MARK HOLMBERG: Did VSU wait too long to notify students about shooting?

Posted at 11:47 PM, Apr 18, 2012
and last updated 2012-04-19 07:15:42-04

ETTRICK, Va (WTVR) - It was 23 minutes after at least 10 shots were fired Tuesday afternoon at the edge of Virginia State University’s campus before the first alert was sent to out to students.

Two people were shot, one fatally, during the 4:15 p.m. confrontation on 2nd Avenue between VSU dorms and the university’s credit union. One of those hit was a freshman, winged in the foot while walking past the confrontation between two groups of young men who apparently had no connection to the school.

[WATCH NOW: Surveillance video captures deadly shooting near VSU]

Scores of students were in the immediate area. The university’s siren system was not activated, nor was there a lock down, a school spokesman confirmed Wednesday.

Many students we spoke with heard about the shooting through word of mouth. They admitted they didn’t sign up for the school’s RAVE emergency notification system, which sends out texts, tweets and recorded phone messages. Student Xavier Adams was among those CBS 6 interviewed who said he’d never heard of the program.

That first notification simply said there was a shooting near the campus. It came 23 minutes after the first shooting call and 15 minutes after responding officers were able to confirm there had been a shooting, said VSU spokesperson Thomas Reed

“Based upon the facts we had available at the time, we responded appropriately,” Reed said.

Some students said while they didn’t get the notification, their parents did.

Other students got the text or a recoded phone message, but were concerned that it took too long and didn’t include a campus lock down, even though the shooter was – and is – still at large.

The first Twitter message was sent out at 4:46, it said there had been a shooting at the credit union, which wasn’t involved.

A side issue in this case is VSU’s assertion the shooting didn’t happen on campus, even though the area is clearly shown on the school’s web site as part of the campus and the shell casings fell within a half-down strides of a dormitory.

Reed stressed Wednesday that the stretch of 2nd Avenue where the shooting occurred is officially in Chesterfield County’s jurisdiction.

Federal law – the Clery act – requires universities like VSU to notify students with a “timely warning” where there are emergencies like the one Tuesday afternoon.

That act doesn’t specify how much time is “timely.” During the most recent shooting incident at Virginia Tech, students were alerted within six minutes the emergency call.

Reed said it wasn’t immediately apparent to responding officers what happened on 2nd Avenue, since those involved had run away or left in a car. The student who was winged in the foot was quickly found.

But the deadliness of the incident didn’t snap into focus until a car that fled the scene crashed into a transit bus in Petersburg a little later. Inside the car was one of the victims from the shooting, being rushed by a friend to the hospital.

That victim, 20-year-old Tyrail Hughes of Petersburg, had been shot in the abdomen and later died of his injuries.