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Gunman threat closes campus
Ohio University was shut down — for a non-weather-related reason — for the first time since 1970 when an off-campus armed robbery led to an on-campus scare.
After hearing at about 9:20 a.m. Wednesday that a robbery had occurred at Station Street Apartments, OU President Roderick McDavis called a meeting of his executive officers to discuss the situation.
“Upon hearing the news, we were also informed that the Ohio University Police Department and Athens Police Department were in pursuit of the suspect,” McDavis said. “About 30 or 40 minutes later, (the suspect) was sighted very close to Stocker Center.”
The campus was closed at about noon Wednesday, but classes and other work at OU will resume as scheduled Thursday, McDavis said in a campuswide email Wednesday evening.
As law enforcement officials pursued the suspect, top university administrators received constant updates on the situation going into another meeting at noon.
“We determined at that point that we could cancel classes and send all non-essential employees home,” McDavis said, with the official notification going out to the campus at 12:39 p.m. via the OU emergency alert system.
This is not the first time a gunman was spotted on campus. However, because Wednesday’s suspect had not been apprehended for more than two hours since the first report of the alleged robbery, and there were multiple reports of sightings of the gunman on or near campus, the decision was made to close campus, McDavis said.
“The crime was not perpetrated on campus … but eventually ended up on campus near (Stocker Center),” Vice President for Finance and Administration Stephen Golding said. “That obviously represents a significant threat to the campus.”
Golding added that though the suspect seems to have come on campus, he did not think the gunman was doing so with an intention to do harm.
The emergency response system was key in staying in touch with students, faculty and staff, Golding said, adding that additional officers were brought in to ensure the safety of campus.
“In my nine years, this is the first time we have ever closed the university for non-weather reasons,” McDavis said. Two professors who have been at OU since 1970 say the university has never been closed for non-weather related reasons since the Kent State University riots that occurred that year.