The impact of Colton Tooley firing shots on 21st Street and his suicide in the Perry Casteñeda Library on Sept. 28, 2010, lasted longer than the days following the incident.
A year later, the UT community continues to perfect its emergency response measures, while also grappling with rifts in the student body over gun control issues and creating a network of support for emotionally distressed students.
Gerald Robert Harkins, associate vice president for Campus Safety and Security, said that since the shooting, the UT Police Department has worked within its own department and with other local law enforcement agencies to smooth over some minor security obstacles that popped up during the response to the shooting.
“We had put together a system of communication that had not been tested under stress,” Harkins said. “Now that we have seen that system in action, we can work on ways to improve that communication system.”
An operating error with the siren system was one of the problems that occurred on the day of the shooting, according to a UTPD report of the event. The siren system is activated by a case-sensitive activation code, which was unknown to staff and caused a delay. Staff has since been trained to operate the case-sensitive system, according to Hawkins. UTPD has also been training with the Austin Police Department to raise coordination of the two forces should another active shooter situation arise.
Harkins said overall, UT did a great job of responding to Tooley’s actions, but the University will continue to look for ways to train for active shooter situations as well as to prevent them.
“Colton Tooley came to campus with 30 rounds of ammunition,” Harkins said. “Had he decided to kill people, we could have had 30 people dead on the ground before UTPD got there. In my opinion, the chances of stopping a shooting like that are pretty slim. We can only look to ways to optimize our response system and work with UT Counseling and Mental Health Center to raise awareness.”
In the past year, the UT Counseling and Mental Health Center has increased its efforts to educate faculty, staff and students about resources available for individuals experiencing stressed, depressed, anxious, homicidal, suicidal or mentally troubling thoughts.
“We have trained hundreds more in the UT community with Be That One suicide workshops,” said associate director for CMHC Jane Bost. “We are out there on campus doing a lot of training, raising a lot of awareness.”
Tooley’s actions became part of a heated debate in the 2011 Texas Legislative session when a bill to allow concealed carry of hand guns on Texas college campuses was introduced by three state senators. The concealed carry measure did not pass this session.
Social work sophomore Kelley Mathis said she has faith in the University’s capability to respond in a future incident.
“I think UT responded well,” Mathis said. “The only thing I feel UT could have done better was getting us the news. The only source to me was TV news, and it was incredibly inaccurate. Rumors of a second shooter and multiple dead bodies created an environment of fear that was unnecessary.”
Printed on Wednesday, September 28, 2011 as: UTPD works to improve emergency response, increase campus security