As police cruisers zipped across campus on Friday night, many students living off campus asked the same question: What was going on and why hadn't a UPennAlert been sent?
Around 11 p.m., a shooting rampage by a local police identified as Nicholas Glenn, 25, left a female bystander dead, and five other people injured including Philadelphia Police Sergeant Sylvia Young and Penn Police officer Ed Miller. The shootings, which began on 52nd and Sansom streets, ended before midnight with Glenn moving east on Sansom before he was shot dead near 48th Street.
Penn Police officers’ patrol zone extends from 30th to 43rd Street between Baltimore and Market streets, though whenever an officer is injured like Young was, an immediate “assist officer” call is put out to all officers in the vicinity.
But as no alert was sent out to warn them, some Penn students came within a block of the active shooting as they tried to return to their residences. Wharton and Engineering junior Chris Painter was driving LPS student Lynette Bye to her home at 47th and Sansom streets after 11 p.m. Although the large police presence suggested that something was awry, they had no idea what had really happened until Bye’s roommate texted her at 11:40 p.m. that a police officer had been shot.
“My roommate heard what sounded like firecrackers. She had no idea something was up until the police sirens started,” Bye said. “I didn’t get any other details until I got home and checked the news.”
Bye’s roommates were commuting on foot in the area between 11:20 and 11:45 p.m, during the central part of the shooting.
“When there’s any crime in West Philadelphia, I have come to expect a notification from the University warning to avoid a particular area,” Engineering sophomore Jordan Rosen said. “The lack of such notice on this occasion was a big misstep by the school, and they are lucky no Penn students ended up in the crossfire.”
Wharton sophomore Jess Sandoval said she was walking home from a night out with three friends when she saw police helicopters and heard sirens.
“We were completely oblivious to the situation and were unsure if it was safe to even walk home,” she said.
Living on Sansom Street, Sandoval said she felt uncomfortable going home and searched the internet for any sort of information on the shooting.
“One would think that an Ivy League school like Penn, an institution of ‘higher education,' would take greater pride in keeping its students and staff informed,” she said.
Vice President for Public Safety Maureen Rush said in a statement that safety alerts, while a “valuable tool,” were not necessary in this case.
“As always, our utmost concern is to alert the community to an on-going threat, weighing many factors, including the proximity to campus, and the undue stress such an alert can cause, especially for an incident occurring well-off campus and outside of the Penn Patrol Zone, as was the case on Friday night in that the incident occurred approximately 1 mile from our patrol zone,” she said.
Sandoval’s outrage over the lack of an alert led her to send an email to Penn President Amy Gutmann, along with 21 members of the staff at the Division of Public Safety.
“I am flabbergasted that there are not certain exceptions for majorly dangerous situations, such as the shootings that occurred on September 16th, 2016 on 52nd and Sansom. This is Penn’s backyard, and a major warning should be sent out to all Penn Students when a situation involving multiple deaths occurs, especially on a Friday night when most students are out and about near the Western-most part of campus,” the email stated.
Staff Reporter Jacob Winick contributed reporting.
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