Questions remain about SC State's lockdown policies - - Columbia, South Carolina

Questions remain about SC State's lockdown policies

Brandon Robinson Brandon Robinson
Justin Singleton Justin Singleton

WIS' investigative team discovered South Carolina State University officials may not have followed the policies in place after a student was shot on campus last week.

Brandon Robinson, 20, was shot in the neck area in the parking lot of Hugine Suites on campus at about 1:30 p.m. Jan. 24. Police arrested 19-year-old Justin Singleton during early morning hours Jan. 25. He was charged with murder after Robinson later died at Orangeburg Regional Medical Center. 

WIS questioned the University's procedure after students reported they were not notified about the shooting until about 3:30 p.m., at which time the campus was also placed on lockdown. The public also raised concern about the delay in locking the campus down.

SC State President Thomas Elzey has since defended the decision to not lock the campus down immediately.

"Once the shooting occurred, authorities reported that the suspected perpetrators immediately left campus and that there was no threat to the campus. This is why a lockdown was not initiated at that time," Elzey said in a video message to University students and staff. "It is important to know that because there were students on site who witnessed the shooting, personal accounts were immediately posted on social media even before law enforcement and emergency crews arrived. As soon as the University was officially notified by police, we notified the University community."

In the University's Emergency Operations Guide, emergency notifications should start with the police chief and then go to the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. SLED was notified and started searching for suspects and collecting evidence within an hour after the shooting occurred.

The police chief was then supposed to notify Elzey, who should've reached out to his executive assistant to start notifying faculty, staff and students. Meanwhile, the president was to contact the board chairman and public relations director. After the public relations director is notified, the media is next on the list.

WIS first heard about the shooting incident at 2:45 p.m. Jan. 24 by social media. After reaching out to the University, WIS confirmed the information by 2:50 p.m., an hour after the shooting was reported to police. WIS received a press release from the University after 4 p.m. Jan. 24.

In a news conference the day of the shooting, SC State Police Chief Mernard Clarkson said as soon as campus police got the information and determined it was an emergency to the University, officials used the campus alert system to send messages to students and faculty.

However, according to a 1:50 p.m. call from the communications center in Orangeburg County, an employee with SC State told a 911 dispatcher that the campus police were on scene of the shooting. SC State eventually sent out emergency notifications to faculty, staff and students and sounded the alarm to lockdown the facility about two hours after the incident was reported.

The emergency guide does not have a procedure to fit the exact incident that happened last week. However, it does have protocols in place for students in possession of a weapon on campus and for an active shooter. Both of these ask witnesses to notify campus police first. The other steps cater to the particular incident and suggest ways to avoid the shooter and wait for police to arrive.

There is also no policy in place that defines how to execute a lockdown on the University's campus.

WIS reached out to the University's communications department with specific questions regarding the emergency guide, but no response has been received.

SC State shooting timeline:

Jan. 24

About 1:30 p.m. - Shooting took place outside of the Hugine Suites "K" Hall. Campus police were called to the scene and confirmed the shooting.

1:48 p.m. – A 911 call made by a female on campus who said a boy was shot in the parking lot in front of the K building.

1:50 p.m. – A 911 dispatcher calls SC State Campus Police to gather information on the shooting. Campus police say they have an officer on the scene and reported the victim was shot.

Victim taken to Orangeburg Regional Medical Center.

1:54 p.m. – A woman calls 911 to report a silver truck was parked in her driveway on College Avenue. The caller said, "Some fellows stole a truck or something, and they parked it in my driveway. When they started going through, my dog started barking. My husband went out, and I could see the guy running through. He had on a black jacket and black pants."

City, county and state authorities perform ground and aerial searches. Officials find evidence in the parking lot where the shooting took place; at an abandoned house two blocks from campus; and towed a vehicle from a home on College Avenue that was left there by the suspects.

2:45 p.m. – WIS first hears about the shooting incident via social media.

2:50 p.m. – SC State's communications department confirms there was a shooting on campus. Campus was not on lockdown.

About 3:30 p.m. – SC State University authorizes a campus lockdown.

4 p.m. news conference - Chief Mernard Clarkson says no motive known and asked the community to remain alert and report suspicious activity.

Search was ongoing for four suspects sought in the shooting incident.

Perimeter of campus is secure.

Descriptions of suspects being put out into the field, but did not release this information to the media.

Continuing to interview witnesses at the time.

Confident the suspects are off-campus based on the investigation.

Clarkson said as soon as campus police got the information and determined it was an emergency to the university, officials used the campus alert system to send messages to students and faculty.

However, Clarkson did not know a time for how long it took the information to get out to campus students and employees.

6 p.m. SC State identifies the victim as 20-year-old Brandon Robinson, who died from injuries at the hospital.

Lifted lockdown shortly after 6 p.m. with limited access.

Grief counseling available to students.

Jan. 25

Early morning – 19-year-old Justin Bernard Singleton, of Charleston, was arrested at an Orangeburg apartment complex and charged with murder. SLED investigators allege Singleton was arguing with Robinson when Singleton pulled out a gun and shot the victim in the neck area.

9 a.m. – Singleton appeared in court.

Jan. 28

SC State President Thomas Elzey sends a video message and letter to students, employees and the public ensuring the campus is a safe place. Elzey also defended his decision to not put the campus on lockdown immediately following the shooting incident because witness statements claimed the suspects left campus grounds.

Copyright 2014 WIS. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly