In the history of BYU-Idaho, previously Ricks College, there has never been a mass shooting on campus.
“It’s not that we’re exempt,” said Garth Gunderson, director of Security and Safety at BYU-I. “We have a counseling center that is busy and booked up all the time with people dealing with issues. The LDS population is not exempt from mental health issues, especially when we have such high expectations of ourselves, and sometimes it bothers us when we don’t quite make it, you know?”
Captain Randy Lewis of the Rexburg Police Department said that in a hostile situation, the first thing police do is make contact with the potential threat.
Gunderson said there are three things students and faculty should do when there is a potential threat: run, hide or fight.
“If you can take a fire extinguisher off the wall and stand by the door, you swing that fire extinguisher as hard as you can,” Gunderson said. “Your job is to incapacitate that person, not kill him, and if he gets killed in the meantime, that’s not your fault. You’ve got other people and yourself to protect.”
He said the police department also has a negotiation team that can talk with those who could be potential threats.
Gunderson said all armed security officers on campus are former police officers who have been through extensive background checks.
Lewis said that in almost every case, the police department can get to campus within 30 to 60 seconds.
“We have officers up there constantly,” Lewis said. “Two minutes is long for us.”
Lewis said that preparing for a shooter on the BYU-I campus is part of regular mandatory training at the Rexburg Police Department.
Gunderson said if a student feels they have the potential to be violent, they should go to counseling on campus.
The possession or use of firearms is prohibited on campus and on facilities owned by the university, according to the Student Honor Office.
Lewis said most of the hostile situations the police encounter are cases of individuals with mental illnesses who just need someone to talk to.
Wynn Hill, the student well-being managing director, said if a student is in crisis and needs help, they can go to the Counseling Center during regular hours. He said the Counseling Center has a crisis counselor available at all times and can be contacted at 208-496-HELP (208-496-4357).
Gunderson said if students feel someone else could be a threat, they need to report it.
“At least one person in more than half of the shootings knew it was going to happen before it happened, and at 75 percent, multiple people knew it was going to happen,” Gunderson said.
Gunderson said there was a well-documented case in the Midwest where a student told other students he was going to kill others.
Gunderson said the student took requests from other students and made a list of targets. He said it was reported that over half of the students knew the day he was going to attack and came to watch it.
To better prepare for situations where there is a potential threat, the university has a variety of self-defense activities and classes, one of which is jiu jitsu, held in the John W. Hart Building Wrestling Room every Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., according to the BYU-I website.
Gunderson said there are two videos on the university’s Security and Safety web page, one of which is called “Shots Fired: When Lightning Strikes.”
Doug McBride, marketing and public relations director at Madison Memorial Hospital, said the Rexburg Police Department, BYU-I campus and community medical centers, such as Madison Memorial Hospital, are trained and go through quarterly drills to keep staff sharp and on-alert.
McBride said the hospital can hold around 32 critical victims depending on the injuries, and less critical victims can be transported to the ER in Idaho Falls.