Off campus incidents prompt 3 precautionary lockdowns in 4 months
By Garrison Murphy ’15
In the last four months the Brophy campus had three lockdowns due to reports of armed suspects in the area, and in one case police did not notify the school until nearly 40 minutes after their active investigation started.
School officials say the campus is safe, that lockdown procedures are effective and that Phoenix police have revised their protocol when it comes to notifying schools of a nearby dangerous situation.
Reports of a gunman on Central High School’s campus just south of Brophy forced the first lockdown, which lasted approximately 20 minutes, Thursday, Oct. 24, and also prompted the same security precautions for Xavier College Preparatory and St. Francis Xavier.
“There was a report to Phoenix police that there was a gunman on Central’s campus, I think that it ended up being a toy gun,” said Dean Mr. Pat Higgins. “Somebody at Central called the police, and the police called St. Francis and through that chain set off our lock down.”
The incident turned out to be a student with a toy gun, according to Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thomson. However, police did not determine that until after 6 p.m. that day, according to police reports, and Brophy’s campus was still open after officers began searching Central’s campus.
The initial 911 call regarding the alleged gunman was made at approximately 2:02 p.m., according to the police records obtained by The Roundup.
Police officers began searching Central’s campus room to room and a helicopter scanned the area while administrators initiated a school wide lockdown.
Phoenix Police and Central security were not able to find the suspect on Central’s campus and subsequently declared the premises clear.
The entirety of Central was on lockdown at around 2:30 p.m., according to Brophy Security Director Mr. John Buchanan, while Brophy, Xavier and St. Francis Xavier did not initially go into lockdown until approximately 2:40.
That left the three schools unaware of a gun threat within walking distance to their campuses.
“I don’t know when they became aware of the situation,” Sgt. Thompson said when asked if police notified nearby schools of their search. “It could have been from a helicopter overhead. This student attended Central. It is up to the administration of a school to decide whether or not the school goes on lockdown, not the police.”
Mr. Buchanan said Brophy administrators had to call police to confirm what was happening.
“We had to make some calls to find out exactly what was going on, once we determined that at about 2:40, just before the bell rang, we all went into lockdown,” Mr. Buchanan said.
The lockdown ended about 20 minutes later when school officials determined there was no active threat at Central.
According to Mr. Buchanan, the police department should have notified Brophy so that the school could make the determination to lock down sooner.
“Yes (the police made an error) they have acknowledged and corrected that problem” Mr. Buchanan said.
Since the incident Phoenix Police have made changes to their standard protocol regarding school lockdown.
“They have changed their procedures in that they will make sure the schools are notified and they will either call me or the office if they get no answer they will send a car by … they have really made some giant strides to correct that error,” Mr. Buchanan said.
With more than 50 school shootings in the past three years, according to U.S Department of Education, the incident was not taken lightly.
“The Phoenix Police Department takes these types of events very seriously. Too often the schools of our nation have become the scenes of tragic events,” Sgt. Thompson said.
Approximately four hours following the first gunman sighting on Central’s campus, Police received an emergency call from the principal of Atkinson Middle School stating that a student who had placed a gun in his backpack at Central was inside Atkinson Middle School as part of an ROTC event.
Officers determined the student, whose name was redacted in the report, fit the description of the suspected gunman at Central, resolved that the gun was a cap gun the student purchased earlier in the day, and took the teen into custody at the Maricopa County Juvenile Corrections Center with a class one misdemeanor charge for one count of interfering with an educational institution, according to the police report.
Armed suspect causes November lockdown
The second lockdown was prompted by reports just after 10 a.m. Nov. 26 of an armed man headed towards the Veterans hospital at 7th street and Indian School Road with the intentions of either killing himself or forcing police responders to kill him, according to an email sent by Mr. Buchanan.
Unmarked police cars followed the man as he drove north past the hospital, eventually turning around in Xavier’s parking lot off of Highland Avenue.
Police stopped the car and found and seized a fully loaded 9mm handgun in the man’s possession, according to Mr. Buchanan. No shots were fired and the suspect was being held in the VA hospital for treatment.
Mr. Buchanan said that the lockdown procedure for this event went smoothly, and the lockdown ended after about 10 minutes.
“We all performed well during this very short lockdown and I feel comfortable with our current procedures,” he said.
BMO bank event causes 3rd lockdown
The most recent lockdown occurred Jan.14 after Mr. Buchanan received word from Phoenix Police that there was a shooting on the eighth floor of the BMO bank on Central Avenue and Camelback Road.
After police apprehended a suspect who was found hiding in a closet they confirmed he was not armed, but highly intoxicated, according to Mr. Buchanan.
The individual was reportedly throwing chairs and breaking glass within an office space on the eighth floor.
Mr. Buchanan said that this lockdown procedure also went extremely smoothly and Phoenix Police notified him of the situation quickly. This lockdown lasted about 15 minutes.
Principal Mr. Bob Ryan said the school takes reasonable precautious to safeguard students, which he said is “of paramount importance for us.”
Brophy has a core crisis group of faculty members who have specific duties during an emergency and meet after every lockdown to discuss how the student body and faculty handled the situation, according to Mr. Ryan.
However, he said there are always uncertainties in our society.
“I do believe that we’re a safe campus, but I don’t want to assure anyone of anything though; we live in a dangerous world, and people are sick,” Mr. Ryan said.
Mr. Ryan said too many precautious could be detrimental to the culture of the school and campus. He said hopefully the school cultivates a sense of responsibility and freedom, and the campus is designed to foster that.
He added changing the culture and feel of the campus is not a tradeoff he is willing to make.
“I do believe that it is a safe campus but it is what it is,” Mr. Ryan said. “We don’t have gun turrets in the corners and armed guards walking around checking everyone when they walk through doorways, and if that’s what you want to feel safe then you aren’t going to find it here.”