After reports of two fights and guns on campus, members of the TJC community are unsettled.
The concern over safety follows a series of three events starting with an incident on the night of the Homecoming Dance on Oct. 11. Campus Safety officers reported a large fight broke out in the parking lot near the student center.Campus Safety Police Chief Randy Melton said the responding officer saw the fight around midnight that night and had to use pepper spray to break up the fight.
Student Senate President Taylor Jett said she was at the dance that night and was unaware of what was going on outside.
“I didn’t see anything,” she said. “I didn’t even know what was going on. I just remember someone telling me there were a lot of cop cars outside.”
Chief Melton said his officers were outnumbered with those involved and had to call for outside assistance.
“We contacted Tyler Police to come to back us up. They arrivedand by the time they got here, it was over,” he said. “It was over quickly when our guys got there and tried to break it up and used some pepper spray. The crowd realized the campus police were there and took off.”
Melton said whenever verbal commands are not followed, procedure is to use other methods to disperse the crowd.
“When we feel like a student’s health and safety are in danger, when verbally alone does not break up a fight, we use pepper spray on them,” he said.
According to Melton, the people involved were believed to be non-TJC students.
“This is a formal dance. These were another group of students. It is not even connected to the dance,” he said. “At the dance it was formal attire, [The people involved] here were wearing very casual clothing.”
Campus Safety also responded on Oct. 16 to a couple of calls from the student center parking lot where two people said they were threatened by three men driving around showing off a gun. Melton said when his officers arrived, the people involved were gone.
Another fight took place at the Residence Hall Association’s Halloween Dance inside the Apache Rooms on Oct. 29.
Campus Safety officers working security for the dance noticed fights break out following the playing of a certain song.
“The song was entitled ‘Watch my Shoes.’ I wasn’t there but from what I understand, with that song you start jumping in a pile at each other,” Melton said. “You get around in circle, the circle kind of moved from the center to a corner of the room and some pushing started out there. Someone was bumped. Someone was hit in the head and went to the ground during that.”
Melton said officers were able to break up the fight inside and after that the dance was ended and everyone was told to leave. But the fights followed the students outside.
“Once it went outside to the parking lot, we had several fights occur from there,” he said.
Melton said during the fights outside a group of people damaged the vehicle of an assistant basketball coach. Scratches could be seen in the pictures taken by Campus Safety.
He said his department is looking into the fights to see who was being attacked and who was the attacker. One person has been identified in the fight and Melton said others are in the process of being referred to the office of the Vice President for Student Affairs.
Melton also said officials could not go back to security camera footage in these incidents because the system around Rogers Student Center was not operating at the time.
He said some cameras are accessible live, but their digital video recorder was hit by lightning. The system is not expected to be fully operational for several weeks.
Jett said the malfunctioning cameras have been a concern since her organization meets in the building.
“It’s a big concern and if we need to look at something, we can’t,” she said. “This was an issue for one of the fights we had.”
In an annual effort to combat the sudden spike in crime on campus, Student Senate members along with President Mike Metke and Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Austin Lane scheduled a night walk across the campus Nov. 12 to find any areas that may be poorly lit. Melton said improvements in lighting were made last year on campus for one area on campus.
“Last year there was a place across from Pirtle Tech that we thought was a dark corner that resulted in a parking lot light,” Melton said.
Participants of the walk were also looking for locations to place emergency phone stands like the ones already in place outside the JoAnn Medlock Murphy Tennis Center and the Louise H. and Joseph Z. Ornelas Residential Complex.
If students or faculty have a campus safety concern or see anything suspicious, Campus Safety can be contacted by phone at (903) 510-2222.