Shaken Cal Chancellor recalls Kent State, Virginia Tech

Chancellor Robert Birgenau and UC Police Chief Mitch Celaya at today's press conference. Photo: Lance Knobel

[See update at foot of story.]

“Now we’re there along with Kent State and Virginia Tech,” said a visibly upset Chancellor Robert Birgeneau at the end of a press conference today about the shooting at the Haas School of Business. No students, faculty or staff were injured in the incident — the only injury was to the unidentified suspect.

The chancellor received news of the incident at his home, following a lunchtime meeting there. He had thought the main focus of the day would be the Occupy Cal protests. “We’re very pleased with the way the students have conducted themselves today,” Birgeneau told the press conference. “I have confidence in our students that they’ll stay focused on the important issues, which are disinvestment in higher education by our state and higher tuitions.”

But the first shooting on the Cal campus for over 20 years changed the tenor of the day.

According to UC Police Chief Mitch Celaya, there is no evidence that the suspect had any connection to the protests. Throughout his description of the events leading to the shooting, he cautioned that his department was at a “very preliminary stage” of the investigation. The press conference was held at 4:00pm, less than two hours after the incident.

UC Police had received a 911 call from the Haas School at 2:17pm today. A staff member had seen a white man, mid-20s, approximately 5′ 8″ tall in the elevator with a backpack. She saw what she thought was a firearm in the backpack. The suspect got off the elevator on the third floor and the staff member continued to the fifth floor where she notified her supervisor. The two returned to the third floor and spotted the man in the school’s computer lab. The supervisor called 911.

Three officers from UCPD arrived on the scene at 2:19pm. They found the suspect in a classroom at the back of the computer lab with at least four students in the room. According to Celaya, the man pulled a firearm from his backpack and “displayed it in a threatening manner”.

According to a number of nearby witnesses, the officers shouted, “Drop the gun!” Shots were then fired by one of the officers, according to Celaya. Loren Fuell, who was working at the front desk in the computer lab, said he heard “four or five shots”. Kaulin Krebs, a junior who was in the building at the time of the incident, said he saw 15 or so “kids on the ground” before he ran to safety. Celaya would only confirm that there were four students between the officers and the suspect.

“Officers responded to stop a violent act,” Celaya said.

The suspect was attended by fire department personnel and was conscious when he was taken to Highland Hospital.

The Haas School was closed for the remainder of the day. Celaya said that the computer lab would remain closed until all evidence had been gathered, but he expected the rest of the school to reopen shortly.

Update, 5:30 pm: Chancellor Birgeneau has issued the following statement to the campus community:

To the Campus Community:

We all share the distress and anger at the State of California’s disinvestment in public higher education.

IN THE SPIRIT OF TODAY’S DAY OF ACTION, I AM URGENTLY CALLING ON THE POLITICAL LEADERSHIP FROM SACRAMENTO TO COME TO CAMPUS TO ENGAGE WITH ME AND STUDENT REPRESENTATIVES IN A PUBLIC FORUM TO DEBATE THE FUTURE OF PUBLIC HIGHER EDUCATION.

The issues require bold action and time is short. I will inform you of the time and place as soon as possible.

Robert J. Birgeneau, Chancellor

Related:
Shooting at Cal Haas School of Business [11.15.11]
Rally begins after teach-ins at Occupy Cal Day of Action [11.15.11]
After Oakland eviction, focus shifts to UC Berkeley [11.14.11]

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  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_V6KQTJGAQAZXMNEIKG5LM2IHZU Tizzielish

    I am glad to read this updated story, to learn that the suspect actually did pull a gun on a cop.

    I am aware, however, of my skepticism and distrust of UC police and Birgeneau, and I say that with a heavy heart.  I need to be able to trust the institutions in my society.  My distrust and skepticism is influenced, heavily, by the violence the police used against nonviolent students and professors a few days ago. I understand that a guy like Birgeneau has to shape the dialogue and reaction to recent events on his campus. I admire his effort to uplift the dialogue and focus on a shared, common interest in addressing the economic challenges facing the university and its students as the state withholds financial support and increasingly shifts the financial burdens onto students. He has to act like that and I am glad he is acting in a positive, forward-moving fashion.

    I  wish he, and/or the police spokeswoman who presented students linking arms as violent provocation, could acknowledge and apologize for the way the cops acted the other day without waiting a year or two to investigate what everyone saw on youtube. 

    It sure looks to me like society is getting very tense, like the Occupy movement is shaking things up.  More than ever, we need a non-militaristic police force whose first priority, always, is to uphold the peace. 

    I am skeptical that Birgeneau’s attempt to narrow the public dialogue to a discussion between political leaders and student representatives to debating the future of public education will be in any way adequate to the civil unrest catching fire all over the country but I hope his seeming effort to be positive has a positive effect.

  • Kevin Jude

    I just assumed that his email account was compromised.  I don’t recall ever getting an email from the chancellor written in all caps.  Although I support the sentiment.

  • Anonymous

    “Now we’re there along with Kent State and Virginia Tech” – really? This was obviously a terrible thing to have happen at the UC Berkeley campus, but in no way is it comparable to the atrocities of those two situations.

  • http://radar.oreilly.com/2007/09/local-recycle-reuse-hits-a-bur.html The Sharkey

    I was thinking the same thing.

    I’m glad the UCPD was able to handle the situation and that only the suspect was hurt, but this wasn’t even remotely as bad as either of those incidents.

  • mamak7

    No, this isnt like KState or VT. Thank heavens it wasn’t. People were aware and conscience of their surroundings. That is my son who was a witness and I for one am very grateful. Thanks to the UC police and their quick reaction.

  • Anonymous

    The real hero of the day in my mind was the quick thinking and fast acting staff member who saw the gun and was able to get things rolling quickly to neutralize any threat. My gut instinct is that this person is deeply disturbed and possibly mental ill.  We need excellent police as we have in Europe who are not corrupt for the most part and more mature and a part of the community ( think soft power ) and yet trained to get right on this as do in Germany and the Nordic countries.  Our biggest asset are the eyes and ears of the community, otherwise this may have turned into a terrible bloodbath.  I also suspect that the occupy movement is attracting many who are unstable or just flat out evil.  Let’s all move this a new higher level of collective organization towards getting the funding back to our educational systems vs. endless tents and street fights that just alienate everyone.      

  • Guest

    It has not been over 20 years, only 19 years since  August 25, 1992.

  • Guest

    What does this have to do with Virginia Tech?  Sorry, but Birgeneau is just an idiot.

  • Anonymous

    Maybe.  Here is some information about the suspect/victim
    http://www.linkedin.com/pub/chris-travis/3b/222/860

  • Guest

    Birgeneau has a long history of making outrageous and inflammatory public comments.  Remember when he accused the tree sitters of being “racist against African-American student athletes”?  Or when, in reference to teh Gabby Giffords shooting, he said he was not surprised that it happened in a state with tough penalties for illegal immigration?  Equating this incident to Virginia Tech is just another in the long line of idiotic things to come out of his mouth.

     

  • Rachel A.

    I, too, am startled by the seriously exaggerated comparison between the events at Haas and Kent State or VTI. It seems to be an un-filtered-through-reasonableness response.  That gives pause.

  • Babspmalone

    He’s sad now, but he was in freaking China for a week. He should not have left the campus, let alone the country, during the Occupy protests.

  • Johnsonstuff

    From what i gathered, the police officer who shot (10 shots) was the only one who shot. If Chris was so threating why didn’t the other officers shoot? Why didn’t they just taze him? And 10 SHOTS!? REALY!?

  • release the tape

    release the tape