Local robbery places Calvin College on lockdown

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Local robbery places Calvin College on lockdown

Photo by Alden Hartopo

Photo by Alden Hartopo

Photo by Alden Hartopo

Photo by Alden Hartopo

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Calvin College was placed on lockdown last night as campus safety and the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) worked to clear campus and search for the suspect of a robbery that occurred at the bus stop next to the Burton entrance to Calvin.

The latest developments from Assistant Campus Safety Director James Potter revealed that the robbery has been listed as unarmed. According to Potter, the victim was not harmed and is not a current Calvin Student.

This comes in response to rumors circulating among students last night that the suspect was armed and active on campus and that the robbery occurred at a house belonging to Calvin students.

At 12:17 a.m., students received an email from the campus emergency alert system with subject line “violent criminal behavior. It stated: “CALVIN CAMPUS WIDE EMERGENCY LOCKDOWN. Do NOT enter the campus.  If you are on the Calvin Campus, seek an area of safety and secure yourself and others inside that safe area. Await further instructions.”

Abigail Paternoster, a junior resident assistant, admitted the announcement brought out a lot of pressure and confusion.

“The initial announcement of the lockdown was pretty terrifying,” said Paternoster. “Having people depend on you in crisis just adds pressure to the whole reality of the crisis itself.

While students were directed to remain in their dorms and buildings, Potter believes that new information suggests the suspect had not breached campus grounds.

“Initially we thought they might have but after checking everything its likely the person never stepped onto campus,” explained Potter.

According to sergeant Chris Postma from the detective unit of GRPD, a suspect is currently in custody.

“We believe we have one of the suspects in custody, but it is currently under investigation and there is some work we have to do to further the case at this point,” said Postma.

Postma confirmed that the victim was waiting by the bus stop.

“There was an attempt to obtain money,” explained Postma. “I cannot indicate what actually was stolen, but there was an attempt to obtain money.”

After the initial robbery, the GRPD was called and worked with campus safety to check the campus for the suspected criminal.

“We made sure areas were clear before we gave students the clear to leave,” said Potter.

The lockdown was lifted near 2 a.m. with an informational release from the emergency alert system that stated: “At 1:51 a.m. Calvin issued an ALL CLEAR that explained the Grand Rapids police had tracked a robbery suspect across campus. The area has been checked and the campus is clear. Campus Safety coordinated well with the Grand Rapids police and they will be the ones to communicate specifics about the incident and the perpetrator. We are grateful for the physical safety of all.”

When news first broke, some students in the library resorted to hiding in study rooms and bathrooms while others gathered together or wandered the floor. Students studying in the library were eventually asked to move to the lower floors, to stay along walls and to remain away from windows as a precautionary measure before lights were turned off in the building.

“There was a lot of confusion of what was going on and what was supposed to be done,” said junior Caitlin Strikwerda who was on the third floor during the lockdown. “Students gradually moved down the stairs but no one really knew what was going on and how long it was going to take.”

Strikwerda explained that as events unfolded, it became clear that the building was safe.

“It was made clear that nothing was going on in the library and the building was secure and a lot of the students weren’t worried which was good,” said Strikwerda.

Students gathered on the second and third floors of the library busied themselves with continued studying while others attempted to stay informed.

“Some students that had their stuff were trying to study but it wasn’t really an atmosphere to do so and many of us had to wait for an hour and a half,” explained Strikwerda. “Some people were still nervous and a majority of people were checking news, texting each other for information and listening to police scanners, any way to get information.”

For Paternoster, reaction among dorm leadership in Rooks VanDellen was swift.

“When we got the alert my staff and I were immediately in contact with each other from our floors to make sure the other staff members were up and able to check their floors and lock them down,” explained Paternoster.

Paternoster also provided details on her duties as a resident assistant during the lockdown.

“We directed residents into their rooms and instructed them to lock their doors,” said Paternoster. “My suite mate was in another building asking what to do via text message so I had her roommate tell her to stay put”.

For sophomore Michael Hsu, the lockdown brought a different perspective on finals week.

“I was so scared, but secretly deep inside wished we wouldn’t have to take exams,” said Hsu.

However for many students awaking to the news, the focus remained on getting to their 9 a.m. final or preparing for the rest of the day.