Gun scare halts Board meeting

When Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) President Ejmin Hakobian walked into the meeting room on Thursday, June 2, he saw an unfamiliar gentleman sitting in the audience, though the Board meetings were always open to the public; everyone would be welcome to come. However, what caught Hakobian’s attention was not this man’s bald head or black shirt and long jeans, it was a shiny-looking object attached on his waist. He looked again–it was a gun.

Only a day after the UCLA shooting, naturally students were very sensitive to firearms. Hakobian speed walked to the rest of the board members, shared his concern and asked Community Representative at Large Kent Lin to double-check the situation in case he was mistaken. Lin walked over and took a careful look, then soon rushed out of the room without a word as well as hit the door on his way out. Everyone was left shocked and scared.

“I saw the gun itself, and I immediately turn tailed out of the door,” Lin said. “Honestly, I felt really uncomfortable regardless of the intention of this guy since there was no clarification or identification to begin with.”

There were eight members present at the time, ready to discuss the issue on Executive Director Intef W. Weser signing the tenure-operating contract without notifying the Board. Members present were President Hakobian, Vice President for Finance Antonio Canzona, College of Arts and Letters Gregory Bates, Community Representative at Large Kent Lin, Manager of Administration and Services Dena Florez, Director of Programs and Leadership Marcus Rodriguez, and Dean of Students Dr. Jennifer Miller. There was also three other individuals in the audience.

While the rest of the room was freaking out about the gun Dean of Students Dr. Jennifer Miller realized the students’ reactions and told the Board that the mysterious gentleman with a gun was invited by her, a Detective from the University Police Department.

None of the Board members were notified in advance that Detective Raul Lopez would be present and he would not be wearing his uniform or having his badge visible.

“That was very shocking to me. First of all, why would you invite someone with a gun to ensure student safety without notifying anyone, what kind of statement do you want to make?” Hakobian said. “And [Dr. Miller] replied because I didn’t invite her to the meeting so she didn’t notify the Board on bringing in a Detective with a gun. But everyone was invited to the meeting, Dr. Miller was a Board member and clearly knew about the meeting.”

Hakobian also said that the reason the students were stunned was because situations like this never happened before, and he later apologized to the Detective for putting him on the spot. But the questions remained in people’s mind.

“Although an explanation was given, regarding who he was and the reason, it still left somewhat of a bitter taste. I mean, what reasons do you need to bring in law enforcement for a student government meeting? There was not a single act of violence going on other than verbal exchanges. It was really unnecessary,” Lin added. “If there was concern of any sort, I think it should have been brought up first in front of everyone.”

Vice President for Finance Antonio Canzona also expressed his concerns. “[The Detective] wasn’t wearing his uniform and I didn’t see a badge either,” said Canzona. “I didn’t know why [Dr. Miller] would bring in a Detective, I didn’t know what to think. We were not notified beforehand, I was just stunned. There was a lot of tension at that point and I was just concerned why [he was here].”

The center of this false alarm, Dean of Students Dr. Jennifer Miller, refused to comment. However, Chief Rick Wall, Director for Public Safety, responded through Jocelyn Stewart, Director for Communications and Public Affairs. Their email stated, “On Thursday, during a regular discussion with members of the CARE (Community, Assessment, Response and Evaluation) team, concerns were shared regarding tensions and a general uneasiness that some ASI board members have felt during recent meetings. Detective Lopez, a CARE team member and a campus Public Safety officer, attended that day’s ASI meeting to provide support. The Department of Public Safety serves our University by providing for the safety, health and well-being of the campus and community.”

The Cal State LA CARE Team is a campus resource operating under the Dean of Students Office, “for students, faculty and staff who have concerns about disruptive, problematic, or concerning student behavior. The team responds to non-emergency concerns and uses a proactive approach to discuss potential problems, intervene early, and develop appropriate courses of action for referred students. The goal is to support students who may be in distress or whose behavior is of concern to others before they rise to crisis levels.”

Although the reason of Detective Lopez’s presence was clear, the Board members who felt uneasy weren’t specified and the doubts still remained. What level of anxiety had the A.S.I. board meetings achieved that a Detective with gun was required to be present? If so, why none of the Board members was notified in advance? Why did Dr. Miller alone invited the Detective instead of the result of a board decision? How many students were referred or suspected?

Stay tuned for further updates.

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