At least seven shots were fired Wednesday outside a Halloween party in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center at approximately 11:45 p.m, leaving one victim in critical condition and three others wounded.
The shooting occurred after an altercation between a suspect and Geno Hall, a former Crenshaw High School football star who is in critical but stable condition after undergoing three hours of surgery, according to the Los Angeles Times. Neither the suspects nor the victims were affiliated with USC. Classes across the university continued as normal Thursday.
The Times reported that Wednesday’s shooting was the first to occur on USC’s campus since 1992.
The shots were fired about 100 yards from a Halloween costume party, “Freak or Greek,” that was held in the campus center’s ballroom. The event, which began at 9 p.m., was promoted by LA Hype and Black Student Assembly.
The event drew a crowd of about 400 with more than 100 students lined up outside waiting to enter the party, according to eyewitness reports.
“We were waiting outside to get into the party, and we were waiting for a while — maybe 20 or 30 minutes,” said Olivia Gordon, a freshman majoring in psychology. “And all of a sudden, as soon as people started going inside, there were multiple gunshots and everyone who was in line for the party ducked and we all ran.”
The other three victims sustained relatively minor injuries and are expected to make a full recovery, according to the LAPD. All four were taken to California Hospital Medical Center.
A confrontation occurred between Hall and the suspect, which led the suspect to open fire on Hall, inadvertently injuring three others in the process, according to DPS Capt. David Carlisle. Hall, the intended victim, was shot seven times in the left thigh, back of his leg, buttocks and arm.
“I heard three gunshots … there might have been more than that,” said Christina Nour, a freshman majoring in civil engineering building science. “Then I ducked. It didn’t feel real. It felt like it was a movie, because I really haven’t experienced anything like this before. I was running as fast as I can, trying to make sure I didn’t get trampled or tripped. I just ran as fast as I could, as far as I could.”
University policy permits student parties to be open to USC students and students from other colleges with a school ID. USC President C. L. Max Nikias said the university will review this policy in light of Wednesday’s incident. In an email to the Times on Thursday, Nikias said he would announce changes in university security policies early next week.
“Nothing is more important to me than the safety of our students, faculty and staff,” Nikias said in the email. “I have already initiated an expedited process for this thorough review. I will announce changes in our policies early next week.”
Nikias issued a statement on USC’s website Thursday in which he reassured parents and students of USC’s efforts to promote safety. He emphasized that the individuals involved in the shooting were not affiliated with the university.
Michael Jackson, vice president for Student Affairs, also released a statement early Thursday morning on the university’s website, saying DPS had been monitoring the area because of the party. Fourteen officers were on the scene at the time of the shooting, Carlisle said.
Like Nikias, Jackson also noted the importance of a safe campus.
“This incident reminds us that we must look out for ourselves and be particularly vigilant about the personal safety of friends and guests at our social events,” Jackson said.
After the shooting, officers at the scene identified the shooter as well as an unidentified male who was fleeing the scene with him. Officers followed the two to Parking Lot 6 near Kaprielian Hall and detained them; they also retrieved the handgun used in the shooting from the ground at the lot.
DPS and LAPD quickly cordoned off the area near the shooting, from Bovard Auditorium to Mudd Hall and from the Campus Center to the eastern edge of Hahn Plaza. The entire University Park Campus was locked down soon after.
Despite the lockdown, LAPD said the event in the Campus Center was allowed to continue even as the shooting and its aftermath unfolded outside.
At approximately 2 a.m., DPS and LAPD opened the campus to students, faculty and staff with USC identification. The entire campus was reopened at 4:52 a.m.
Asst. DPS Chief John Thomas said that the incident was not indicative of the overall level of safety in and around USC.
“[USC has] a great partnership with the Los Angeles Police Department,” he said. “We are one of the safest campuses in the country — we make sure that we have the necessary resources at the event, we do necessary planning and unfortunately [the shooting] happened outside. These are individuals that unfortunately came here and decided to disrupt what otherwise would have been a very peaceful event, like all of our events on campus.”
Sean Fitz-Gerald, Joey Kaufman, Eddie Kim and Yasmeen Serhan contributed to this report.