Campus Wide Lockdown

November 13, 2017 Press Conference Video

November 14, 2017 at 11:04 a.m.

Dear Campus Community,

Last night, an individual identified himself as the potential person described by witnesses as seen on campus yesterday. The witnesses had identified this individual as appearing suspicious, and indicated the individual was wearing a bulky, possibly a bullet-proof vest, a black trench coat, black pants and carrying a bulging backpack. Due to this specific identification, the decision was made to place the campus in a lockdown to ensure the safety of the entire community.

This individual voluntarily contacted Westfield State University Police and subsequently reported to police headquarters while wearing all the gear as described by the witnesses, though it should be noted there was no bullet-proof vest, simply a vest.

This morning, a University Police officer met with the original witness who identified this individual through a photograph. Through the investigative process University Police officers are confident that this individual was the person observed by the witnesses and was deemed to pose no threat to the community.

Westfield State University thanks all who came forward to provide information, including the witnesses and the individual in question.  We are grateful for the vigilance of our campus community, which helps to make the campus safe and secure.

We also wish to express our appreciation for the cooperation of the full campus community and visitors who followed the proper procedures during this time. Special thanks to the Massachusetts State Police, the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, and the City of Westfield Police Department for their assistance.

Tony Casciano
Dept. of Public Safety/University Police
Westfield State University

November 14, 2017 at 7:56 a.m.

Dear Campus Community:

In the wake of yesterday’s campus lockdown, I write to provide an update.  I am very proud of the wonderful teamwork that took place yesterday to ensure that our campus was safe and secure.

Yesterday afternoon, a member of the community came to Public Safety to report a suspicious male on campus. The assessment of both the Westfield State University Campus Police and the Massachusetts State Police, who were already on campus continuing their investigation of the hateful acts on campus, resulted in issuing the campus wide lockdown.  There can never be too much caution in situations such as this.

The Westfield State University Campus Police, assisted by members of the Massachusetts State Police and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Association, followed protocol in an immediate lockdown of all residence halls and conducted a sweep of impacted areas on campus.  Once the team assessed the situation as safe, the lockdown was lifted.  A statement about the incident and responses to follow-up questions are available on the link provided on our webpage last evening

Following are steps we have taken on the campus since the lockdown was lifted.

Members of Emergency Response Team (ERT) gathered in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and remained there through the evening.

At 4:30 p.m., the phone bank in the EOC was activated to answer questions and take additional information from members of the community. The number is 413-579-3050.

A message was sent to students announcing residence hall based counseling services/listening sessions to provide support for those feeling anxious as well as to answer student questions.  These sessions were staffed by both counseling services staff and ERT members.

We secured the services of Massachusetts State Police and City of Westfield Police to supplement the work of Westfield State University Campus Police in patrolling the campus overnight.

At this time, we will remain vigilant. We understand from those patrolling our campus that there is no imminent threat.

While campus lockdown events are difficult and heighten our anxiety, they are enacted to ensure the safety of our campus community. I am thankful to all who paid close attention to the RAVE alert and acted quickly to secure the safety of our students. I extend my appreciation to our Campus Police officers, the Massachusetts State Police officers and the members of MEMA who worked to secure our campus. And again, I extend my appreciation to Chris Hirtle and Sue LaMontagne and the many campus staff volunteers who serve as members of the ERT.

Martin Luther King, Jr., once said, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” These are challenging times for all of us at Westfield State, but we will emerge stronger and better for what we have been through.

Yours truly,  

Ramon S. Torrecilha

November 13, 2017 at 4:39 p.m.

Dear Campus Community,

Below is an initial summary of today’s activities regarding the lockdown placed on campus.

Westfield State University was put into full-campus lockdown at 12:49 p.m. today, Nov. 13, 2017 following a witness report of a suspicious male on campus. Massachusetts State Police worked with Westfield State University to then conduct a campus safety sweep. 

Once the campus was determined to be safe by Massachusetts State Police and Westfield State University police, the lockdown was lifted at 2:33 p.m. and an all clear message was issued. Classes resumed at 3:10 p.m.

The initial witness report and two others that followed indicated the person in question to be a suspicious-acting male; Caucasian; 5 feet 8 inches tall; 200 pounds; strawberry-blonde hair that was cut short with a comb-over style and receding hairline; approx. 40 years of age; wearing all black, a bulky vest and carrying a black, bulging backpack.

A hotline has been set up to field any calls for anyone with a concern or information. That number is 413.579.3050.

Additional Massachusetts State Police are on campus as an added safety precaution measure. We have increased campus patrols and encourage any concerned students to take advantage of our shuttle van service and public safety escorts available around-the-clock. Students can call 413.572.5262 to request an escort.