Armed Intruder Alert at USF St. Petersburg tests security system

7:13 PM, Feb 24, 2014   |    comments
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iPhone screen capture of two text alerts issued by USF St. Petersburg
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St. Petersburg, FL -- The were some some scary moments for students on the campus of USF St. Petersburg overnight.

An alert went out warning dorm residents of an armed intruder, and the incident has focused attention on campus security.

Police say they arrested 31-year-old Derek Brown, not for what he did inside Dorm One at USF St. Pete, but for what he'd done outside minutes before.

He allegedly pulled a knife on a pair bystanders who tried to get between Brown and his girlfriend during an argument.

SEE ALSO: Campus crime reports not painting accurate picture of safety around USF, UT and elsewhere

"St. Pete police came to investigate that, but before they could arrive, the person who was the suspect and a friend walked across the street to the residence hall," said USF St. Petersburg Police Chief David Hendry.

Investigators say that friend was Brown's girlfriend who resides on the fifth floor.

What they didn't know was that things had calmed down between the two, and so police sent out an alert warning students of an "armed intruder."

Brown was found sleeping and taken into custody without incident. He was charged with two counts of aggravated assault.

"I know the process and the protocols worked and so I'm very pleased with that," said Chief Hendry.

Still, no one mans the door at the dorm at night. There's only an emergency call box.

It's why some students think the alert system -- which took about 20 minutes to activate in this case -- could use some improvement. They say it's not fast enough if there'd been real trouble.

Sophomore Daniel Gladstein says he didn't get the email message until he woke up on Monday morning. What if there had been a real problem, he asked. "I would have preferred that they got the message out faster than they did," said Gladstein.

McKenzie Burrows, a freshman, agreed. Her friend passed the information along to her after seeing it mentioned on Facebook.

"And I don't think we got it on time," said Burrows.

Still, others say the text messaging system is efficient. The card-key entry system, they feel, is more than adequate.

It's not like someone "forced their way in," said freshman Courtney Diem.

"There's not much you can do for that unless you have an armed security guard sitting out front with a gun, which I think is excessive," said Burrows.

Campus police say they've reviewed this incident and are content with the way things went in this case, from the standpoint of both security and their response.

They say the emergency messaging system works well... but students do have to subscribe to it. As of now only about 85 percent do.

Those who were alerted received the information about three minutes after it was sent, say campus police.

For those who want to subscribe to the campus alert system, just follow the instructions and register on the MoBull Messenger service website.

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