occurred, and it is usually best to stay put. It was sort of like a World War II raid, he said.

“You just stay in your bunker,” he said.

At 1:15 p.m., TCC’s website posted that the lockdown had ended, and SE was closed for the remainder of the day.

Fox was in the hallway informing students of the campus closing, and police officers remained on the property ensuring students exited the campus safely.

SE student Kaylen Howard said she liked the fact that the TCC lockdown went into effect.

However, “some students didn’t take it seriously,” she said.

SE sophomore Brant Waldrop said the threats couldn’t be taken seriously because there are always threats.

Campus safety and well-being are top priority, and the lockdown was an unfortunate but necessary event, SE president Bill Coppola said. The calmness and professionalism everyone exhibited made him proud.

“As I spoke to faculty and staff, we were also impressed with how well our students responded,” he said. “We are very fortunate to have a very well-trained police department that works in concert with the Arlington and Grand Prairie departments.”

Coppola said neither this incident nor one in January involving another suspected robber chased onto campus by Grand Prairie police started on campus or involved SE students.

And the events would not deter SE from one of the college’s primary missions — access to education.

“When a situation occurs on any of our campuses or centers, the entire district reacts to assist,” he said. “As one college, we are all in this together and are there for each other when needed.”

Elaine Bonilla also contributed to this story.

 
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