Reports of a shooting at approximately 5:05 p.m. on Monday led the Dept. of Public Safety to send two Trojans Alerts to the USC community.
One alerted students, faculty and staff to an alleged shooting near Exposition Boulevard, while the second claimed that early reports were “unfounded” and the area was safe.
According to DPS Capt. David Carlisle, a DPS officer was on a routine patrol on Exposition Boulevard near Exposition Park when he heard what sounded like a gunshot. He then spoke to a man who thought someone driving by had shot at him, and identified the possible suspects as three Hispanic males in a white Toyota truck with a camper shell.
Carlisle said that the department decided to send out a Trojans Alert immediately to keep students in the loop.
“The suspects are at large. Stay away from the area,” the alert read. “Seek shelter in a secure location until the incident is resolved. Be aware of your surroundings.”
DPS acknowledged that not all information had been confirmed in the alert, but Carlisle said they chose to send the information out anyway to protect students from potential harm.
“At the time, we thought safety of the students first, let’s ensure the safety of the area by sending out a Trojans Alert,” Carlisle said.
After DPS officers began investigating the area, however, they realized no gunshots had been fired and identified the source of the noise as a car backfiring.
The university then sent out a second alert at approximately 5:26 p.m., explaining that the alleged shooting “had been investigated and was determined to be unfounded.”
Despite the inaccuracy of the initial alert, some students said they were pleased with the way DPS handled the reports of the shooting.
“It frustrates me that the incident was, in fact, unfounded, but that being said it didn’t cause me any major inconvenience,” said Matt Cheung, a freshman majoring in communication. “I’m glad that DPS is taking the approach of Trojans being safe rather than sorry.”
Other students, like Brianna Pak, a freshman majoring in industrial systems engineering, however, said they weren’t so happy with the way DPS handled the incident.
“I understand that DPS is trying to be safe as opposed to sorry, but I think they should verify their facts before they talk to students,” she said. “I mean, how do you not know if there was or wasn’t a shooting? It causes unnecessary fear and delegitimizes their alerts in the case of a real emergency.”
Though DPS aims to be both accurate and quick with Trojans Alerts, Carlisle said would rather err on the side of caution.
“The bottom line is a man mistakenly thought a noise was a gunshot, and we sent out a Trojans Alert just to be safe,” Carlisle said.
Yasmeen Serhan contributed to this report.