By: Gurpreet Kambo, News Editor
Suspicions of a potential gun threat brought Burnaby RCMP to campus on October 8, though the object in question was later found to be a squirt gun and not a functioning firearm. The incident resulted in the arrest of a 19-year-old man at the W.A.C. Bennett Library, though at this time charges have not been laid.
According to the Burnaby RCMP’s report, police were called to campus just before 2 p.m. to respond to sightings of a male in possession of a gun in the 8800 block of University Drive. Additionally, the individual was allegedly wearing clothing with what appeared to be an RCMP crest.
Further details in the report state the potential threat necessitated a large-scale police response that included “General Duty, Community Response Team, Bike Unit, Prolific Offender Suppression Team, Strike Force and Traffic Unit [providing] an integrated response along with RCMP Air Services, members from the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit and the Lower Mainland Integrated Police Dog Services.”
The campus residence buildings, Barbara Rae and Shadbolt, were also evacuated around 2 p.m., according to reports to The Peak by students which reflect the RCMP’s statement. Later, according to student reports received by The Peak, the main floor of the library was evacuated.
SFU issued a statement on Twitter at 4:06 p.m., two hours after the incident began, reading: “SFU is aware of Burnaby RCMP’s presence on campus. Everyone is safe and the situation is resolved. For information contact @BCRCMP.”
The situation prompted numerous responses on Twitter. One student, Nadine Schick (@nadineschick), was in the class where the student was arrested. She tweeted a photo of the gun in question sitting on a desk.
Lmao to be fair he was like pointing it at ppl who didn't know it was fake
— Nadine (@NadineSchick) October 9, 2019
During a phone interview with The Peak, Schick reported being in Room 3008 on the ground floor of the W.A.C. Bennett Library. She claimed that the student, who was sitting next to her, brought several items to class as a joke of sorts, including a guitar, the squirt gun, and “a bunch of random stuff.” When asked what the purpose of these items were, she stated: “I have no idea. I think he was just joking, I don’t think he thought anything of it, which [he] probably should’ve.” She added that he was pointing it at people in the class, but everyone in the class knew that it was a toy. “Another guy in the class was telling him that he should probably stop. I think he just wasn’t thinking at all.”
During a break in the class, she said that the student went outside the library, where she “saw him point it at a couple girls, and they kinda got spooked.”
A short time after the class regrouped, Schick said that a team of 5–10 police officers, with dogs, entered the classroom and surrounded the table where she and the student sat.
Schick continued: “Basically they surrounded him, and they told him to put his hands up and get on the floor. They were yelling to everyone to get out. It took me a second to get out because they were surrounding me because I was right next to him. One of the cops told me that I could get up and leave, so I did.” Schick added that the main floor of the library was evacuated, and she saw helicopters and more police outside. She did not see anything after the evacuation from the library.
“I thought it would be good to let people know what happened,” Schick noted. “I know there were a lot of people who were scared there was an actual gun and there was a real shooter on campus.”
Some members of the SFU community expressed anger at the delay in notifying members of people on campus.
It's unfortunate that there weren't ANY alerts or comments issued from SFU, and students sat worried for their safety. It's not as if this situation was going to fly under the radar so some "stay safe until further notice" would have been appreciated at some point. https://t.co/uPWL4agfkE
— tayla jae jackson (@taylajae1) October 8, 2019
Another response to the incident by @serena_bains stated:
The fact that police were asking people where the library is b/c of an apparent gun threat & that SFU did not make their students aware of the situation is insane. If he was serious & had a real gun dozens of people would have been dead and no one in MBC, AQ, etc., would know.
— Serena Bains (@serena_bains) October 9, 2019
I get that the public can’t always be informed of exactly what’s happening, but a simple warning to maybe stay away from the area is the very least you could’ve done.
— Olivia (@longlivtheboss) October 8, 2019
SFU sent a message on behalf of its Chief Safety Officer Mark Lalonde to students at 8:49 p.m. confirming the event, linking students to the RCMP’s report, and emphasizing SFU Safety & Risk Services’ supportive role during police interventions on campuses.
Lalonde wrote: “As a situation evolves details are not always clear. We try to share information as it is confirmed, and when and where it is appropriate and safe to do so. When a campus wide notification is needed I want to assure you that we have notification systems in place, but it is also important to note that it is not always safe to send out an alert as a situation is in progress.
We are relieved that the situation today was resolved peacefully, and we are thankful for the support of the Burnaby RCMP and our Campus Public Safety officers. As these types of incidents are not common, I acknowledge the fears it may have raised. For more information about campus safety and resources, please refer to our SFU Personal Safety Guides.”
The Peak will continue covering this issue in further pieces.