Fourty-four years ago on the University of Texas campus, a shooter took aim at students from the tower. Last Tuesday brought back memories.
UT sophomore Colton Joshua Tooley, 19, dressed in sweats and a ski mask fired shots from an AK-47. While the shots missed students and employees taking cover, his pursuit by the police ended on the sixth floor of the Perry-Castañeda Library where he apparently turned the weapon on himself.
UT junior English major Sarah Little said she was in a class when she saw what she thought was a joke status on Facebook. After looking on Google, she said her thoughts immediately went to her husband.
“My heart raced because I knew Nick had a class and he hadn’t texted me, which was weird,” Little said.
She got in touch with him and discovered he had slept in.
Many others experienced the same fear, especially those who remember the last shooting that took place on UT’s campus in 1966 when a former Marine killed 16 people and injured 31.
Students like UT junior geology major Madison Dragna were alerted about the shooter through text message.
“I woke up to a text from the UT police department saying that there was an armed suspect on campus,” she said.
After watching the news, she discovered what took place in the library and was shocked.
“It’s so weird knowing that this has happened on campus because I go to the Perry-Castañeda Library every day. We even have metal detectors at the entrance,” Dragna said.
She recalled how strange it was to see her campus on the news but was relieved by the response from police.
UT graduate student and UMHB alumna Maggie Curry was on her way to a field internship when she found out through a UT text message service about the shooting. She said she received updates the whole time but was still fearful.
“I was scared but really glad I wasn’t on campus because if I had been in class (if it was on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday) the social work building is really close to the PCL. I immediately thought of other friends that lived on or near campus or would be in classes,” she said.
Curry said her perception of safety at UT is definitely different from UMHB.
“I know I am not as safe here, due to being on such a big campus,” she said.
Since the mass shooting at Virginia Tech in 2007, schools have changed the way they do security on campus. Students at UT were alerted through a campus wide e-mail and text urging them to stay put.
Director of UMHB campus police Gary Sargent used the shooting as a time to refresh students through an e-mail.
“The Note system is routinely used to provide timely warnings regarding severe weather, information on closures and/or disruption of services…. (It) would also serve as the university’s primary means of providing emergency notification in the event of a situation similar to that experienced at UT,” he wrote.
The system provides notifications through the outdoor siren system, telephone, Internet posting, e-mail, internal notifications or public broadcast. The university is focused on keeping everyone informed.
Students are automatically registered for this when they get their parking decal. If updates are needed to information or if students don’t have a vehicle they can register at; http://police.umhb.edu/emergancy-informationrequest or by contacting the campus police at 295-5555.
Tooley was an average student when some say they never saw as a threat.
He was the son of a veterinarian and licensed day care operator who neighbors, friends, students and staff described as “brilliant” and “respectful.”
Little said she doesn’t think any differently of the safety at UMHB, but her heart goes out to Tooley’s family.
She said, “(He) must have felt so alone to do this. It’s sad that he died alone on a campus with 50,000 people.”
A thanks to The Daily Texan for their coverage of the event. More photos and slide shows about the event can be found here.