A deadly armed robbery happened on my campus

I would have appreciated a text message alert

Whenever I read news headlines that depict unpredictable or brutal violence, I think, that could never happen where I live… not to people I know… not in my community. Then, it happened.

I’m a second-year student at the University of Alberta. After midnight Friday morning, students found three people dead and one severely injured in the HUB Mall on campus where I eat lunch almost every day during the school year. Travis Baumgartner, 21, allegedly shot and robbed his fellow armed guards to steal ATM cash. He was arrested on Saturday in British Columbia.

We’re safe now. But I didn’t always feel that way.

I found out something was amiss when my mom woke me up at 8 a.m. Friday morning and told me there had been a shooting. Soon after, other family members were calling to make sure my friends and I were safe. I was scheduled to write an exam and they were concerned for my safety.

I went to my mobile phone to check for the text messages U of A  Alerts sends in emergencies. I wanted to see what had happened and whether it was safe to go to school to write my exam.

Instead, I found only texts from friends worried that I may have been on campus studying.

I instinctively checked Facebook to see if my friends were safe too. I live far from campus, but I know many people in residence. Facebook assured me that no close friends were injured. I also learned one of my former coworkers was among the students who discovered the bodies and survivor.

I pieced together what I could through social media, family and the news. I was nervous, because I hadn’t received official word, but I went to campus anyway. I still didn’t receive a text message. Although some received texts that morning, I wasn’t the only one surprised to not get one.

The University of Alberta did send an email, around 9 a.m. But this didn’t land in my inbox until nine hours after the shootings, and after I needed to leave home to be at my exam. It said school was open after a robbery “in and around HUB last night” that resulted in lost lives. It also said, “it does not appear at this time that any of the victims of this tragic incident are university staff or students.”

In a statement addressing the fact that a text warning was not sent, the university said it was partly because Edmonton Police told them early on that the suspect had left the crime scene. It said:

In this situation, one of the first notifications we received from the Edmonton Police Service included information that the suspect was no longer in the area. As a result, University of Alberta Protective Services determined that there was no immediate danger to people on campus. For this reason, the initial notification, conducted by EPS, was to door-to-door and later PA announcements within HUB Mall and website postings by the university.

But those of us at home didn’t know any of those details for sure.

I commend the university for acting to protect our safety by giving updates on its website and by sending that e-mail, but that’s not where I expected them to be. I would have greatly appreciated receiving an emergency alert after four people were brutally shot on the campus I go to every day.

Ravanne Lawday is a second-year English student at the University of Alberta.