Hostage Situation on Campus: 28 Students and Professor Held in 8-Hour Standoff

 

Gary MacNamara
Sacred Heart University
Exec. Dir Public Safety/ Gov’t Affairs

 

 

On February 12, 2002, at 3:50 pm, an individual entered a classroom in an academic building on the Fairfield University Campus and took 27 students and a professor hostage. Within a matter of moments resources were from within the University and from the greater regional area were responding to the campus to assist.  Responders included public safety, Fairfield Police and Fire, Connecticut State Police, bomb squads, EMS, Ct. Homeland Security, representatives from the Governor’s Office, and members of the FBI.

Instantly the campus community was flooded with calls from anxious parents, the media, students, faculty and staff and others in search of information. Traffic was halted.  Resources were diverted any sense of normalcy to the campus came to an end.  The entire community became front and center to a nation still dealing with the Terrorist attacks from 9-11-2001.

Over the next 8 hours, responders were able to evacuate the building, stabilize the incident, and focus on the task of negotiating the release of the hostages and the surrender of the offender.  The only way this incident was successfully resolved was through the cooperation of all these agencies working together.  The relationships the University had previously established were crucial to the smooth operation.

As a Lieutenant at the time of the incident, Chief MacNamara was tasked with negotiating the incident and bringing it to a successful conclusion.  He will highlight the incident and include the response from the school, police, and others. He will share recordings of actual calls handled, parent concerns, and the police response, evacuation, media relationships, and conclusions.

Actual recordings from the incident will be shared and discussed including actual negotiations.

Takeaways

  • Relationships matter.
  • Incident reporting issues.
  • How the media can help in an incident.
  • How to prepare non-responders to handle the incident.
  • How to prepare students for a crisis beyond the “Run, Hide and Fight”.