Campus Sends Out Emergency Alerts after the Western Hills Mall Shooting
On Thursday, Feb. 15, at 3:17 p.m., Birmingham-Southern College (BSC) security sent a campus-wide text message notifying students, faculty and staff about the search for a suspect in a mid-afternoon shooting at Western Hills Mall in Fairfield. The message read:
“BSC Alert: NO ACTIVE THREAT ON CAMPUS. Bham PD on campus searching for suspect. Remain in current location until notified by Campus Police.”
This message caused some confusion, arriving three hours after an email sent by the BSC Office of Communications on behalf of the BSC Campus Police Department. Under the subject line “Timely warning,” the BSC News email detailed the Feb. 13 theft of three laptops from “students’ unsecured room in two of our residence halls.”
It was initially unclear whether the text alert was referring to suspects in that laptop theft rather than the nearby shooting.
At 3:57 p.m., the campus community received two more text message alerts. Each was identical — and chilling:
“BSC Alert: IMMEDIATE THREAT TO CAMPUS. SHELTER IN PLACE IMMEDIATELY DO NOT GO OUTSIDE.”
WBRC had reported that a suspect in the Western Hills Mall shooting had been shot along I-59 North near the Arkadelphia Road exit. The police brought tracking dogs to search near Birmingham-Southern. The campus was on lockdown for more than an hour.
One BSC student, Delaney Wray, posted her concerns on Facebook at about 4:30 p.m.:
“Just updating everyone that I'm safe and everyone is safe as far as I know, but there is a murder suspect loose on BSC's campus,” Wray wrote. “Police are searching the campus for him now, but we don't know too much. Please keep all my BSC friends in your prayers. I'm nervous being away from everyone.”
Other students called friends and family or used GroupMe and texts messages to make sure everyone was safe.
While some students were very worried, others used humor to cope with the incident.
“When there’s a shooter on campus and your friends [are] making jokes about your life,” one student Snapchatted while the campus was on lockdown.
Despite some anxiety, most of the campus handled the lockdown calmly.
At 5:05 PM, BSC sent its most recent campus-wide alert: “BSC Alert: ALL CLEAR. No threat exists to the BSC campus. Please resume normal activities.”
No one on campus was harmed. A Western Hills Mall manager died on the sidewalk outside the shopping center, having been caught in the crossfire.
Students extend their sympathies to those affected by the crime.
For more details on the shooting, please read the AL.com coverage of the story.
Feature photo via the Birmingham-Southern College Flickr.