Gunshots roil campus
By Colin Phan and Mitchell Roland - Staff Reporters
Gunshots near Highline resulted in a campuswide lockdown last Friday morning.
Alerts went out just before 9 a.m., telling students and staff to shelter in place and that there were reports on gunfire on campus.
Witnesses have conflicting reports on where the shots were coming from, and police have not concluded their investigation yet.
"There were reports that there were gunshots on lower campus," said Highline vice president of Institutional Advancement Dr. Lisa Skari.
And while some people said that a shooter ran into Building 99, no one in the building has come forward and said they witnessed this, said Dr. Skari.
"When we actually had a report of a 911 call of a potential active shooter in Building 99, that is what changed everything," said Michael Pham, vice president of Administrative Services.
"Had it been just an investigation of the gunshots, [the lockdown] could've been over in 25 minutes at the most… but in this particular situation it was a very, very specific report," said Pham.
Multiple first responders from all over the converged at Highline on Friday's incident.
Public Safety said there were three different SWAT teams along with officers from The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, FBI, Kent Police, Des Moines Police, and Seattle Police.
All arrived on campus after the call.
The lockdown lasted for approximately two hours, with faculty members and students alike hiding in every nook and cranny of campus.
Following established procedures, classroom doors were locked, shades drawn, and people on campus sheltered in place.
Updates on the situation were provided via text message, computer, and telephone announcement.
First responders then began escorting people off of the campus, and then finally went in and cleared out Building 99.
Due to reports of the shooter potentially being in Building 99, Highline employees were escorted out with their hands above their heads as a safety precaution.
With the shooting in Florida that killed 17 students happening just two days prior to this situation, tensions were already running high.
Dr. Skari said that while she doesn't know how the recent shooting in Parkland impacted the situation, "whether Florida would've happened or not we would have reacted the same way."
She also added that people needed to be prepared for situations like this.
"If you don't know what to do, that slows down reaction time," said Dr. Skari.
The lockdown also raised some concerns about systems working properly.
There is an automated locking system on Building 99, and while the external locks did not work properly the internal ones did. There had been previous issues with the locks malfunctioning, said Dr. Skari.
Although the reports of of a potential shooter on campus brought fear and anxiety to Highline, the procedural side of things went smoothly Dr. Skari said.
Sgt. George Curtis of Public Saftey also said that things went according to plan.
"We did not have any major flaws in Friday's incident. Everything worked extremely well even with being short staffed," Sgt. Curtis said.
Dr. Skari said that the procedure for a lockdown would first start with alert being sent via text, on campus computer screens, and on speakers in buildings. Dr. Skari also advised students, saying they should "barricade doors and close blinds."
For situations like this or any other type of emergency scenarios, Dr. Skari said that Highline has been doing preparation for a while.
"We started doing emergency prep in 2010 and 2011," Dr. Skari said. "Having been through all of that though, you never know how all your plans are going to pan out."
With the way things happened on Friday, Dr. Skari said that it would serve as a valuable learning experience for the future. She also said that although there is no specific plan for a drill concerning a school shooter, there will be some type of drill coming in the next six months.
"We will continue to do this. We will also add to our written plans." Dr. Skari said.
Staff reporters Izzy Anderson and Ryan Junt contributed to this story.