Dear Lehigh Students, Faculty and Staff,
We are writing to follow up on yesterday’s incident, which involved the LUPD officers taking a student into custody for his disruptive, aggressive and erratic behavior and discovering that he had both a loaded gun and a knife. As we noted in yesterday’s HawkWatch Alert, the student was taken to a local health care facility for a psychiatric evaluation and will be facing criminal charges related to this event.
We were informed about the student’s erratic behavior by a fellow student, and we would once again like to acknowledge the foresight of that reporting student to bring this behavior to our attention. LUPD detectives were actually en route to check on the situation when they encountered the disruption on the street near Farrington Square involving the student, who was acting aggressively. The reporting student’s actions to come forward and express his concerns could well have avoided a much more dangerous situation.
We want to thank those who reached out to us to express their appreciation for our efforts. It means a great deal to us as we try to strengthen our relationships with all members of the Lehigh community.
We’d also like to respond to some concerns raised about not reporting an active shooter situation or placing the campus on lockdown. This incident – as frightening and unsettling as it was – was not an active shooter situation. The student was not brandishing a weapon – LUPD officers did not know he had one in his possession when they encountered him on the street – and the situation was quickly contained. The student was taken into custody by several LUPD officers at the scene, and then transported by ambulance for the mental health evaluation. There was no need to advise others on campus to shelter in place, barricade themselves into buildings or classrooms, or flee. No one was injured.
If there is an imminent, severe threat to campus safety, the LUPD would most certainly share information through HawkWatch text messages, push notifications, desktop computer takeovers, digital information boards, voice mails, emails and classroom announcement systems. In those instances, our goal would be to share as much information as we could, as quickly as possible. Once the situation is resolved and the threat removed, our focus shifts to issuing to campus a timely notification with accurate, verified information.
It is generally recommended to NOT deploy all those communication methods UNLESS there is an extreme emergency that presents a serious, imminent threat. Overuse of our emergency communication systems could diminish their impact in truly critical situations and we want members of our campus community to understand that if and when they receive notifications through all these methods, they need to pay attention to what is being communicated.
Every student, faculty and staff at Lehigh are now automatically enrolled into the HawkWatch system, which means they will receive this important information in critical situations. There is also the option of downloading the free HawkWatch personal safety app, which allows you to communicate directly with the LUPD dispatcher in dangerous situations (such as walking alone at night) or critical situations (such as a campus-wide emergency). The HawkWatch app provides information and resources that could be useful in an emergency situation, including emergency contact info, support resources, and emergency plans for events such as medical situations, chemical spills or environmental threats, evacuations, individuals-in-distress, fire and active shooter situations. There is detailed information for how to respond in an active shooter situation, including a relatively short video from the California State University that is designed for college campuses. We strongly encourage you to take a few moments to watch this video:
There are other resources for safety, health and basic emergency preparedness that Lehigh provides to members of its community and you can read more about them at https://www.lehigh.edu/emergency. In addition, please feel free to contact the LUPD to schedule emergency preparedness sessions with your office, residence hall or group. LUPD officers routinely speak to groups about how to best respond to emergency situations so that they can feel prepared. The LUPD can be reached at 610-758-4200.
We also encourage anyone who is concerned about students who may be experiencing anxiety or deep concern regarding recent events in the news or other issues to take advantage of the university’s counseling services. The University Counseling and Psychological Services (UCPS) office, located in Johnson Hall, can be reached at 610-758-3880.
Lastly, we would like to clarify the university’s policy on guns on campus: Lehigh’s strict policy is to prohibit possession or use of any potentially dangerous weapon or explosive on university property.
Thank you for your role in helping to sustain a safe and healthy campus community.
Chief Jason Schiffer
Lehigh University Police Department