It was a grey, rainy Tuesday morning on March 13, and news of the recent tragedies suffered at Marjory Stoneman High School in Parkland, Florida were fresh on everyone’s mind. Lorenzo Pimentel walked up Divarty Street a few minutes before his 10am class in the BIT building. Meanwhile, the California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB) student body received a mass message via email and text of a possibly armed suspicious person on campus. The message read, “…a white male five foot four inches straight hair thin build dark clothing subject has a backpack and may have a weapon held at their side…” Classes were cancelled, schedules disrupted and nerves were on edge. Students anxiously refreshed their school emails and checked their cell phones, awaiting an update on the potential threat. What were they to expect? What were they to do? How were they to react without any previous practice with live shooters on campus?
Ding! Another message from the campus police department. Students wonder what it will contain: Has someone been shot? Has the shooter been apprehended? However, the news is positive, even comical. It appears that the “weapon” the man was said to be holding is merely an umbrella. But not just any umbrella, it was an umbrella in the design of a samurai sword. All is well, classes resume and schedules are ironed out. People forgive and forget. But Lorenzo Pimentel has not forgotten.
On that morning, Lorenzo observed his classmates as their phones buzzed with the security text alerts. The classroom was filled with anxious whispers. He heard a few classmates note that the description highlighted many of Lorenzo’s features. Initially, he had the same thought when reading his friend’s security text. However, there was one major detail in the message that did not match—Lorenzo is not a white male. This disparity relieved his and his classmates’ worries. But nearly an hour into class, the police appeared outside the door and spoke with the professor, who called Lorenzo out into the hall. The officer asked Lorenzo a few questions before requesting him to identify himself in a photo pulled from the security footage of the BIT building earlier in the morning. Lorenzo then showed the officer his umbrella, which concluded the questioning process. Though the incident was resolved relatively quickly, upwards one hour passed before another alert was sent stating the situation had been resolved.
Quite selflessly, Lorenzo now worries about the safety and security of the campus. It took almost an hour for the alert to be sent out from the time the initial police call was made. It then took police more than half an hour to locate him. Lorenzo raises valid concerns that had there been an actual threat, the suspect would have had over an hour before police intervention occurred.
When interviewed, Lorenzo mentioned another major concern: the dangerous ease of misinterpreting a security alert. The alleged “weapon,” thought to be a samurai sword, was quickly interpreted by many CSUMB students to be a gun.
With the current political and social climate regarding firearms, it is understandable that people were frightened, and that the situation was quickly misinterpreted. The CSUMB body should not forget about the events of March 13. Instead, let us learn and grow from that day. It is necessary to be open and discuss the legality and control of firearms, and we should be better prepared for a suspicious person if a similar incident were to occur in the future.