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College fight leads to lockdown

Reports of gunfire activates Kentucky school’s emergency plan as potential faith-based responders are alerted.

BOWLING GREEN, KY | October 23, 2008

"Extra precautions are good precautions, and we took them immediately"

—Robbin Taylor, Western Ky University

Members of the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance National Response Team kept a close eye on events at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, Ky. Wednesday as calls came in with unconfirmed reports of shots fired on campus shortly after noon. PDA has a long history of responding to school shootings and other public violence, offering support to chaplains and community leaders, who often set aside their own emotional health while attending to that of the survivors.

“It takes a lot out of the leadership,” says Pamela Burdine, associate for Constituency Relations at PDA. “They need respite, care for the caregiver.”

Bowling Green Police Department Officer Barry Pruitt said after a lengthy investigation, they’ve determined no shots were fired, and the incident appears to be limited to an isolated physical altercation between students.

Robbin Taylor, vice-president for public relations at Western Kentucky University, said a fight began a mile away on the South Campus, then moved to the main campus near Pearce Ford Tower, the largest dormitory at the 19,000-student university. School officials enforced a school-wide lockdown which was lifted at 3:30 p.m., and four people — believed to be students — have been apprehended for questioning.

“Extra precautions are good precautions, and we took them immediately,” Taylor said, citing the April 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech, which left 33 people dead. “Better to be safe than sorry.”

Although Wednesday’s incident passed without a need for a response, PDA’s National Response Team, experienced in school shootings and similar events, was on the scene at Virginia Tech for several weeks, Burdine says. Anne Van Allen and the Rev. Robert Barnes and James Kirk, all experienced in school shootings and similar events, responded, as did members of Lutheran Disaster Response.

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