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]