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For UNC chemist Jerry Xu, Monday, Aug. 28 started off “pretty normal."

Xu, who graduated in May and now works in Murray Hall, received an Alert Carolina message that an armed and dangerous person was on or near campus at 1:04 p.m. While hiding in his lab, Xu said the tight-knit community in the chemistry department allowed him to quickly receive and share information with others in labs.

“We were able to get updates about what was going on probably a lot sooner than the general public outside,” he said.

In the aftermath of the shooting, some students and community members have expressed concerns that communication from UNC and the Town of Chapel Hill was disorganized during the lockdown.

Jenna Gartland, a UNC senior, said conflicting information received during the shooting heightened the fear students were experiencing.

“We need a method of clear communication and preventing misinformation,” she said. “But I’m not sure what that looks like.”

In a post on X during Monday’s event, Gartland called the University’s Alert Carolina messages “confusing and scary.”

“UNC please do better,” she said. 

According to a statement from UNC Media Relations, the University maintains a “comprehensive safety resource for the entire campus community” through its Emergency Action Plan. The plan describes the steps that people on campus should take during an emergency, including shelter-in-place procedures.

Information from the EAP is presented through public safety campaigns throughout the year, including at First-Year New Student Orientation, Graduate Orientation and in campuswide emails. Specific training for active shooter situations is available for campus groups upon request, according to the UNC Police website.

Xu said he was concerned that some faculty were not properly trained by the University to handle an active shooter situation. He said that while the chemistry department provided active shooter training when he was a chemistry lab teaching assistant, this sort of training should be mandated across campus, not just available when requested.

“I think at the very least all the faculty need to be trained in what to do in a situation like this,” Xu said. “The students — as terrible as it may sound — have probably been trained prior to coming to college.”

Because the shooting happened on campus, the case was under the jurisdiction of UNC Police, not the Chapel Hill Police Department. UNC Police has authority over campus while CHPD has authority over the rest of Chapel Hill, including downtown areas.

Alex Carrasquillo, the community safety public information officer for the Town of Chapel Hill, said in an email statement that the Town’s police and fire departments responded immediately in support of UNC Police. The Town offered any additional assistance upon request from the University, he said.

According to Carrasquillo, town residents received community safety alerts across police jurisdictions from OC Alerts, the public alert and warning system for Orange County. However, community members must opt in to receive these alerts.

Community members who have neither connection to the University nor access to OC Alerts were warned about the situation through unofficial channels — like local news stations or emergency scanners.

Laney Sheehan, an employee of Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews, said she and other people in the store became aware of the active shooter situation through Alert Carolina messaging. 

“We very calmly decided we're going to make an announcement, so I went out and I said, ‘Hey, everyone, if you didn't get the Alert Carolina notice there is an armed individual walking around campus, so we're going to move everyone away from the windows and lock the front doors,” she said.

Sheehan received Alert Carolina updates because she is a recent graduate of UNC. She said that, as they received updates, she and her coworkers did their best to communicate all the accurate information about the shooting with customers.

Catherine Flowers, a retired Raleigh Police officer who now teaches workplace violence and active shooter preparedness, was on East Franklin Street during Monday’s shooting. She said she witnessed police directing traffic on Franklin Street as part of a plan to keep UNC’s campus secure, but that the plan likely wasn’t communicated with students.

While Flowers said she was sure UNC Police had comprehensive measures in place, it seemed like they weren’t communicated effectively. She said it was important that people know how to respond in active shooter situations and that police response should be a collaborative effort between UNC and surrounding communities.

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“They should be working in tandem with one another," she said. "The core of the assessment should be taking place at the institution itself."

Abby Pender contributed reporting to this story.

@ashnqm | @wslivingston_

@dailytarheel |

Ashley Quincin

Ashley Quincin is a 2023-24 assistant university desk editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as a university staff writer. Ashley is a senior pursuing a degree in English and comparative literature, with a double minor in media and journalism and composition, rhetoric and digital literacy.

Walker Livingston

Walker Livingston is a 2023-24 assistant city & state editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as summer city & state editor. Walker is a sophomore pursuing a double major in journalism and media and American studies, with a minor in data science.  

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