There are multiple mass shootings yearly, and when one happens, residents often say they can’t believe a mass shooting took place in their town.
The Square in downtown Oxford experienced a bit of a scare April 27 when a gun was fired inside The Lyric. The venue was hosting a party when two groups inside began to bicker just before 10. The argument eventually led to somebody firing a single round into to the ceiling. Party-goers immediately fled to the nearest exit. From the incident, one person was wounded from shattered glass.
Luckily, no one was actually shot. But what if a shooting took place? It could happen.
Oxford and UM campus officers are trained and have plans in place for an active shooter. Jeffrey Kellum, who grew up in Lafayette County and is an alum of Ole Miss, is the crime prevention coordinator for the University Police Department. He has worked on campus for UPD for the last six years.
Protocol for police when dealing with an active shooter hasn’t changed much. “First responder protocols have remained much the same over the last decade,” said Kellum. “All emergencies across the nation follow FEMA’s National Incident Management System protocols. What that means locally is that UPD, OPD, LCSO and any responding state and federal responders are able to effectively respond to incidents that impact the entire community.”
Students, staff, and faculty should know UPD is prepared. “Our annual training is led by our officers who are certified as active shooter instructors,” Kellum said.
Should a shooting ever take place on campus grounds, the university needs to act together and work together, Kellum said. “On campus, an active shooter event requires a community-based response that is slightly different than those of a local school district or in the general public. Simply put, we expect to survive this together. Therefore, the campus community has more resources that exist in the general public.”
UM uses phones to notify those of any alerting notifications that should be sent, such as a boil water notice, power outages, school closings, tornado warnings, and they would notify if there was an active shooter.
“There is an expectation on campus that we keep everyone notified of the status of the incident,” Kellum said. “The Ole Miss website RebAlert and LiveSafe app are specifically designed to make sure everyone is able to know what is happening.”
Continuing with safety measures, Kellum said trainings still take place, and educating the administration on protocols throughout each building still happens.
“Our officers continually lead active shooter response training for faculty, staff, and students,” he said. “Academic and administrative buildings on campus are expected to have protocols in place and review them frequently.”
UPD’s safety measures going forward is a matter of maintaining their ability to train the community in response protocols.
“All state employees are required to take online training prepared by the Mississippi Personnel Board and MEMA,” he said. “We encourage everyone else to also take FEMA Independent Study courses. They are free to the public. IS 907 Active Shooter: What You Can Do covers the nationally recognized principles for responding to an active shooter event.”
Being keen to one’s surroundings is also important. Knowing current trends and being up to date with things may also be helpful during an active shooter event.
“We also encourage everyone on campus to keep updated on their work environment’s expectations and protocols,” he said. “Having a plan won’t work if you don’t know what it is.”
Vicksburg native Captain Hildon Sessums, of the Oxford Police Department, has been an Oxford resident since 2002. Captain Sessums has been serving as an officer for OPD 13 years. He believes a key part of why active shooters have been on the rise is because of mental health.
“One, we’re getting better at diagnosing conditions but, two, there’s just something in them that thinks that they’re doing something that they believe is right, which is totally wrong, and it goes against all human norms,” he said.
Captain Sessums said active shooter training has always been part of the curriculum for law enforcement officers. He said the Columbine shooting from 1999 has changed the way officers now enter buildings with active shooters. “It’s changed to where two or even one officer goes in and responds,” Sessums said.
The Broward County shooting made OPD reevaluate the schools and their plans. With the rise of active shooters, Captain Sessums said it hasn’t necessarily increased their training, “We’ve just been trying to do better to prepare, if it happens.”
Captain Sessums said people should remember these three rules if involved in an active shooter situation: Run, hide and fight.