By 8 p.m. Sunday evening, an estimated crowd of over 3,000 locals and APSU community members had just enjoyed a wildly successful G.H.O.S.T. (aka Greater Halloween Options for Safe Trick-or-Treating) event.
The weather was calm after the treacherous storms only the day before. There was a parade of halloween costumes. The candy had lasted until everyone got some and the clean up crew had it looking like nothing had even happened, certainly nothing so big.
Kito Aruh, APSU’s SGA Vice President, had worked all day to organize the logistics and supervise the event. He admitted he was tired when he returned back to his dorm at 500, next to Hand Village, to clean up and unwind. At 10:32 p.m., the LiveSafe App went off on his phone. The message read:
“Shots Fired – Hand Village Area: in 800 block of Hand Vlg. 2 vehicles fled the area away from the campus, 1 silver, 1 black. No other info available at this time.”
The update at 1:29 a.m. provided further information that included “based on the initial information gathered by University Police, an individual not affiliated with the university has been shot.”
The person shot was pronounced dead at Tennova Hospital prior to the police arriving. The shooting was reported as being between people who knew each other (not a random shooting). The name of the deceased had not yet been released.
At 8:45 a.m., Aruh passed through the area where a half dozen police cars had been for most of the night. His first concern was, “I want to know who got hurt. As far as I know, it could be a friend or someone I know.”
Many parents reacted much the same way, getting hold of their children who live here on campus. The not knowing was cause for measurable fear and concern.
The contrast between G.H.O.S.T, a family event that the Vice President of Student Affairs, Eric Norman, had characterized hours earlier as “one of three great community events that happened today in Clarksville” and the terror caused by a shooter on campus, was palpable.
Several students reported having heard the gunshots fired outside the Hand Village freshman dorm. Many heard sirens and witnessed lights erupting shortly after. Ambulances pulled in and sped out. All of it was so different from the feeling of safety and community of only a couple hours before.
Students described their feelings about experiencing an event like this on campus. Dozens of people were willing to talk, but only anonymously.
One student said it plainly. “I am shook up and having my name in the paper, having this come up on a Google search, this is not what I want to remember or be defined by.”
Some students on campus also felt similarly distressed and recounted some of the things that happened after the alert went out. Their phones “blew up” with texts and calls of concern from family and friends.
GroupMe and Discord accounts were filled with check-ins and reports that people were safe. One student said he did not feel comfortable sleeping in his dorm in Hand Village and stayed with a friend.
“For the students who are afraid or are feeling unsettled right now, never be afraid to call Austin Peay Police,” SGA President Sydney Hawkins said.
“Be proactive, if you see something, say something and do something. If I see someone walking late at night, I will ask them if I can walk with them. Just don’t be afraid to lend a helping hand and be there for people.”
Outside of classrooms and on social media platforms, students shared their experiences and their concerns. Upperclassmen are explaining the Blue Light system and the LiveSafe App, both early warning systems on campus, to anyone who was not aware of those resources.
Staff and faculty were checking their digital feeds for the most recent update from our administration. It came at at 10:39 a.m. from President Alisa White in a campus-wide email.
“Late last night, I was saddened to hear about a tragic event that occurred on the Austin Peay campus, near the Hand Village residence hall. A person not affiliated with the University was shot and later died at Tennova Healthcare. It was a call no university president ever wants to receive because the safety of our students is our highest priority,” White said.
“The Clarksville Police Department, with assistance from the APSU Police Department, is handling the investigation, and they have detained four people who may have information related to this shooting. Through this investigation, the police have determined that last night’s shooting was not random. Because this is an ongoing investigation, an increased police presence may be visible on campus today.”
There are many safety resources available on campus for students.
Students who are struggling after this event can reach out to Student Counseling Services at the Ard at 931-221-6162, and they are taking appointments. Others may benefit from talking out their concerns with family and friends.
Students can call the campus police to accompany them as they move across campus at night. They can also download the LiveSafe App and use the feature that sends a beacon of their movement across campus to the police. It is also suggested that students send texts and snaps to roommates while on their way back to the dorm, and traveling in pairs as much as possible is strongly encouraged.
For those who can listen to a fellow student and be a comfort, according to counseling services, this is a good time to ask how each other is doing and really listen.
“If it is a concern of the students then we will address it in the SGA,” Hawkins said.
In the meantime, this is an ongoing investigation. Details will be reported as they are released.
“Remember, we are stronger together,” White said.