DETROIT — An external investigation found Michigan State University's response to the February mass shooting on campus was "appropriate, timely and correct."
Security Risk Management Consultants was hired by MSU in April to review the university's response to the shooting that left three students dead and five critically injured. MSU released the full report Tuesday.
“Our overall assessment of the initial response (that is, in the seconds after the initial call and prior to other agencies mounting a response effort) by MSU police officers is that the response was appropriate, timely and correct," the Columbus, Ohio-based firm wrote. “We believe the initial response by MSU police and other police agencies was efficient and effective. The response in no way contributed to the prolongation of the incident, nor did it contribute in any way to additional loss of life.”
After the first 9-1-1 call came in about the shooting, it took 12 minutes for the university to send its first campus alert — mostly by email — to run, hide, fight. By then, the gunman had left campus. The university has since updated the alert system to include a siren.
The report, noting that active shooter situations often result in chaos, found that "Police officers, utilizing prior training for active shooter events, were able to seamlessly and immediately deploy. ..."
The report by six assessors also details the firm's recommendations to strengthen campus safety and security as well as bolster future responses to emergency events.
Interim MSU President Theresa Woodruff said this report is a critical next step in the ongoing commitment to ensure MSU is a safe place for everyone.
“It provides concrete recommendations for strengthening campus safety and reinforces our efforts are on the right track," Woodruff said in a press release. “SRMC highlights equally the complexities of such a tragic event on our campus along with the incredible dedication and response by our first responders and staff.
"I want to again thank each and every one of them for their swift action and care in the immediate hours following the violence, and their ongoing support in the weeks and months that have followed. At the same time, we continue to keep in our hearts the students we lost that night, those injured, the families, and members of our community who were impacted.”
Three students were killed in the Feb. 13 shooting on MSU's campus that unfolded in a classroom at Berkey Hall and the student union: Arielle Anderson, 19, of Harper Woods; Brian Fraser, 20, of Grosse Pointe; and Alexandria Verner, 20, of Clawson. Five students also were critically injured.
The gunman, who died by suicide as police approached him several hours after the shooting, did not have any personal or professional connection to MSU. Police found no "conclusive" motive as to why he opened fire on campus.
Four of the five injured students and families of all three students who were killed have filed an intent to sue the university for its alleged failure to properly maintain an emergency alert notification system and have a properly functioning access control system that could immediately lock all doors on campus if in an active shooter situation.
The report noted that at the time of publishing, MSU had already upgraded 65% of the classroom locks to thumb-turn-style locks, which "doesn’t address the automatic locking of doors during an event, but it does provide the ability for staff and students to lock the door, if necessary, mechanically."
The initial handling of the 9-1-1 calls was appropriately handled, the firm said. Dispatchers had appropriate training and were able to reorganize the dispatch operation to accommodate for the massive influx of calls and coordinate the large number of responding agencies.
The firm also noted officers used their prior active shooting training to "seamlessly and immediately" respond to the shooting.
But the report noted that problems were created by police officers who showed up without warning and MSU staff, mental health counselors and local clergy who also went to the scene but without any coordination with first responder officials.
The consultants recommended that Michigan State officials in the future "take control of self-dispatched police officers to avoid interagency confusion and public reports of unknown people with guns on and around the campus." They noted that "self-deployed" individuals from the community showed up on campus in a "well-intented" effort to render assistant, but "this added to the chaos."
The university has already worked to enhance campus safety by extending the hours that campus buildings are only accessible to students, faculty and staff with key cards, adding locks to about 1,300 academic classroom doors, adding more cameras to academic buildings and near green light emergency phones and strongly recommending active violent intruder training for everyone.
Several of the recommendations involved locks on all classroom doors, which MSU did not have prior to the shooting. The firm recommended having a campus emergency lockdown feature that any police officer can initiate and installing magnetic door holders so they can be automatically closed in connection with the emergency lockdown function.
The firm also recommended:
- Adding additional security technologies and a Security Operations Center.
- Taking control of self-dispatched officers to avoid interagency confusion and public reports of unknown people with guns on and around campus.
- Having a plan for people who self-deploy to help out during the crisis because they were well-intentioned during the mass shooting but "added to the chaos."
- Creating leadership and organization to manage the Family Assistance Center.
- Making sure Board of Trustees members who want to help do not become "involved in the incident beyond the customary role and expectations of a governance board during an emergency," as the firm notes they did in this case.
- Considering a Board of Trustees policy on crisis management and communication.
- Reviewing existing policies and procedures for training and psychological care.
- Continuing filling officer vacancies to ensure the department is staffed to handle routine and priority calls for service.
- Ensuring there are ways of receiving emergency notifications in places where phones are banned.
- Considering sending additional messages or updates in future events, given how long campus was in lockdown.
The firm behind the review said MSU cooperated with the investigation and administrators and staff were candid in their responses about security and safety. Those interviewed expressed feelings of burnout related to previous crises, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and the Larry Nassar sexual assault scandal. They noted heavy turnover in leadership positions was a challenge.
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