Threat leads to Xavier evacuation

By Catharine Hernson
March 20, 2003

Paul Williams

Late Saturday morning, March 15, a resident assistant in Xavier Hall received a voice-mail threat. The threat was made by what seemed to be a computerized female voice stating, “You all better clear out of the building and maybe even off campus by 1:40 p.m. This may solve your damn hate crime.”

Shortly after 10:30 a.m., when the threat was received the RA called the on-duty Resident Director, Tricia Arnold, and the building RD, Mike Quickel. Dr. Richard Neville, vice president of Student Development was also called and he came to campus to assess the situation along with Charlie Shaffner, director of Public Safety.

Shaffner, who has 30 years of experience as a police officer, headed the discussion on the next step the school should take. Shaffner, a former police officer, decided that a thorough search of the building by the staff on hand would be sufficient before evacuating the building. Cabrini officials, based on what police would have done in the same situation, made the decision to evacuate. Since the threat was non-specific the staff on hand did not feel that it was necessary to call in the police right away. They would, however, have been called should something suspicious been found.

A fire alarm was pulled before the time the threat was mentioned, to evacuate the building.

After the evacuation, the officials searched the building in open and locked areas. Finding nothing out of the ordinary, the students were allowed back into the building at 2 p.m. Shaffner had extra Public Safety officials on patrol in Xavier. Students bags would be subject to search for the rest of the weekend and students were given the option of staying elsewhere on campus if they felt unsafe.

Later in the day rumors started circulating about the severity of the threat, and many students complained about the lack of a police presence during the incident.

Shaffner defended the stance, he has taught police officers to make the same decisions at the police academy where he teaches.

Early Sunday morning at approximately 1:30 a.m., a student reported a burning smell to Quickel. The smell was identified as having come from the elevator mechanical room. When Quickel opened the room they found a smoldering piece of cardboard.

The Public Safety officer on duty in the building was notified and he opened a custodial closet and got a wet mop to tamp out the cardboard.

The situation was disarmed before the smoke detectors sensed the smoke and the fire alarm went off, which is why the fire department was not called.

The school feels comfortable with the decisions it made based on the personnel present at the situation.

Shaffner stated, “If I had to do it over, I think I would have done everything the same way.”

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Catharine Hernson

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