Shooter investigation closed

CWU Police completed a two-month long investigation after the active shooter false alarm on Feb. 6. Students can expect an after action report in the coming weeks and an active shooter training video early next school year

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Shooter investigation closed

Mariah Valles, Editor in Chief

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The active shooter false alarm that occurred on Feb. 6 caused a two-month long investigation by CWU Police. The investigation is complete as of last week.

On Feb. 12 CWU Chief of Staff Linda Schactler said CWU Police predicted it was likely for the investigation to be concluded early the following week. Because the CWU Police department is small, more time was needed to complete the investigation than the university initially estimated, CWU Police Chief Jason Berthon-Koch told The Observer, which obtained a copy of the investigation report though a public records request on April 26.

“You have people investigating this who are also answering calls for service for other things at the university,” Berthon-Koch said. “We don’t have the ability to have a detective on staff to go and just take care of this.”

Berthon-Koch said that the investigation was read numerous times to make sure nothing was missing.

“It just takes time,” Berthon-Koch said. “I know nowadays that people just want instant information and they want finality in 30 minutes plus commercials and it’s difficult at times.”

 

Better alert, more training

An after action report can be expected to come in the next few weeks, according to Berthon-Koch. This report will include what went well during the incident and what can be improved for future incidents.

“We took information from students and faculty and staff and that is really formulating the after action report,” Berthon-Koch said.

He said the CWU Rave Alerts will be more detailed and there will be more frequent communication during incidents. Berthon-Koch said this is to ensure hours don’t pass by without information being updated.

Berthon-Koch said an expansion to the Rave Alert system is being considered. The “Guardian app” would allow people to get alerts over Wi-Fi. Berthon-Koch recognized some buildings have issues with cellular connection. With the Guardian app, anybody connected to Wi-Fi could receive the alerts.

As part of the after action review and in response to feedback from the CWU community, a supplemental funding request for security measures on campus has been made to the state. Funding would contribute to outdoor speakers and installing card-swipe access to all external building entrances.

CWU Police, in conjunction with Public Affairs, is working on creating an active shooter training video. The video’s script is in the process of being written. Some students, faculty and staff will assist with the video.

Berthon-Koch said “run, hide, fight” will still be taught but that there will be a focus on the “hide portion.”

“If people choose to lock down, what do you do?” Berthon-Koch said. “It’s easy to say, ‘Just go hide,’ but I want to give you examples of what to do.”

Berthon-Koch said students can expect the video to be ready in September or October. His goal is for every student to watch the video at least once a year.

The CWU Police Department is open and willing to provide students with active shooter training classes.

“We can certainly set up classes if there’s a whole group of students who want to set up classes,” Berthon-Koch said. “I’m more than willing to come meet with students, I even do it in evenings, and go through active shooter training with them.”

If there are questions or concerns, Berthon-Koch or CWU Assistant Police Chief Eric Twaites can be contacted at the CWU Police Department office.

“We’re listening to [students’] voices regarding training,” Berthon-Koch said. “Our students want more training, so therefore we’re working towards that to create the video.”

All started with a credible threat

On April 26, The Observer obtained a 50 page report detailing the active shooter events of Feb. 6. This report includes accounts by 11 CWU Police officers including CWU Police Chief Berthon-Koch and Assistant Police Chief Twaites.

On Feb. 6 at 4:32 p.m., Berthon-Koch received a phone call from CWU Police department Lt. Marc McPherson informing him about a threats call that the Ellensburg Police Department was working on. According to a March 15 supplemental report by Berthon-Koch, “Lt. McPherson read the call to me that the student indicated that he made a shooting comment and that according to the call log CWU was concerned for the student,” Berthon-Koch stated.

The report says an off-site counseling center had called 911 reporting the threatening comments.

At 4:35 p.m., Berthon-Koch called Joey Bryant in the Dean of Student Success office in Bouillon Hall to obtain local contact information for the student of concern as Lt. McPherson could not find it. Bryant is the executive director of student rights and responsibilities.

Berthon-Koch informed Bryant CWU Police was responding to concerning comments made by a student and that they were assisting Ellensburg Police Department with locating the student. A short time after, Berthon-Koch called Bryant again to find out if the student had night classes.

When he arrived at the CWU Police office, Berthon-Koch was told that they had what they believed to be credible threatening comments directed at conduct or case management. Berthon-Koch called Bryant and asked him to take the precautionary step of locking his office. Berthon-Koch also told Bryant he would be sending officers to Bryant’s office to explain the situation as well as be there as a precaution.

 

Things escalated

Meanwhile, in Bouillon Hall, an ROTC student was having one of their regularly scheduled meetings with Joy Stochosky, assistant director of case management. Stochosky and the student told CWU Police that, on Feb. 6, around 4:50 p.m., their meeting was interrupted by Bryant, who, both said, informed them that the office was going into a lock down due to an active shooter threat.

According to one of the reports, Stochosky privately went to Bryant’s office, also in Bouillon Hall, for clarification on the matter and went back to her office. Stochosky and the ROTC student then left her office and grouped together with others in the main office area.

Eventually, around 5 p.m., all remaining staff was escorted from Bouillon Hall by law enforcement. Shortly after, the ROTC student entered Lind Hall and Stochosky left campus.

According to a supplemental report by a CWU Police sergeant, on Feb. 7, Executive Director of Student Rights and Responsibilities Bryant was contacted via phone about the Feb. 6 incident. Bryant stated he was made aware of a potential threat regarding a student and made the decision to notify fellow staff members of the potential threat. According to the account of the phone call, however, Bryant said he did not say there was an active shooter threat on campus.

 

ROTC followed protocol

Stochosky said as she was driving away from campus she saw the ROTC student walking to Lind Hall. She also noted CWU’s Army ROTC Major Bonnie Kovatch’s vehicle parked, which meant she was still at work. Stochosky pulled over and called Kovatch. She said the call gave no specific details regarding threats, but “the tone would lead someone to believe that things were not all right,” according to CWU Police reports.

According to a CWU Police officer who interviewed the ROTC student, the ROTC student said they overheard someone outside of Stochosky’s office say something to the effect that the office would be locked down due to the threat of an active shooter. After being escorted out of Bouillon Hall, the ROTC student entered Lind Hall where he was supposed to be preparing for a lab the next day. In the hall, the ROTC student passed CWU’s Army ROTC Captain Jerimiah Wood and asked if he had heard anything about the threat of an active shooter. Captain Wood said he hadn’t heard about any threats, but turned and went to Kovatch’s office. The ROTC student went into a classroom “to observe junior cadets.”

According to CWU Police reports, the student said that at 5:15 p.m., Kovatch entered the classroom, said they would be enacting their ROTC protocol, and told the ROTC student to have the cadets leave. This meant the cadets in the classroom would evacuate the building and start a notification tree among all cadets to ensure they were accounted for. The ROTC student said they explained to the cadets that it was an “active shooter threat only.”

In a statement to CWU Police on Feb. 11, Major Kovatch said Stochosky told her the ROTC student was enroute to Lind Hall after learning of the unconfirmed reports of the active shooter threat at Bouillon Hall. Kovatch then looked out her office window and saw two CWU Police vehicles. Five minutes later, Wood notified her of what the ROTC student stated. The ROTC response plan was then put into action.

Times for the above events are not fully detailed in the investigation report.

 

The active shooter alert

According to a supplemental report by Assistant CWU Police Chief Twaites, at 5:26 p.m. on Feb. 6 he received a phone call from Chief Berthon-Koch that lasted 10 seconds. According to Twaites, Berthon-Koch stated, “Send an alert there is an active shooter at Lind Hall.”

Twaites then logged into the CWU Rave Alert system. While logging into the alert system, he received a phone call from Andreas Bohman, CWU vice president of operations, at 5:29 p.m. asking if he was sending an alert. Twaites also received a phone call from KITTCOM lasting 42 seconds at 5:30 p.m. advising him of the active shooter at Lind Hall.

At 5:35 p.m. Twaites sent the alert. The message stated, “CWU Alert: There has been a report of an active shooter in the area of Lind Hall on CWU Ellensburg Campus. Stay out of the area.”

Between the time of the alert and all-clear, law enforcement responded to reports of shots being fired at Lind Hall, the SURC, Language and Literature Building and Nicholson Pavilion. The CWU Police report pieces together a series of testimonies detailing fragmentary and unconfirmed information was circulating among students on campus and from students and their parents via text and social media about false rumors of shots fired.

During the process of clearing the SURC, no one indicated any knowledge of shooting, hearing shots fired or screaming and yelling due to an alleged active shooter, according to Twaites’ supplemental report.

Once incident command was certain there was no active shooter, Twaites sent out another CWU Rave Alert stating, “CWU Alert: Police have reported that all buildings have been secured and the campus all-clear. No confirmed shots, suspects, and no injuries reported.” This alert was sent at 7:27 p.m.

After the all-clear was given, secondary searches were completed for all academic buildings on the CWU Ellensburg campus, according to a supplemental report. According to the report, this was completed in order to make sure everybody knew about the all-clear, in case they hadn’t gotten the Rave Alert message.

 

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