AUSTIN (KXAN) - Ten months after a gunman threw students, teachers, police and the media into a frenzy at the University of Texas campus, the UT Police Department Monday released a lengthy analysis of the incident. The report explains what went right and what went wrong, the latter an examination of what better to do in the case of a similar event in the future.
Overall, because of advanced training and preparation for a possible scene like that of Sept. 28, students were alerted, kept safe and the library where Colton Tooley, a 19-year-old mathematics major killed himself, locked down.
Four areas detailed in the 19-page report cover:
- Incident command system and unified command
- Multi-agency support
- Preparation and training
It's ironic that UTPD was founded in 1968 after another campus shooting more than four decades ago. The event made national news when Charles Whitman shot randomly from the 29th floor of the UT Clock Tower on Aug. 1, 1966. Whitman killed 16 people and injured 32 others before he was shot and killed.
In Tooley's case, he shot and killed himself, alone in the Perry-Casteñada Library after he fired about 10 shots outside on campus . He hit no one with his bullets from the AK-47, and the campus was locked down for four hours as police took control of the situation.
What worked well, according to UTPD, was that the incident command post was established within minutes of the first 911 call. The leadership and a unified command was invaluable during the multi-jurisdictional response that included the Austin Police Department, according to the report.
However, with communications being an essential part of any disaster, the report says the communications systems were initially muddled in the logistics and manner of how things operated:
- Not everyone got the message to switch to the chosen radio channel
- UPTD dispatch could not monitor or transmit on the selected channel
- The command post did not know that not everyone had switched to the chosen channel.
Other challenges with communication included:
- Officers at the post were not keeping the emergency operations center and communications center up-to-date of the situation as the response progressed. It was remedied when the assistant chief arrived at the command post.
- Due to a simple problem of a case-sensitive password not being properly typed, UTPD initially had issues activating the siren alert system.
- Definition of terminology was an obstacle between UTPD and APD initially because what one code word meant to UTPD meant something else to APD.
Routing of the 911 calls also took different directions. If someone called 911 from a cell phone, the call went to APD. However, if the 911 call was made from a campus phone, it went to UTPD. And if someone called UTPD on the direct line -- something UT employees are used to doing -- it went to UTPD. The center also only has three phone lines and there is no rollover to APD or a recording system to capture messages.
Yet the cooperation and availability of multi-agency resources showed that training which all officers previously received showed all were well equipped and rehearsed for the UT gunman incident, according to the report. Nationally, colleges, universities and municipal law enforcement entities have been through much training in light of the Columbine High School massacre in 1999 in Littleton, Colo., the terrorists attack on Sept. 11, 2001 in New York City and Washington D.C., and the massacre on the campus of Virginia Tech University on Sept. 16, 2007.
Communications were thorough and put out across all available platforms:
- text alerts
- audible siren system
- social networks of Twitter and Facebook
- UT website
- campus closed cable television channels
- pager system
- computer pop-up alerts
- local and national media
Given the newsworthiness of the Sept. 28 shooting, local news media responded immediately. UTPD set up a safe perimeter and media area, but the report says there were challenges with the cell phone coverage and involvement of the UT public information officer, who did not have a radio to be kept in the loop of what was going on. The university has since remedied that communication gap and issued radios to the PIO and staff of Student Affairs as part of the jobs.
The report has identified many lessons learned and UTPD said it has started to address the challenges and implement some of the recommendations as they relate to personnel, training, procedures, equipment and technology.
UTPD timeline of events
8:12 a.m. -- First report of shooter comes into the Austin Police Department and the UT Police Department 911 centers.
8:13:21 -- All UTPD units dispatched to a possible active shooter east bound on 21st Street.
8:16:31 -- First three units arrive at the door of Perry Casteñada Library, two APD officers and one UT police officer.
8:16:37 -- First report that a person with a gun has entered the library.
8:17 -- Three more UTPD