Man shot in West Campus Sunday night, lack of information led to student distress on social media

Tori Duff, News reporter

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in the November 2 flipbook.

The Austin Police Department responded to a man shot in West Campus on Halloween night, but fireworks in the area had many students concerned the shooting was more widespread. Now, many students are calling on the University to communicate dangerous situations more effectively.

Reports of shootings started coming in at around 11:21 p.m. Sunday near 22nd and Pearl St. UTPD spokesperson Noelle Newton said UTPD was informed of the incident at 11:45 p.m. and immediately dispatched officers. However, UTPD sent a safety alert nearly 45 minutes later at 12:24 a.m. Monday, informing students of the incident. 

At this point, many students expressed distress and confusion on social media as they monitored the Citizen app, which reported two other incidents of gunshots in West Campus at 12:05 a.m. and 2:11 a.m. APD later clarified these incidents were fireworks.

Newton said, due to police jurisdiction, UTPD is not directly informed of incidents in the area where the shooting took place and instead relies on police scanners, the Citizen app and APD to inform them. Additionally, UTPD was attending to multiple other reports of fireworks set off in West Campus that were mistaken for gunshots. After confirming the situation, UTPD sent out alerts.

Finance senior Yasin Ahmed said he lives next to 22nd and Pearl St. and called the police when he heard shots fired. 

“I don’t think many people knew what was happening,” Ahmed said. “I wish (UTPD) would have sent a text out … because students probably aren’t checking their email.”

Newton said in any situation where there is an active threat and students need to shelter, UTPD will send out a text alert as opposed to an email to inform them.

“If we were to issue a command to lock down or something, that’s going to come out through text,” Newton said. “That’s not something we’re gonna email …  That’s how we guide our text notifications: if it’s an immediate threat to life on campus or any on-campus facility, then we’re sending out a text notification.”

APD believes last night’s single victim is not affiliated with the University. The four suspects fled the scene in a vehicle and have not been apprehended, but APD said in a statement that they are not believed to still be in West Campus. 

Emma Reed, a communication and leadership junior, said students did not know how to confirm information, leading them to turn to other student testimonies.

“I was really hooked on Twitter and the police scanner even just because there was no consistent source of information, so I was trying to get whatever I could from as many sources as possible,” Reed said. “There was so much unconfirmed misinformation being sent out in these group chats.”

Reed said it would be useful to have a centralized source where students can be consistently updated on safety resources and crime in the area, regardless of whether it is within UTPD or APD jurisdiction.

Newton said police escorts are available for students who do not feel safe walking home at night.