The gunmen are believed to represent the militant group Al-Shabab.
According to the National Counter-Terrorism Center, Al-Shabab is said to be an Islamic-based militant group operating out of southern Somalia. The group has been terrorizing the region since 2006, and has been responsible for numerous bombing, massacres, and attacks in Somalia and bordering countries such as Ethiopia and Kenya.
Garissa University is a public university in Garissa, Kenya, a city located in northeastern Kenya, about 230 miles east of the country’s capital Nairobi and 120 miles from the Kenya-Somalia border. According to the school’s website, the university was founded in 2011 and is the only accredited post-secondary institution in this particular region of Kenya.
The four gunmen entered the campus, killing security guards and other personnel on their way in, however, the targets of the attack are said to be students of the Christian faith and Muslim converts.
The militants were killed during the shooting after state officials and military backup arrived to the scene. One of the gunmen has been speculated to be the son of a government official.
The number of bodies found has yet to be confirmed, but is between 147 and 150. There have also been reports of upwards of 100 people injured.
Kenya as well as countries around the world are mourning the loss of the students, teachers, and security guards that were lost during the attack. The massacre even caught the eye of Pope Francis, who led a prayer for the victims and their families during his Easter mass.
Because of the severity and ease of execution during the attack, interest of campus safety has been a hot topic for not only Kenyan school officials to consider, but schools across the globe as well. This includes schools in here in the United States, and Armstrong is no exception.
According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, from the year of 2000 to 2004, there were around 3,000 cases of crimes on campuses across the nation involving firearms. There have also been many more recent university shootings, including those of Virginia Tech University (2007), Northern Illinois University (2008), and Florida State University (2014).
With Armstrong having such an open campus, concerns have been raised regarding the precautions and safety measures in place if there were to be an active shooter on campus.
In mid-February, there were reports of gunfire in the Windsor Forest neighborhood, and although there were no injuries or casualties, the Armstrong police department wants help make sure that a tragedy such as that in Kenya and on other college campuses doesn’t happen to us, or if it does, that we’re well prepared for it.
Currently, Armstrong’s Student Government Association is working closely with the campus police force to ensure a safer environment for students and faculty. Efforts include Chief Wilcox and his officers going around informing different departments around campus about active shooter information.
SGA and the police department have also been working to host an open forum for the student body to also inform them about active shooter information, emergency preparedness and to answer any questions they might have. As of now the forum is scheduled to be towards the middle of April.
“What people don’t know, is that one is more likely to get struck by lightning that to encounter an active shooter,” Chief of Police Wayne said. He went on to explain that even though the odds of it happening are slim, it is a topic that needs to be talked about.
There are a lot of things that students, faculty, and staff need to consider, Chief Willcox emphasized. “What are you going to do if a hurricane were to hit? What belonging would you save and how fast could you evacuate? Active shooter is just a part of it.”
Along with active shooter information, ASU police and the SGA also hope to spread awareness about Armstrong’s campus safety app.
The Pirate Guardian Personal Safety app is free for download on both Android and iOS devices, and can be searched for under the name “Rave Guardian.” The app allows students to send the police department their location, request escorts if one feels uncomfortable walking alone, and even send anonymous tips and pictures to the department. “We’re trying to move the campus into the 21st century,” Willcox said.
Chief Willcox went on to explain that the help stations around campus, although still useful, aren’t the most effective way for someone who is in an uncomfortable situation to reach the police department. “With the Rave Guardian app, students, and even faculty and staff, can contact us directly through the app, and we’ll even be able to see their location to know exactly where to dispatch our officers.”
“I have the guardian, and even though I haven’t needed to use it yet, I know that if I need to the response will be quick and effective,” Jamal Longwood, a freshman Engineering major said. “It’s a good way for the campus to stay safe and connected to the police should anything arise. It’s a good use of the technology that surrounds us.”
Armstrong prides itself on the dedication it has towards maintaining the safety and security of the campus, however there is always room to improve.