DPS director responds to student questions

In response to the column last week, I would like to take a few minutes to let everyone know about the circumstances surrounding the incident involving the man with a weapon at the 300 block of West Patterson Street that was threatening self-harm.

First, I would like to clarify the difference between a crime alert and an emergency notification (TruAlerts). Crime alerts (timely warnings) have a very narrow scope and focus on only Clery Act crimes. These alerts are triggered by crimes that have already occurred but represent an ongoing threat to the University campus. Emergency notifications (TruAlerts) have a wide focus and are triggered by an event that is currently occurring on or imminently threatening campus.

In regard to the incident itself, this is what occurred: the Kirksville Police Department initiated a traffic stop in an area near Truman State University’s campus. The officers on scene anticipated two females in the car.  They did not know there was a man with a gun in the car until they were removing the first occupant from the car. That occupant told officers a male was in the backseat of the car hiding with a gun.   

The male subject in the car exited the vehicle and threatened self-harm. He asked officers to shoot him, indicating he wanted to die by “suicide by cop.” At no time did he indicate he was going to harm anyone else or target campus. In fact, during the incident he took a step toward campus and officers threatened to use lethal force on him, so he quickly took steps back to show that he was not a threat to campus.

The Kirksville Police Department, Missouri State Highway Patrol and Truman Department of Public Safety had a perimeter set up and the individual would not have been able to leave the immediate area where he was stopped. At no time was the gunman on campus. This rumor spread like wildfire through social media, and the quickest way to stop it was to put out that there was no threat to campus on the DPS social media page. 

Because of law enforcement on scene handling the incident quickly and affecting the situation by arresting the subject on scene, no alert was put out. Once the subject was arrested, there was no need to put out an alert. If the incident would have been ongoing and not resolved quickly, an alert would have been considered to keep people away from this area. 

DPS focuses on keeping campus safe. Had an alert been sent out to avoid the area of the 300 block of West Patterson Street because of KPD dealing with a suicidal subject with a weapon, some students would have gone to that area just to check it out, driven by the area to see what was going on or just walked over near the scene to listen to the excitement and potentially put themselves in a more dangerous situation. 

I realize that no matter what I say, there are always going to be people who are not happy with the answers to the questions around this incident I have given here. Please know that my officers and I work hard and train hard to keep Truman’s campus a safe place to get an education and to live. Our first priority is your safety.