At 9:25 a.m. yesterday morning on a college campus in Hickory, North Carolina, a staff member on the east campus saw a man walking through the parking lot with handgun. She made eye contact with him. He ran. She ran. Then she notified deputies who contacted the Hickory Police Department.
"It was really scary. The guy came in and just ran through the classroom and the went to another classroom. We didn't know what happened. Next thing we know swat team members are searching everything," said student Cody Calderon.
The suspect was described as a white male, with stringy hair, mid-30s and carrying a backpack, Hickory Police chief Tom Atkins said.
There are about 1,000 students on east campus, 4,000 on the main campus and 28 children in a daycare facility on east campus.
CVCC nursing student Rose Martindale said she was sitting in her 10 a.m. anatomy class when she heard sirens.
"We all thought, 'Ugh, another drill,'" Martindale said.
The students quickly realized it was real.
"My teachers locked the doors, said Martindale. "They had to get everybody in from the halls."
So, what could possibly go wrong here?
Police put the east campus, the Appalachian State University Hickory branch next door and the nearby Catawba Valley Community College campus on lockdown.
And officers saturated the campuses with guns drawn. The SWAT team evacuated 5,000 students and staff from the buildings one room at a time, including a daycare. Students in Martindale’s classroom had to sit for five hours before they were allowed to leave.
So one "gunman" produced dozens of "gunmen?" And there will be 10 more "gunmen" today, patrolling the campus looking for this one "gunman." (CVCC President Dr. Garrett Hinshaw said 10 deputies would patrol both campuses Thursday. Normally, there would be three).
Martindale is glad for the extra protection, but still nervous that the gunman was never found.
"You don’t know if he’s still out there, if he’s going to come back," Martindale said.
Before the evacuation, school officials told students, faculty and staff through a loudspeaker system to stay in their classrooms. Inside the building, 1,000 students and faculty locked themselves in classrooms and offices.
"We had to get up against the wall farthest from the door and cut out the lights and stuff," said student Tiffany Bostian.
Carla Black, an employee at CVCC said she hid in her office. "I shut my door locked it, cut the lights off, cut the computer off and got under my desk," she said.
Was this a real "gunman?" That is, was this someone who intended to shoot people on campus?
Or was it just a guy who happened to have a gun on campus who just got spooked and thus ran when someone saw him carrying his gun?
In today's society, it does not seem to matter. We've gone "school shooting" crazy and will do whatever it takes to prevent a "school shooting" even if it means ramping up security, locking down buildings and classrooms, setting up elaborate warning systems with sirens and loudspeakers, even pointing guns in the faces of innocent bystanders, thereby causing great fear in thousands of people.
So are school shootings a real threat? Are they inreasing? Decreasing? Likely to happen here?
These are the types of questions you rarely see the media ask.