By KELLSIE KING and DANIEL KITTREDGE The discovery of a spent shell casing prompted the evacuation of the Community College of Rhode Island's Knight Campus on Wednesday morning, and classes resumed after what officials called a complete and thorough"
The discovery of a spent shell casing prompted the evacuation of the Community College of Rhode Island’s Knight Campus on Wednesday morning, and classes resumed after what officials called a “complete and thorough search” found no additional potential threats.
“The community of CCRI as well as the city needs to know that it is safe to be back on campus,” Warwick Chief of Police Col. Rick Rathbun said during a Wednesday press conference.
CCRI President Meghan Hughes told members of the media that an employee discovered the shell casing near the college’s sixth-floor elevators at approximately 7 a.m.
She referenced a Tuesday incident at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte – in which a gunman killed two people and injured four others – in explaining the rationale for ordering the evacuation.
“The safety of our students, faculty and staff are our number one priority, and in light of the tragedy yesterday at UNC Charlotte, we decided to evacuate our campus,” Hughes said.
The subsequent search – led by Warwick Police with assistance from Rhode Island State Police and Providence Police, including K-9 units – found “no weapons or additional shell casings.”
During the morning hours on Wednesday, buildings and parking lots at the campus were virtually empty.
In an initial alert sent out by the CCRI Rave Alert system, students, faculty and staff were told to evacuate “immediately” and wait for further instructions. A subsequent message approximately 10 minutes later indicated that only the Knight Campus was subject to the evacuation and indicated that individuals must not “remain in the parking lot area.”
An alert was issued at 10:25 a.m. notifying members of the college community that there was no active shooter on the campus. At 11:45 a.m., an alert was issued indicating classes would resume at 2 p.m.
At the press conference, Campus Police Capt. Sean Collins, interim director of security and safety at CCRI, said the search of the campus “took some time” but the “scene is now deemed safe.” He said thousands of people are on campus on any given weekday, and he lauded Warwick Police and the other agencies involved for their assistance.
He also referenced the UNC incident and the recent lockdown at Burrillville High School and Middle School following the discovery of a bullet on a school bus in that community.
“What happened yesterday, what happened in Burrillville, these are things you can’t erase from your mind … The most important thing to take into consideration is the safety of our college community,” he said.
Rathbun said Warwick Police and CCRI Campus Police have been engaged in joint training and planning for such incidents since August.
“Today’s response by the police department is an example of the interagency cooperation with the campus security police force here,” he said.
“We had units on scene within minutes. We knew our roles, and that interagency cooperation, because of our pre-planning, went exactly as we expect it to, “ he said, later adding, “Pre-planning works … By pre-planning and working together prior to an incident, it does make a difference.”
Asked whether police believe the CCRI shell casing may be connected with the Burrillville incident, Rathbun said the investigation remained in its “infancy.”
“We will look at all facets, including regional and statewide incidents that may be common,” he said.
Rathbun also declined to comment when asked whether there would be an increased security presence on the Knight Campus in the days ahead, saying he would not discuss the specifics of the department’s tactical response.
Collins noted CCRI recently completed the installation of a “very robust camera system,” which officials believe will assist in the investigation.
Mayor Joseph Solomon said he was contacted by Rathbun regarding the situation and arrived at the scene as soon as possible.
“I’m very pleased with what I saw relative to interagency cooperation and working together and safely evacuating a high number of students and faculty,” he said. “And I’m also pleased with the end result here today that there were no injuries incurred and it ended up the way it did.”
Members of the CCRI community said the situation was alarming, especially in light of recent news elsewhere.
Caley Lareau, a student at CCRI, said the situation was “very scary.” She said she saw people going in and out of the building in an empty area of the first floor.
“I had a bad feeling,” she said. “I was sitting there studying.”
Matt Lawrence, another student at CCRI, said it was difficult getting out of the campus because students were told to evacuate and not stay in the parking lot.
“We were told to leave around 9:20 and I didn’t actually make it out until like 9:40,” he said. “Everyone was just generally confused on what to do or where to go.”
Student Adrian Figueroa said that while he was not on campus, he was worried about his friends and colleagues.
“I was never on campus, nor in any jeopardy,” Figueroa said. “But that still doesn’t waver any concern I have for friends and peers at the campus who were there.”
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