Carjacking shocks campus security

By ROSS LINKER | March 20, 2008

A carjacking last Thursday, which spread onto the Homewood campus, led to miscommunication and the unnecessary lockdown of the Milton S. Eisenhower Library.

While security felt they had the incident under control, a contracted security guard who misheard the incident over the radio locked down the library without authorization. Security officials did not know that the lockdown had occurred until an hour and a half later.

"At no point was anyone in danger on our campus," Hopkins Security Lieutenant of Investigations Steven Ossmus said.

Early Thursday morning, Hopkins security dispatchers were contacted by the Baltimore police. Officers in pursuit of a car for traffic violations requested assistance after the vehicle began heading toward Homewood.

When security used their radio system to relay information, custodial staff using the same system misheard what was said, according to Ossmus.

"Custodial staff took it upon themselves to act," he said. Custodians relayed their misinterpreted version of the incident to each other; the message was then overheard by a security guard at the MSE Library.

"There was a miscommunication by the [library's] contract guard about the pursuit of individuals and guns," Ossmus said.

Contract guards are not part of Allied Barton, the company that provides University security, but are hired individually and are not affiliated with Hopkins security.

Hopkins security decided not to send out an emergency text to students because they felt the situation was secure.

"I feel like [security] did students a disservice by not making use of their emergency text messaging system," freshman Justin Shen said.

According to security, the text system would only be used if there were an imminent threat to people on campus and this event did not meet those standards.

Many students were oblivious to the carjacking. "I wasn't even aware that a lockdown occurred," student Eddie Holzinger said.

To the students in the library at the time of the lockdown, a similar feeling was prevalent.

"All we knew was that a robbery had occurred and one of the gunmen got away and we didn't know where he was," freshman Harry Black said.

"This was a lack of communication between officers and the library. In the future it would be better if there was more communication. Everyone should be notified about something like this," Black said.

"I was surprised to hear for the first time there was an emergency when attempting to leave," freshman Josh Ayal said.

"It's disappointing to hear that there's so little communication when something potentially disastrous is occurring," Ayal said.

As the car drove past the Mattin Center, it made a sharp turn and crashed into a pole. The driver and passenger, both juveniles, ran out of the car in different directions. When the damaged car was examined, two BB guns were found but no firearms were discovered.

"Hopkins would not have been involved if the assailant did not hit the pole," Ossmus said.

One of the youths, approximately 14 years old, was apprehended by a sergeant after entering the main University area.

Since the other suspect never appeared on security cameras, guards believed the alleged passenger never entered campus.

"We were very comfortable that the individual did leave," Ossmus said.

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