By Sabrina Bates
A multi-agency investigation is underway after law enforcement responded to a shots-fired incident on the University of Tennessee at Martin campus Thursday (Nov. 16) night. According to a press release issued by the Martin Police Department, officers from the MPD and UT Martin Department of Public Safety responded to University Village, Phase 1, Building B, which is now known as Arnold Pryor Place, in reference to shots having been fired outside of the building.
The student-housing complex has 47 residents. The building has three stories, open stairwells and occupants enter their apartment from exterior doors. In the center of the third floor, facing the stairwell, is the housing for mechanical and electronic components for the complex. According to MPD Assistant Police Chief Phillip Fuqua, officers found seven spent shell casings on the stairwell and recovered seven projectiles from the exterior wall of the mechanical closets. Fuqua said that helped the department confirm no one was shot during the incident and there have been no reports of anyone shot during the incident. The projectiles recovered were 40-caliber. Apparently, the shooter fired shots from the stairwell into the exterior wall of the mechanical closets.
Fuqua said the department is working in collaboration with UTM’s Department of Public Safety and the incident remains under investigation.
“We started it (the investigation) together and we will finish it together,” Fuqua added.
An initial university notification to shelter in place was made at 8:36 p.m. by the Department of Public Safety via the RAVE Alert Text Messaging System. A second message was sent at 9:26 p.m. advising that an active-shooter situation did not exist, but urged students to continue sheltering in place, according to Bud Grimes with UTM’s Office of University Relations.
An all-clear message was sent at 12:20 a.m. Friday, Nov. 17, after the area was secured.
“The long delay resulted from the investigation and out of an abundance of caution to protect students,” Grimes noted in the correspondence from the university.
When asked about the standard protocols for communicating with students and their families in an event like this, University representatives referred to programs for incoming UT Martin students.
“Incoming UT Martin students receive campus safety information as part of the university’s onboarding programming. For example, during Summer Orientation and Registration, the Office of Housing conducts safety sessions for both students and parents, including RAVE Alerts and sheltering in place. During Welcome Week in August, PEP (Peer-Enabling Program) leaders and faculty mentors talk about campus safety with first-year students, including RAVE Alerts. The RAVE Alert System is the primary immediate-notification method used by the university to notify students, faculty and staff during emergencies; the RAVE Alerts were key notifications in this situation. It’s always possible someone missed or didn’t act on this information, but campus safety is covered multiple times with new students,” University officials noted.
Parents of UTM students may participate in the RAVE text-alert notification system, but a student must add the parent’s or guardian’s number to the system. Instructions to sign up for Rave are available at the following link: https://www.utm.edu/offices-and-services/public-safety/rave-alert-text-messaging-opt-in-procedures.php. Students may visit their UTMartin portal to opt-in.
Throughout the evening on Thursday, members of the MPD, university police and housing personnel were on site to assist students, UTM reports. Housing staff checked on students as they were notified of any individuals in distress as a result of the incident. Counseling for students was offered on Friday by the Student Health and Counseling Center.
“Every emergency is different, but the safety and well-being of students and other university personnel are always priorities. Housing staff reported outstanding cooperation from students throughout this situation,” University officials added.
Classes resumed on Friday. UT Martin Chancellor Dr. Yancy Freeman noted he made the decision to hold classes and operate the main campus on a normal schedule after police authorities gave guidance that there was no imminent threat.
See related letter sent from Dr. Freeman to students, faculty and staff on Friday.
The shots-fired incident remains under investigation and departments are working through leads. Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact UTM Department of Public Safety at 731-881-7777, the MPD at 731-587-5355 or CrimeStoppers at 731-587-2611. CrimeStoppers offers a cash award for information leading to an arrest and conviction.
UTM Chancellor Addresses Campus Community After Shots-Fired Incident Last Week
Dear University Community,
Our Skyhawk family continues to rally following the shooting incident Thursday evening on campus. Thankfully, no one was injured, and no threat exists. Our highest priority was communicating the alleged threat through the RAVE Alert system and assuring safety for everyone on campus. The rapid response of the university’s Department of Public Safety, the Martin Police Department, the Office of Housing and others, later resulted in a secured campus and an all-clear RAVE message communicated at 12:20 a.m. when sheltering in place was no longer necessary. Local authorities are still investigating and reviewing surveillance footage to identify the perpetrator(s).
Following the guidance of police authorities that no threat was imminent I made the decision to hold classes and operate the main campus on a normal schedule. A message was posted to the homepage this morning and later to information-l and university social media updating the situation. Students were also notified of available counseling services to provide support and assistance to anyone who might be struggling as a result of the incident.
We continue to field and answer questions and will thoroughly assess how our communications and response could have been better. If you have not done so, I want to make a personal plea to our campus community to sign up for the RAVE alert system. It is UTM’s primary and timely tool for communicating emergency messages to our community during a crisis.
Please know that the safety and wellbeing of our students, faculty, and staff will always be paramount in how crisis situations are managed. Again, thank you to those who worked tirelessly to ensure the safety of our community first and demonstrated why UT Martin is a special place.
Dr. Yancy Freeman, Chancellor