UH Manoa students express concern over lack of enforcement during security alert

The University of Hawaii at Manoa sent out an alert Thursday morning of a possible armed person coming to campus.

Officials say the Honolulu Police Dept. called the university about the situation. That’s when the school sent out an alert via email to all students and staff about 9 a.m.

During this time, UH did not initiate a lock-down or evacuation. Classes resumed as normal.

By about 12:45 p.m., the security alert was lifted after the suspect was found in Hawaii Kai and placed in police custody.

School officials say sending the alert was by protocol and they did it for precautionary measure.

While some students appreciated the alert and being made aware of the situation, there were others who thought the school could have done more to reassure their safety on campus.

Junior Paul Santiago said “it’s kind of scary to think like these things have been going around other states and now it could happen on our campus.”

Fellow junior Marissa Minami said the alert provided her with enough information. “They actually give you a step-by-step on what to do if anything were to happen, so it was very helpful.”

Others like senior Briana Wagstaff thought it wasn’t enough. “I didn’t know if this is a dangerous situation,” she said. “If the shooter was heading to school, I was assuming that I shouldn’t be walking around outside, heading to class.”

Wagstaff said she was so scared, she and a group of friends locked themselves in a classroom.

According to the school’s alert, the threat was specific to one building on campus. The building in question had no labs, no classrooms, and maybe a few student employees. And if they were at that building, they would have been aware of the situation, because police were on scene as well as Public Safety officers.

Some students said they got calls from their parents to make sure everything was OK. “My mom texted me. She just said to be safe and be aware of my surroundings and stuff,” Minami said.

The all-clear was given hours later once the suspect, driving a black Mercedes-Benz, was found by police at a Hawaii Kai shopping center and taken into custody.

UH spokesman Dan Meisenzahl said “the threat didn’t reach a level where we thought the community was in danger. If they were, we wouldn’t have worked with law enforcement with whatever was necessary, and we’re more than prepared to do something like that. It didn’t rise to that level.”

But some said that when an armed person is involved, more should’ve been done to protect students.

“I thought school should’ve been canceled,” said junior Casey Anacleto, “because you don’t know where this person could be coming from.”

“They said the situation was under control,” Wagstaff said, “but yet they described his vehicle and if we were to see his vehicle, we were to call someone, which doesn’t sound like they have the situation under control if they don’t know where his vehicle is.”

She said she wanted more communication. “Yeah, it might have caused some people being scared and a big scene, but maybe shut down classes for a couple of hours, and when everything is OK, then let people come back to class.”

“We really did the best that we could,” said Meisenzahl. “It was a fluid situation and we hope to learn more it and hopefully we can provide clearer messaging. But again, we were limited by the information we were allowed to provide.”

Mid-Pacific Institute also sent out a notice to parents, students and staff. Offcials from Mid-Pac said they did this because of the campus’s close proximity to the Manoa campus.

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