A suspected gunman was spotted leaving the Oviatt Library Wednesday evening causing a frenzied police search across campus with no suspect found.
CSUN Police Services sent an email notice at 4:49 p.m., alerting the campus to be on the lookout for a light-skinned man in his early 20s with a five o’clock shadow wearing a red T-shirt and a black zip-up jacket. He was said to have on a black backpack with a silver gun inside.
Police began searching the campus and detained four students who matched the description of the suspect, but no gun was found in their backpack.
“The police said I matched the description of a guy who had a gun, but then they realized I wasn’t wearing a red shirt and let me go,” said one student who had been stopped, handcuffed and then released.
Officers had also detained another student who wore a black hoodie and had a black backpack on. Katherine Polanco, 21, senior public health major, said she was with a friend who had fit the description of the suspect.
“They asked me and my friend, ‘Have you heard what is happening?’” Polanco said. “We had just gotten to campus and they asked to see inside his backpack.”
Polanco’s friend was handcuffed as they searched his bag and he was released shortly after.
The call had come in to LAPD from a student who had noticed the gun in the suspect’s backpack and was then rerouted to CSUN police.
As officers searched the buildings on campus, classes remained in session.
“There was an assessment made by the campus police chief. The campus remains open (and) the library remains open,” said Carmen Chandler, director of news and information. “But we continue to look for the suspect.”
Two phone calls were made from CSUN police shortly after the email to inform students of their progress in the search.
Kit Espinosa, emergency management coordinator, said students do not need to opt-in to receive emails or phone calls during an emergency.
“They only need to opt-in to receive text messages,” she said. “Phone calls and emails are automatic, they get sent to everyone.”
Any email address and phone number a student puts in their MyCSUN account is what police use to notify students.
While LAPD knew of the suspected gunman on campus, they were not present and said they would not send officers unless requested by CSUN police.
“We do not have any units on call,” said LAPD officer Wilkinson.
When asked if LAPD had any intention of sending any officers to campus, Wilkinson said, “That is not up to us. That is if CSUN PD calls us.”
Christina Villalobos, special assistant to the chief of police and public Information officer, said the suspected gunman was a low-level threat when she was asked why the LAPD was not on campus.
“We don’t associate threat levels,” she said. “It depends on the situation.”
Officers had set up a makeshift command post behind Sierra Tower near the garbage bins. Capt. Scott VanScoy said officers had been searching buildings since 4:30 p.m.
“We’re going to collapse our makeshift command post and go to the station,” VanScoy said. “We’re not stopping, but we’re being methodical.”
At about 7:24 p.m., police services sent their final notice alerting the campus that while the suspect had not been found, no new activity had happened.
“There is nothing further to report,” Chandler said. “The campus police will remain vigilant.”
The Daily Sundial tried to contact Villalobos to find out if more officers will be patrolling campus and to get a statement from Police Chief Anne Glavin, but she was unavailable and will not be back in the office until Friday.
Contributing reporting from Jonathan Diaz, Megan Diskin and Luis Rivas