Man with gun puts PLU campus into lockdown, deputies take more than an hour to respond

FOX 13 News is digging into why it took law enforcement more than an hour to respond to a 911 call for a report of a man with a gun, that put a local college on lockdown.

The incident happened last Wednesday near Pacific Lutheran University’s campus.

At around 3:00 p.m., campus safety received a report of a man with a gun entering the school grounds. 

They called 911.

South Sound 911 put a broadcast out exactly one minute after the call came in. However, it took Pierce County Sheriff’s Deputies about an hour and twenty minutes to respond to the campus.

"A school full of students. Like, if this had been a serious, like, case why wouldn't you, like, hurry," said Thea Oeverby.

Oeverby is a freshman at PLU. She says she has only been the United States for about five weeks. She is from Norway, thousands of miles away from home, and had to sit in her room alone for the two-hour lockdown.

"It was very scary, because I’ve never experienced something like that," she said. "You can’t really help but to think the worst. So, your thoughts are everywhere. You don’t know what to do, what to think," she said.

Oeverby asked why it took deputies so long to respond. 

Officials with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department tell FOX 13 News when the broadcast went out there were no available deputies.

They also tell us the broadcast did not have an alert tone.

According to officials with South Sound 911, an alert tone is associated with the dispatching of an emergency event.

FOX 13 News asked officials with South Sound 911 why the PLU lockdown did not warrant an emergency tone. 

Scott Hamel, deputy director of support services for South Sound 911, says when the broadcast first went out dispatch was unaware of the lockdown.

"What we could have, or should have done, was to provide an additional radio broadcast update to let the units in the area know the campus was in lockdown, and that did not happen during the initial timeframe of the report," said Hamel.

FOX 13 News asked Hamel what, if any, changes will come after this situation.

"This event has been a catalyst for us to have conversation. We’re going to be discussing, and have already reached out, and had conversation with the security at PLU, as well as reviewing with our agencies who determine the response protocols," he said.

The Washington State Patrol (WSP) reports the man who reportedly had a gun near the campus was fleeing from a hit-and-run that happened a few blocks away at 112th Street South and Pacific Avenue South.

WSP officials say that man reportedly caused the hit-and-run, fled the scene, and ditched his car at 123rd Street South and Park Avenue South - right along PLU’s campus.

Authorities say the suspect was allegedly carrying an AR-15, and the car he was driving was stolen.

There is no video of the incident, or evidence of the man with the gun. Pierce County Deputies say there is no crime they can confirm, other than the stolen vehicle. Because of this, there is no investigation.