Gunshots and Empty Halls: Easter Break at PLNU

By: Grace Chaves

Some students remaining on Point Loma Nazarene University campus were awoken by the sounds of rapid gunfire coming from somewhere nearby the night Easter break began on March 27. Public Safety was quickly alerted, and 40 minutes after the noise started, an emergency alert was sent out via text and email to PLNU students: “PLNU Emergency Alert! EXERCISE ONLY !!! Residents on campus may hear sounds of gunfire. We have confirmed with the Navy that this is an exercise on base only.”

“I was texting my friend, and we were debating what [the sound] might be,” said first-year philosophy major Abby Pickett. “When I saw the notification [from Pub Safe], my heart stopped.”

The second line of the text message clarified that the gunshots were from an exercise occurring on the Navy base, less than a mile from campus. However, Pub Safe was not alerted in advance that this exercise would be happening.

“The Navy was very apologetic,” said Director of Public Safety Mark Ryan. “They were training with blanks. They’re sorry they didn’t notify us and said they will do so in the future.”

Assistant Director of Public Safety Kaz Trypuc said he can’t recall something like this happening in the past 18 years he’s been here.

“We were caught off guard by it,” said Trypuc. “I still don’t fully understand what exactly they were doing. But it’s unusual to hear sounds of gunfire on campus, even from the base.”

Students were still left to wonder why Pub Safe sent such a dramatic emergency alert text if it was only a drill. Trypuc said this has to do with the school’s telecommunication system, which requires them to use certain prefixes at the beginning of texts.

“The requirement says that in the alert at the beginning [of a text], we have to use the word ’emergency’ as a prefix so the system doesn’t flag it as spam,” said Trypuc. “So even when we run a test or during our emergency drills, you’ll see that the same prefix also appears on those alerts, even though it’s just a drill or test.”

Gunshots aside, students still thought it felt strange to be among the few left on campus. 

According to Pickett, it was “desolate.”