Simon Fraser University has issued a statement to students in the wake of a gun scare that had many in the campus community fuming over what they described as poor communication.
Burnaby RCMP was called to the Burnaby Mountain campus on Tuesday afternoon to reports of an armed man. The suspect, who was arrested without incident, turned out to have a replica firearm.
While several buildings were evacuated, no alert was posted on the university website or app, and no tweet was published until the incident was over.
In a statement sent to students Tuesday evening, SFU’s chief safety officer, Mark Lalonde, acknowledged the fears the incident may have raised among students and staff.
“The safety of our community is SFU’s priority. When there is a police incident at an SFU campus, SFU Safety Risk Services supports and takes direction from the RCMP/police who are leading the response,” said the statement.
“As a situation evolves, details are not always clear. We try to share information as it is confirmed, and when and where it is appropriate and safe to do so.
“When a campus-wide notification is needed, I want to assure you that we have notification systems in place, but it is also important to note that it is not always safe to send out an alert as a situation is in progress.”
Several SFU students who spoke to Global News on Tuesday evening expressed frustration with the way the incident was handled.
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“We just heard [about it] from a girl that was in our classroom and she heard it from Twitter,” said Michelle De La O.
“The fact that they didn’t announce anything or they didn’t even confirm what people are saying … it was not very credible or reliable information we had.”
Student Tayla Jackson said she had friends on the way to SFU when she heard about the incident through social media, and didn’t know if it was safe for them to come.
“They had no idea in regards to whether it was safe to be here or not, because there was no alert,” she said.
“I get that they don’t want to create unnecessary panic, but ignorance is not bliss in this sort of situation. It’s not like they could have flown under the radar. Like, there’s helicopters, there’s cops everywhere. People are seeing these things and trying to put the pieces together themselves. That’s really, really scary.”
Police say the 19-year-old who was arrested was wearing a baseball cap with an RCMP insignia. No charges have been laid.
SFU students can learn more about campus safety and security here.
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