History of armed intruders at FAU

On April 1, 2008, a gunshot was fired in University Village Apartments (UVA) at 1:16 a.m. — emergency emails were sent to students at 3 a.m.

On November 29, 2012, an armed robbery was reported in Arts and Letters at 12:57 p.m. — emergency texts, calls, emails, and voicemails were sent out to students by 1:11 p.m.

By 1:27 p.m., a description of the armed intruder was made available via more calls, texts, and emails.

FAU’s emergency alert system was developed in the summer of 2008. This was after Omar Everton Graham Jr., a non-FAU student, fired a handgun toward a wall at a party in UVA. No one was hurt.

Three months later, FAU implemented a voice message and text message alert system, in addition to the current email alerts. The new features were most recently used for an armed intruder on Nov. 8 of this year, for a false alarm on the Davie campus. A witness reported an intruder with a handgun — it turned out to be a gun-shaped lighter.

The lockdown on the Davie campus lasted about an hour. The lockdown yesterday lasted about 3 hours.

FAU President Mary Jane Saunders spoke to the UP after the lockdown was lifted.

“This is America and in this day in age, a lot of people have weapons,” Saunders said. “Our campus tends to be crime free…I’m very pleased that all of the alert systems put into place worked. I think it was important to let everyone know in a timely fashion what was happening.”

Even with the marked improvements in the university’s emergency alert system, some students still didn’t feel safe.

“I was a little scared, I didn’t know what was going on,” freshman graphic design major Paige Chardon said. Chardon was trapped in Heritage Park Towers during the lockdown. “We got texts and calls but they didn’t say what was happening.”

And even with FAU’s updated policies for emergency management and response, some of the faculty responsible for implementing them weren’t sure what to do when the armed robbery took place.

“I did scan it yesterday afternoon and did not immediately see something there about armed intruders,” Interim Dean of the College of Arts and Letters Heather Coltman said.

Despite this, Coltman, who is also the Safety Supervisor for the building where the robbery took place, felt reassured afterwards.

“I felt the university’s handling of the situation was excellent,” Coltman said.

In fact, FAU’s University Safety Committee created a Crisis Action Guide for students, faculty, and staff in case of such emergencies (see sidebar for more information).

FAU’s Vice President of Communications and Marketing, Scott Silversten, agrees with Coltman.

“The university takes great pride in that we kept students, faculty, staff, and the children at Henderson and Slattery safe,” Silversten said. “We will debrief in the days and weeks to come and figure out what needs to be improved.”

Lore Khazem contributed reporting to this story.


When a hostile person(s) is actively causing death or serious bodily injury or the threat of imminent death or serious bodily injury to person(s) within a building, the University Safety Committee recommends the following procedures be implemented:

  • Faculty should immediately LOCK the students and themselves in the classroom if possible. COVER any windows or openings that have a direct line of sight into the hallway.
  • If communication is available, CALL 911 or 7-3500.
  • DO NOT sound the fire alarm. A fire alarm would signal the occupants to evacuate the building and thus place them in potential harm as they attempted to exit.
  • LOCK the windows and close blinds or curtains.
  • STAY AWAY from the windows.
  • TURN OFF lights and all audio equipment.
  • TRY TO REMAIN as calm as possible.
  • KEEP everyone together.
  • KEEP classrooms and office space secure until police arrive and give you directions.
  • If you are not in a classroom, TRY TO get to a classroom or an office.
  • STAY OUT of open areas and BE as quiet as possible.
  • TURN your cell phones on vibrate.
  • If for some reason you are caught in an open area such as a hallway or lounge, you MUST DECIDE what you are going to do. This is a very crucial time and it can possibly mean life or death.

Tips:

  1. You can try to hide, but make sure it is a well-hidden space or you may be found as the intruder moves through the building looking for victims.
  2. If you think you can safely make it out of the building by running, do so. If you decide to run, do not run in a straight line. Attempt to keep objects such as desks, cabinets, fixtures, etc. between you and the hostile person(s). Once outside, do not run in a straight line. Use trees, vehicles, and other objects to block you from the view of intruders.
  3. If the person(s) are causing death or serious physical injury to others and you are unable to run or hide, you may choose to play dead if other victims are around you.
  4. Your last option if you are caught in an open area in a building may be to fight back. This is dangerous, but depending on your situation, this could be your last option.
  5. If you are caught by the intruder and are not going to fight back, obey all commands and do not look the intruder in the eyes.
  6. Once the police arrive, obey all commands. This may involve your being handcuffed, or keeping your hands in the air. This is done for safety reasons, and once circumstances are evaluated by the police, they will give you further directions to follow.

Source: Crisis Action Guide, pg. 28