Students irate at slow alert time of DPS
Students expressed outrage that Dept. of Public Safety took 36 hours to send out a crime alert after two USC students were shot early Sunday morning outside of a party at an apartment complex at 1241 West 37th Place.
A male undergraduate student was shot in the chest and a female graduate student was shot in the hand and suffered a bloody finger, said Capt. Melissa Zak of LAPDâs Southwest Division.
Students, including those who live near the apartment complex, were angered that DPS did not send out a Trojans Alert.
âStudentsâ safety should come first,â said Sullivan Brown, a junior majoring in animation and digital art who lives on the 1200 block of West 37th Place. âDPS should have texted us as soon as the incident occurred, especially those people who live on the west side of campus.â
After consulting with LAPD, DPS chose not to issue a Trojans Alert because it determined the community was not in any immediate danger and the suspect was no longer at large.
âThe two or maybe three suspects [involved in the incident] immediately left the scene and walked away,â DPS Chief Carey Drayton said. âIt was determined that there was not an ongoing threat and people didnât need to do anything special. We didnât need anybody to hunker down because we had police canvassing the entire area looking for witnesses at the time.â
The shooting occurred when the suspect was accused of having stolen a pair of expensive headphones. The female victim attempted to help settle the altercation between the male victim and the suspect, according to Gueston Cordae Smith, a sophomore majoring in architecture who attended the party.
âWe were dancing and having a good time, and all of a sudden the [male] victim turned on the lights and was acting really angry,â Smith said. â[The male victim] said that his headphones were stolen âŚ and then walked up to the shooter.â
In response to the accusation, the suspect pulled out a handgun and fired a round at the victims going through the female victimâs hand before hitting the male victimâs chest, according to Sgt. Will Smith of LAPDâs Southwest division.
âAn argument came up and, not even a minute later, the [shooter] pulled out a gun,â Gueston Cordae Smith said. âI saw that gun in his hand, so I grabbed two of the girls who were with me and just ran out. As soon as I was running down the hall, I heard a gunshot.â
If the bullet had not first gone through the female victimâs hand, the bullet probably would have killed the male victim, Zak said.
Both victims were immediately taken to California Hospital Medical Center, where the male victim was listed in critical but stable condition and underwent surgery Sunday morning, Sgt. Smith said.
The female victim is in âOKâ condition, according to the Dept. of Public Safety on Sunday. She underwent surgery Sunday night on her hand, Zak said.
Both victims are expected to make a full recovery, said Vice President of Student Affairs Michael Jackson.
The suspect is a black male who is believed to be 6-foot-3 and weigh 180 pounds. He is also described as having protruding front teeth, a tattoo across his chest with a cross and unidentifiable tattoos on his biceps.
Students were also concerned that DPS did not send out a Crime Alert until 36 hours after the incident occurred.
Under the Clery Act, passed in 2007 in wake of the Virginia Tech shooting, universities are required to issue Crime Alerts when the community should be aware of a crime or crimes that have occurred in a specific geographic location. The Crime Alert is also required to provide tips to prevent members of the community from being victimized by the suspect or suspects.
DPS decided not to release a Crime Alert until it had a more accurate description of the suspect to ensure that people were not incorrectly profiled as a suspect. They also needed permission from LAPD and the FBI to release more specific details regarding the shooting.
âA Crime Alert was not issued right away because we have found in the past that non-specific descriptions can be offensive to groups of people because they inappropriately become suspects,â Drayton said. âThe delay in the Crime Alert was a delay to get the right information, a more laser-focused description, and the approval of [LAPD and the FBI] to release more specifics.â
In the coming weeks DPS will review its process of informing members of the community about crimes in the area, Drayton said.
âThere needs to be a real conversation between students, faculty, parents and staff about the insatiable desire to receive news and the legal requirements and obligations [DPS has] to protect the community,â Drayton said.
Police interviewed witnesses at the party and have begun searching for the suspect. Police performed a comprehensive search of the premises Sunday afternoon and found the headphones in question.
An investigation into the shooting includes members of LAPD, DPS, the FBI and members of the South Bureauâs Criminal Gang/Homicide Division, according to Sgt. Smith.
Although the handgun has notÂ been found, LAPD is currently following several solid leads, Zak said.