‘We wouldn’t consider people’s perception of it as an overreaction. I think that it’s a human thing to react.‘
At 10:07 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 28, CNA administration sent out an email stating the Prince Philip Drive campus, T.I. Murphy center, and childcare centre were on lockdown effective immediately.
All students and faculty were directed to stay in the classroom they were currently in. Those outside the building were directed to stay away from the building. Those inside the building but not in a classroom were told to “proceed immediately to a location- library, classroom, etc. and seek shelter there.” Exactly what they were to seek shelter from was uncertain.
Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Const. Geoff Higdon said they received a threat notification from the college.
“Information was received that an individual had made posts to social media that staff had felt was threatening in nature,” said Higdon Wednesday. “We responded like we would [to] any type of call where there was information there might be a threat to any individual or individuals, in this case a student body.”
The RNC’s patrol service division arrived on scene and spoke with members of the administration who told them the school was on lockdown.
Outside, police tape was put around the rails of the front steps creating a barrier for people who might attempt to walk in or out.
Inside, behind locked doors, the blinds were pulled down. In some classes desks were pushed up against the entrances. In other classes jokes were told to ease the tension. But as the laughter subsided, the silence became suspect and any noise heard on the outside of the door was met with suspicion.
The library filled with people from all over the school who were not in a classroom at the time the lockdown was put into effect. Some were on their phones, some were playing cards, and others were gossiping about why the lockdown was put in place. The atmosphere was calm according to Kicker’s Tyler Dunne, who was in the library at the time. One student pointed out to the faculty present that the front walls of the library were all glass, so having the door locked wasn’t going to matter if their was any real danger.
“We had no information to suggest that there was at any time an individual within the school or on the school property with any type of weapon.”
Rumors began circulating on social media and via text. Before the lockdown had been lifted, despite each individual door throughout the building being locked and no movement between rooms by anyone other than security, the word was that someone was in the building with a weapon. There were several suggestions as to what type of weapon it was. In K block the rumours were similar to the murmurs in the library, which is half way across the school, even with regard to the specific weapon involved.
“We had no information to suggest that there was at any time an individual within the school or on the school property with any type of weapon,” Higdon said. “Even until now we have no information that suggests that did happen. At no point did we believe there was an imminent threat.
“The consequences of not responding, even if something seems to be not an issue, can always be great.”
At 11:01 a.m., just under an hour later, an email was sent out by college administration stating the lockdown had been lifted and all classes for the remainder of the day were to be cancelled.
The lobby, as often is the case during peak times of the day, was filled with people. This time, however, traffic only flowed in one direction – out. Just inside the doors to the front entrance, a student looked up from his phone and laughed nervously.
Exiting the doors, police could be seen removing police tape as people walked down the stairs. Four police cars and the media were present. An unusual amount of taxis were circling around. The air was crowded. The lockdown was over.
“In these cases people always have to plan for the worst,” Rosemary Ricciardelli, associate professor and criminology certification coordinator at Memorial University, said. “The consequences of not responding, even if something seems to be not an issue, can always be great. So it’s a really difficult balance that any police service has to try to navigate when looking at proposed threats.”
Soon after the lockdown had been lifted, not many people remained around school property. As the parking lot emptied, six people were spotted playing hacky sack in some of the empty spaces.
Police, said Higdon, have a suspect.
“We won’t be providing information on the individual at this time as there is no charges laid and the investigation is ongoing.”
An hour after the lockdown had been lifted, screenshots of a Facebook post were circulating among students and faculty. Some suspected these were the threatening posts in question.
“I would caution people, in a situation like this, to provide information to police before disseminating on social media,” Higdon said. “There have been cases in the past where individuals have found themselves wrongly identified as involved in a situation that they may or may not have been. I’m not saying that that’s the case here, it’s just good information.
“We wouldn’t consider people’s perception of it as an overreaction. I think that it’s a human thing to react. But we would just caution people on, perhaps rather than sharing information on social media, contact police. Let us do the investigation … too many people can impact the investigation.”
On Monday, after being shutdown for the entire weekend, the college provided counselling services in the cafeteria.
The college declined comment citing the ongoing police investigation.