SLU leadership addresses response to false alarm

ST. LOUIS (KTVI) - St. Louis University President Dr. Fred Pestello said a security scare earlier in the week turned out to be a real wake up call for the school.

Pestello sent a campus-wide email with a video message in which he said that communications were not clear and caused confusion.

“As a leadership team, there were areas where we fell short. We must do better,” Dr. Pestello said.

Wednesday evening, students were evacuated from Spring Hall after a report that a man walked in with a gun. SLU sent out text alerts, calls, and a tweet. Moments later, another round of alerts that said, “Shots fired outside Marchetti East. Shelter in place.”

Some students and parents said that alert caused them anxiety and fear that there was an active shooter on campus. They questioned why the word “reported” wasn’t used in the alert, especially after an investigation revealed the man with the gun was a student with a rubber band gun he was assigned to make for a class. Also, police determined no shots were fired.

Pestello had an answer and an apology for that.

“In the moment the word 'reported' was not included in the alert because the priority was to share pertinent information as quickly as possible,” said Pestello. “That is our mistake."

As a part of the video message, the president said he is commissioning a committee to develop an updated emergency response system with a clear, concise communication plan. Pestello said that plan will be shared at the start of the fall semester.