UTPD report from fall shooting makes recommendations for improvement

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Austin Police Officers canvas the third floor of the University Teaching Center while searching for the suspected second gunman. The officers moved from floor to floor until the entire building had been designated clear of suspects.

Photo Credit: Michael Baldon | Daily Texan Staff

University Police released a report today assessing the public safety response to the Sept. 28 incident during which a mathematics sophomore armed with an AK-47 fired shots on 21st street before taking his own life.

The 18-page report notes a number of things that authorities did well that day, including the quick establishment of a unified command for the multi-agency response.

The report also makes recommendations, including the need to have a more streamlined communications system between the various law enforcement groups responding to the scene.

“If there is any one thing — and its true in any event like this — you can always improve on communication,” said UTPD chief Robert Dahlstrom to The Daily Texan. “If this happened today, I think we’d be better prepared.”

Some challenges that day included difficulty with the siren system, that not all law enforcement knew to switch to a certain radio channel, that UTPD dispatch could not monitor the channel and that the command post did not know if everyone had switched to the new channel.

The report does say that all confusion was fixed quickly.

Also, certain words held different meanings in different agencies. For example, the command post instructed a search team to "clear" the building. To some agency members, "clear" means to evacuate, while it was intended as a cue to search for people in the building.

The report praises the collaboration between the multiple law enforcement agencies and the training that helped prepare them.

At least once a year, UTPD officers participate in active shooter training with other first responders, said UTPD spokeswoman Rhonda Weldon.

Dahlstrom said prevention is an important element of such events, citing the Counseling and Mental Health Center as a critical on-campus resource.

“We don’t do prevention by ourselves, but there are other agencies here at UT that do,” Dahlstrom said.

The University faced another shooter situation in 1966, when a student fired shots from the top of the UT Tower, killing 16 people and injuring 32 before he was shot by law enforcement.

It was that incident that inspired the establishment of the UTPD, according to the report.

“When you have that major of an event with that major of a response we want to point out things we did well on, things we need to work on, and try and be better and do better for the next event,” Dahlstrom said. “I hope nothing like this ever happens here at UT again, but you train for this, and you do the best you can when it does happen.”