Texas A&M University-San Antonio was quick to react to news of two women who were killed and a child who was injured in a shooting Feb. 3 inside the dorms at the A&M-Commerce campus.
A&M-San Antonio President Cynthia Teniente-Matson encouraged students who may be affected by the shooting to seek help from Student Counseling and Wellness Services or the Employee Assistance Program for faculty and staff.
“While such acts have become too frequent, each incident is beyond our comprehension and may compromise our sense of community security,” Matson said in an email to the university community Feb. 3. “At times like this, it is important to reaffirm that the safety of our campus remains the highest priority.”
According to the Dallas Morning News, Deja Matts,19, and her sister Abbaney Matts, 20, were shot and killed in the Pride Rock Residence Hall. Matts’ 2-year-old son was grazed in the foot by a bullet and released from the hospital to his family after treatment.
Students and faculty react to tragedy
Julianne Garcia, marketing junior and student worker at A&M-San Antonio, was made aware of the shooting by the email from Matson. She said she believes students should be given some kind of training to be prepared for situations as bone-chilling as this.
“As a student worker here, we kind of know what to do in certain situations including a shooting because we get trained on it. However, I don’t think other students outside of those who are involved know what to do,” Garcia said. “It isn’t advertised or marketed for students to be aware, so I believe some sort of training or knowledge would help students think faster in a situation like that.”
Ricardo Gomez, a lecturer whose classes include CRIM 3345, Police in Society, also emphasized the importance of education given to faculty, staff and students, on what signs to observe by others as preventive measures.
Biology freshman Jimena Marquez was made aware of the shooting through social media posts by friends. She said she has one idea that could have prevented a tragedy like this from happening.
“I’m guessing to have everyone that’s on the campus to have their ID visible to make sure that they’re a student,” Marquez said.
Gomez, who spent 31 years in law enforcement as a Harris County deputy sheriff, assistant chief of police at the University of Texas at Arlington and other positions, said IDs won’t necessarily help prevent future incidents.
“We also know that some of the people who commit shootings are either an employee of that place or another student,” Gomez said. “So I don’t think it’s going to do anything to help prevent shootings.”
Math junior Hannah Stevens was shocked to learn about the shooting. She said she fears that it could happen on the San Antonio campus as well.
“Maybe we should have better monitoring as to what is brought onto campuses,” said Stevens. “I think there should be more restrictions as to what guns can be brought onto campus and better screening for those who should be allowed to bring them.”
Campus safety and concerns
According to the A&M-San Antonio Student Handbook, those holding a current concealed handgun license in Texas are allowed to carry on campus. Student Counseling and Wellness Services and the Fitness Center are areas of the campus where licensed carriers are prohibited from carrying. The open carrying of a handgun on campus is prohibited.
As seen in other mass shootings in public places, civilians who have weapons with them often defend against the assailant. Gomez said while it is within the law “we are seeing where it could be beneficial if there is a shooting, when other students have their weapons, the problem with that is that when law enforcement arrives they don’t know who the good guys are and who the bad guys are.”
“The protocol is that the first officer on the scene — it is his responsibility to find the shooter,” Gomez said.
“Whenever there is a threat it needs to be taken seriously,” Gomez said.
The University Police Department Chief of Police Ron Davidson was not available for comment Feb. 4.
The police department referred The Mesquite to the University Marketing and Communication Department on Feb. 6. Jeanette De Diemar, vice president of external advancement and communication at A&M-San Antonio, was not available for comment.
The protocol in practice on campus for civilians is ADD: Avoid. Deny. Defend, according to various law enforcement agencies.
Student Counseling and Wellness Services is in Modular C through the back entrance of the building. Students can contact the office by calling 210-784-1331 or by emailing StuCounseling@tamusa.edu.
The Employee Assistance Program offers telephone and in-person assistance to employees dealing with workplace conflicts and personal stress. Faculty and staff can contact EAP by calling 866-301-9612 or logging onto http://www.guidanceresources.com.
Updated at 2:10 p.m. Feb. 7 to add professional background of Ricardo Gomez.