Within an hour after the conclusion of the first FAMU home football game, three victims, ranging in age from 14 to 20-years-old suffered from gunshot injuries.
FAMU football player Lonvontae Page suffered injuries to his shoulder. Page’s 14-year-old cousin suffered injuries on his chin.
“I was with his family leaving and shots were fired. Everybody hit the ground,” said Alexis Cooke, 19, a chemistry student from Tampa walked with Page and his cousin during the shooting. “We happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. We were innocent bystanders,” she said.
Some students were alerted at 10:42 p.m. that a shooting incident occurred on campus, from the university’s e2Campus emergency notification system.
The e2Campus ENS is a self-service, web-based, mass notification system that empowers the FAMU Department of Public Safety to send instant alerts to all students faculty and staff’s cell phone.
FAMU DPS Chief of Police Calvin Ross gave an account of Saturday’s shooting, “An altercation between a group of individuals took place near Gibbs Hall… that resulted in one individual pulling a gun and shooting into a vehicle where it was seated one of the victims and some other individuals.”
Ross said the shooter, a 17-year-old boy, was arrested at his home Sunday.
“Law enforcement, meaning FAMU police along with the Tallahassee police department, were able to swiftly take the information that they developed from witnesses and identify the assailant and his location. He was arrested at his home in the area of Tram Road,” Ross said.
Because of the shooter’s age, a name could not be released.
Ross said staffing for the football game included 60 to 65 officers from FAMU police, Tallahassee police, Florida Highway Patrol and contracted security guards who are posted in and around the stadium.
However, after the game Ross said, “We obviously had less than that because many of them had already been dismissed, as we would normally dismiss them as the crowd dispersed.”
A more strategic placement will be enforced Sept. 17, the next home game.
“We’ll have a heightened sense of awareness and vigilance on the part of our officers… this is the first such incident that we can remember happening at any one of our games,” Ross said. “But we know that the potential is there, not just at the game, but also at any point in time on campus. So the officers are ensuring that this does not happen again.”
Although Ross said this incident is rare, he warns students that violence could happen anywhere.
“We haven’t had anything of this nature, and I think that it is important that you recognize that we will be stepping up security in and around the various events that we have,” said Ross.
University spokesperson and Chief of Communications Officer Sharon Saunders said the shootings were unfortunate because they threatened the safety of students and supporters.
In a prepared statement released to the media Tuesday, President Ammons said, “Unpredictable acts of violence are being perpetrated on college campuses across the U.S. We are microcosms of our larger community and sometimes, unlikely things happen. This was an isolated incident based on our past history during home football games. We have not had a shooting or brawl as far back as I can remember. Our hearts and our prayers go out to Mr. Page and his family and to the other victim in the shooting. We are thankful that no one was critically injured.”
However random the incidents, some students at FAMU are apprehensive about attending university functions.
Lauren Thomas, 18, a first-year pre-journalism student from Bainbridge, Ga. said, “I was glad I was home because that makes you uncomfortable on campus where someone could be shooting up.”
Bianca Belabre, 19, a second-year physical therapy student from Orlando knows shootings do not happen often at FAMU. “This is only the first occasion that this has happened since I’ve been here… I remember last year I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing a police officer on campus. Safety is pretty decent on campus,” said Belabre.
Ross encouraged students that should treat events on campus with the same level of awareness that they would treat any other experience.
“I don’t think that [the student body] should be afraid to attend the games, or any functions on campus… The important thing for any of our students or any citizens anywhere in this city is to be vigilant to know your surroundings, to be vigilant of those around the area that you’re in and to just use extra caution,” said Ross.
SGA President Gallop Franklin wants to implement new safety measures on campus that would deter non-students from “feeling comfortable on our campus.”
“One group of officers will be here strictly looking for suspicious individuals and asking for their ID cards to make sure they are supposed to be on campus,” said Franklin.
Ross paralleled the new safety procedures and said the law enforcement department will be more vigilant for any type of suspicious activity during day-to-day operating campus conditions.
“We will use whatever means we can to ensure that individuals that are of a suspicious nature on campus are identified and with questioning them to ensure that we know who they are,” said Ross.
Franklin’s advice to students: “Try and stay safe…try not to be out too late. Be careful of your surroundings, and sign up for the e2Campus alerts.”
Ross also said the public safety is a joint responsibility and encourages students to report to a law enforcement officer if they see or hear something that is not right.
“We’re going to solicit the assistance of our student body on campus because they know more so than others who belong[s] and who does not. Who are the outsiders that are prone to create problems versus those that are just visiting,” said Ross.
Witness testimonies assisted FAMU police to track down the shooter.
“He [the shooter] was identified as a result of information that we picked up from witnesses and also information from the victim that was involved in the shooting itself,” said Ross.
FAMU DPS said they are seeking to prosecute the 17-year-old as an adult.
“We’re working with the state attorney’s office in order to have them file charges on him as an adult,” said Ross.