It was nearly midnight on Wednesday when Autumn Battani, a freshman majoring in psychology, heard several loud sounds while standing by the center of campus — a Halloween prank, she thought at first.
“And then all of the sudden everyone around us got on the ground,” Battani said. “Then they all got up and started running. It happened so fast, I didn’t even know what happened or why everyone was running, so I ran too.”
Like hundreds of other students and guests, Battani was waiting in line to enter “Freak or Greek,” an on-campus Halloween party. Then, several gunshots rang out, sending a mass of panicked students running in all directions.
The Los Angeles Police Department has detained two suspects — both unaffiliated with USC — related to the shooting, which left one victim in critical condition and three other victims injured. The shooting occurred about 100 yards from the campus center.
As students ran for cover after the shooting, the party underneath in the Campus Center basement continued because the area was on lockdown.
“Music continued to play, and they continued to party,” LAPD Cmdr. Bob Green said during a briefing early Thursday morning.
The event, which began at 9 p.m. and hit an attendance of about 400 students, was planned as an exception to the university’s scheduling rule — events taking place past 10 p.m., play loud music or serve alcohol are required to take place on weekends.
“In this case, the event in question was approved as an exception to the university’s date and time requirements because no alcohol was to be served and to allow the student group to hold an event on Halloween,” Vice President of Student Affairs Michael Jackson said in a statement.
An outside promoter, LA Hype, advertised the event on social media and event pages. Admission was free for USC students, according to an advertisement on the online aggregator AllEvents, and discounted for guests who were members of fraternities or sororities, or in costume.
Though alcohol was prohibited, the advertisement AllEvents told students to “PreGame before the party” and “not bring any substances on campus” because of citations.
LA Hype could not be reached for comment.
Eleven Dept. of Public Safety officers were sent as security for the event, according to DPS Capt. David Carlisle. In addition, students confirmed that at least two Contemporary Services Corporation officers checked IDs, searched for alcohol and conducted pat-downs. DPS uses CSC officers to provide security checks at events.
DPS uses a special events coordinator to recommend the amount of security personnel necessary at events, Carlisle said.
As more people flocked to the Campus Center for the event, DPS deployed three additional officers to organize those waiting to enter the party. More than 100 people were lined up outside moments before the shooting, according to eyewitness reports.
“They were a large mass of people trying to funnel into the entrance of the ballroom,” Carlisle said. “And we were in the process of trying to line them up on Trousdale [Parkway] when the shooting occurred.”
The party, having been advertised heavily on the Internet, attracted students who were not affiliated with the university, such as Rayamen Middlebrooks, a 21-year-old community college student. Middlebrooks said he knew the event might get out of hand.
“Honestly, from the beginning, I knew how the crowd was,” Middlebrooks said. “Things were going to happen.”
The university required attendants to show an ID from USC or another university, according to a statement from USC President C. L. Max Nikias.
Following the shooting, Middlebrooks and his friend Andre Shields, a 20-year-old community college student, were in disbelief that gunshots would be fired at USC.
“And you just don’t think it was gunshots on the USC campus, out of everywhere else,” Middlebrooks said. “But yeah, gunshots on USC campus.”
Law enforcement officials are not aware of the reason behind the altercation that led to the shooting. LAPD’s investigation is ongoing.
BSA Executive Director Lamar Gary declined to comment for this story. Undergraduate Student Government, which oversees BSA, also declined to comment.
Annalise Mantz and Yasmeen Serhan contributed to this report.