LSCPA leaders, students respond to deadly Texas A&M Commerce shooting

Published 12:15 am Thursday, February 6, 2020

In the Pride Rock residence hall at Texas A&M University at Commerce Monday afternoon, two university students were shot and killed during what police are calling an isolated shooting incident.

Lamar State College Port Arthur President Dr. Betty Reynard said campus security officers and the Port Arthur Police Department work diligently to keep students on their campus safe and prevent similar incidents from occurring in Port Arthur.

“We have a huge responsibility to maintain a safe environment for our students,” Reynard said. “School shootings that have taken place across the country are a worst-nightmare scenario. We are dedicated to doing everything within our power to be prepared in case of an event of this type.”

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The two-year state college offers only one on-campus residency. Seahawk Landing is an apartment complex located conveniently across the campus on Lakeshore Drive.

Rayla Ford, 18, is a resident of that complex, but her concern of an active shooter entering the premises is low.

“I find it frightening that something like that can happen at any school, but over here I don’t feel like that will happen because of how intense our security is,” she said. “When you walk anywhere around campus, there is a security officer around, whether they are in the cars watching for traffic, in the street watching us pass by or in the buildings. Security around here is pretty good.”

Residents of Seahawk Landing are given a code to enter and exit the building, provided only to those on the rental agreement lease. Its two fire exists rigged with alarms are the only other way in and out.

Guests may only enter the premises after being signed in by a current resident and fines are handed out to any non-resident in knowledge of the passcode.

Police officers are also often posted outside.

Ford, a Port Arthur native, said she has full confidence that she is in safe hands at LSCPA.

“There is always security around, even police officers line the streets in the morning and afternoons just in case,” she said.

Reynard said there are response and preemptive measures in place at the college for worse case scenarios.

“We live in a time where we have to be hypersensitive,” she said. “Through training and preparedness drills, we are ensuring that our faculty and staff are ready to do all they can to protect themselves and our students.”

Reed Richard, LSCPA Safety Committee chairperson, said the college is working diligently with the Port Arthur Police Department for campus-wide active shooter drills in the event of an emergency.

“People are creatures of habit, so if our faculty and staff have never practiced what to do in the event of a shooting, they won’t be as prepared to safeguard themselves or our students,” he said. “Workshop training on active shooting situations is great but it’s not enough. That’s why LSCPA is planning an active shooter drill later this month.”

A live drill including the city’s SWAT team and PAPD officers will take place as part of the Texas State University System’s Active Attack Response and Training Plan.

“With the help of the Port Arthur Police Department, we will have the opportunity to ‘practice’ what to do in the event of a shooting,” Reed said. “I’m sure it will be a frightening real-life experience but it’s critical that we walk through these steps so that our employees will know what to do in an instant should a shooting take place on campus. Seconds could mean the difference in life and death.”

Frazier Giomore, 18, who has been attending LSCPA for a year and a half, said he feels safe in the school’s ability to effectively respond to an active shooter and keep students safe.

“The security guards patrol the area regularly, and they are friendly to the people here, too,” he said. “You don’t see them as a threat, but you know they are here when you need them. I feel good if that kind of situation was to ever occur.”

During the break-in at Texas A&M Commerce, the university released an email to all students to shelter in place. LSCPA has similar methods in place.

In the event of a college or campus emergency, LSCPA Seahawk Emergency Notification System will be activated. The eLERTS contact members of the college community through email, voice and text messages.

Ford said this is an effective way to reach students.

“It’s a safe way to reach all the students across campus,” she said. “They even made an app you can use to report everything, even sexual assault. Even if you don’t live in the dorms, you are going to be OK. It’s safe here.”

Students at Lamar State College Port Arthur are encouraged to call 911 in case of emergency or reach out to the campus security for questions or non-life threatening concerns at 409-720-7369.

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