Students react to Sacramento City College shooting

On Sept. 3, the bustling campus of Sacramento City College came to a screeching halt when a verbal dispute turned violent.  A drive-by shooting occurred in the South Lot near the baseball field of the Sacramento campus, leaving one dead and two wounded.  Sacramento Police believe the shooting happened after a fight between four men broke out.  

According to Robert Heisleman, outreach specialist at Sacramento City College, the initial campus police response time took five minutes.  The campus entered a lockdown for the next few hours in order to ensure the safety of students, staff and faculty while an unidentified shooter remained at large.

Once the lockdown took effect, Los Rios School District Police and Sacramento PD worked together to evacuate all buildings on campus and search for the shooter.  In tandem with police efforts, the emergency notification system at the junior college notified all students and staff of the shooting and lockdown via text and email.

“I have worked on campus for 32 years and I have never felt unsafe on campus,” said Heisleman.

In the case of an active shooter, campus police reacted quickly and with the assistance of the local police department, put into place the procedures to keep student’s lives safe.  With violence in schools becoming more common, how tough is it to really ensure students and staff that they are safe?

“The thing is that no one could have predicted that this was going to happen,” said Alberto Serrano Jr, student at Sacramento college. “Even though the shooting did occur, they are doing an excellent job at making the students feel safe.”

According to Heisleman, the police presence since the shooting has been elevated, with officers on foot and patrol cars in pairs by entrances to the campus.  Even with the increased police force, some students still feel a bit uneasy attending classes.

“It’s a horrible feeling knowing that we can’t get an education without the possibility of getting shot,” said Brandi Woolsey, a student at the Sacramento college.

In today’s society with mass shootings becoming more frequent, Sonoma State’s Police and Safety Services maintain that officers and staff are adequately trained and prepared for emergency situations.In the event of an active shooter being present on Sonoma State campus, the police have documented in their procedures that these situations evolve rapidly, demanding immediate deployment of law enforcement resources.  With the shooting that occurred at Sacramento City College, the police took about five minutes to respond.  How fast could Sonoma Police react to an incident on campus?

“I feel like if it did happen, they might be a little slow to respond,” said Sonoma State senior Steven Harrelson. “But I think that’s given at anything when you have a school that has one police station.”

Sonoma State is a smaller school in comparison to most CSU’s and UC’s, so some students feel like the police have an easier time patrolling the school.

“I believe the [campus police] are able to respond to a situation like that,” said Jazmyn Meza, Sonoma State sophomore. “When I’m walking around at night, I always see them popping out of nowhere.”

It is imperative that the presence of safety figures be readily available, however, some students would argue that the police force is more covert than desired.

Sonoma State Freshman Bridget Abbene has only sees one police officer since school started and believes their presence could be improved.

If a shooter were to be on campus, the U.S. Department of Justice lists three options for individuals in this high pressure situation.  Before tending to any of these options, it is imperative that the person be prepared mentally and physically to make the safest decision possible.  The options are to run, hide, or fight.  For more information on U.S. Department of Justice guidelines, visit dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness.

“Officers and staff are regularly trained through presentations, videos and drills on how to handle emergency situations and maintain a level head in the face of a stressful situation,” said Missy Brunetta, Director for Emergency Management and Continuity Planning at Sonoma State.

Having a well-trained staff is critical, but there are precautions that Sonoma State has put into place to be certain that the students are safe.  The school has placed a number of emergency stations around the campus, as well as tried to make the campus well lit at night for those having to walk around the campus after hours.

“I feel safe in Sonoma State,” said Leo Rivera, a junior at Sonoma State. “The police do a very good job in securing our campus.”

It is the duty of officers of SSU to leave no doubt in student’s minds that their campus is as safe as their home, because for a large number of students, Sonoma is their home.

"During the day, I feel safe,” said Jorge Bautista, sophomore at Sonoma. “But at night, the campus can be a bit intimidating because some spots are pretty dark.”

It is the goal of the Police and Safety Services of Sonoma State that students, staff and faculty always feel safe and are constantly in a controlled environment so that the community on campus can thrive.  

The campus has an emergency notification system that, in the event of a crisis, will send text messages to staff and students.  A crisis can range from a shooter on campus, a fire or an earthquake.  For any further questions regarding emergency preparedness, email emergency@sonoma.edu.