“It’s not that we’re exempt”: Local officials discuss how they have prepared for an active shooter


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.



'“It’s not that we’re exempt”: Local officials discuss how they have prepared for an active shooter' have 2 comments

  1. June 11, 2016 @ 3:29 pm Corey Brown

    I thought this article was not helpful at all and that it was inaccurate. There is NO reason that BYU-I should not have guns on the campus.
    Gunderson said that “it is our job to incapacitate the gunman [using a fire extinguisher].” First of all, we are students here. not security officers so it is not “our job” to incapacitate the gunman. Second of all, if it is OUR job to incapacitate him with a weapon (fire extinguisher) why not use a gun instead.

    I spoke with a full time Police officer friend of mine who has been on the force for a few years now and he says that there is “no plan” for what to do if a gunman comes to BYU-I. He further states that police have not organized a plan with the few security guards BYUI has to handle a school shooting. He said “when other officers and myself at at BYU-I we run scenarios in our heads on what we would do if a gunman attacked a certain area” because there is no set plan for an event like that.

    It was suggested by Gunderson that kids that think they may be violent should go to the counseling center because often times all they need is “someone to talk to.” Well, I don’t think a person who think they might shoot up a school would confess to it before actually doing it. I don’t think that the counseling center is a proper “defense mechanism” for a shooting at BYU-I.

    Self-Defense classes were mentioned as a way to defend ourselves against a gunman and jiu-jutsu was specifically mentioned. I have been a martial artist for 10 years and I promise you that martial arts is no match for guns. Jiu-jitsu could POTENTIALLY work if you were within reach of the gunman and you have had a lot of fight experience that would allow you to keep your cool and know what to expect. A two hour class taught once a week WILL NOT prepare anyone to take on a mentally deranged gunman.

    Its great that the hospital can hold 35 injured victims and that the rest can be shipped to Idaho Falls, but if every student had a gun or even just 1 out of 10 or 1 out of 20 people had a gun, then the Hospital wouldn’t need room for 35 victims because the shooter would likely be incapacitated before he could really do any damage and he would be taken out with a gun, not a fire extinguisher or a jiu-jitsu hip toss.

    In conclusion, if what my police officer friend says is true and the police haven’t actually drilled to handle a police shooting in the last couple of years then, NO, I do not feel safe at this school and I feel lied to by the school for giving students a false sense of security. UCLA was attacked in California and I am willing to bet that the school was a “gun-free zone.” It is true that we are not exempt from a school shooting, infact I think we welcome it by being a gun free zone and my police buddy agrees that it is an invitation as well.

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  2. June 14, 2016 @ 6:07 pm Ben Nemeck

    I’ve never seen more than one security guard on campus at a time. A lot can happen in 30-60 seconds and I think it is a little ridiculous that the school doesn’t allow us to use what it has said is inspired words, the 2nd Amendment, to protect ourselves. There have been threats made to the campus. One of these days some psycho is going to follow through with their threats and there will not be someone there who could have stopped them for 30-60 seconds. That’s just until the police arrive, then they have to actually enter the building and find where everything is happening and some of these buildings are very confusing to get around in if you haven’t already been there. Unfortunately, the school doesn’t seem to value our lives enough to allow us to protect ourselves, and they do not seem to care about our input on the situation. Why is it that many people who come to give talks and devotionals are allowed to have multiple armed body guards, I’ve counted more than 7 at one event, but we are not to allowed to protect ourselves. There is some major hypocrisy in the administration and rules of the university.

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