IU officials: ‘Better safe than sorry’ on campus alerts

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BLOOMINGTON – Officials at Indiana University’s Bloomington campus say they’re sorry for any lost sleep.

But given the situation, and information available at the time, they would make the same call again, issuing a campus-wide alert after a stabbing on campus.

“If we bothered people with it a little bit early in the morning yesterday, we’re sorry for that,” said IU spokesman Mark Land. “But we’d rather do that. Better safe than sorry, if you will.”

Students, faculty and staff started receiving calls, texts, emails and tweets around 4 a.m. Sunday. The initial alerts said, “IU Bloomington alert: An armed individual is at large on the Bloomington campus. If you are on campus, take safe shelter in the nearest available room. Lock the door if possible. If you are off campus, stay away.”

The initial reports of an “armed individual” caused some to conclude that a gunman was involved.

“I thought there were people running around here with guns,” said junior Allison Hill. “So I was looking out the window trying to see if I saw anybody hiding in the woods or anything like that.”

The campus-wide alert lasted more than four hours and included multiple updates.

“My buddy who was awake, actually my roommate, he was freaking out as he kept getting them,” said junior Sam Deblecourt. “So I don’t know, it ended up being not that big of a deal.”

At least, not a big deal for the whole campus.

The incident turned out to be a parking lot fight that ended with a stabbing at the Tulip Tree Apartments on the southeast side of campus. Even before the suspects were located, campus officials issued the public “all clear” around 7:30 a.m. Campus police later arrested 18-year-old Zesen Shen and 21-year-old Kaiyu Luo. A 20-year-old student was expected to recover from a knife wound to his back.

With the advantage of hindsight, some students were joking Monday about the hours-long alert.

“The five phone calls and everything, I have heard people joking about it,” said junior Laura Rummel. “But I don’t know, I think it’s good that they did so. Better to be safe than sorry.”

That sums up the university’s position as well.

Overall, Land says the system worked very well. There were some issues with overloaded servers for a short time, but those were fixed before the incident was resolved.

Some of the scariest moments were early on when some people, including some news outlets, assumed that “armed individual” meant a gunman on campus.

“We wanted to make sure we knew what it was before we said anything, which is why we were a little bit vague at first,” Land said. “But as soon as we knew that it wasn’t a gunman, we put that out.”