College leaders offer little information on shooting at campus forum

College leaders, including a vice president and the chief of police, offered little insight into Thursday’s campus shooting at a campus forum in the Alondra Room Tuesday.

Besides the three editors from “The Union,” the only person at the 5 p.m. forum was Luukia Smith, the president of the El Camino College Classified Employees. The day’s earlier forum, that started at noon, had a higher attendance rate.

The panel consisted of Vice President of Administrative Services Jo Ann Higdon, ECPD Chief Michael Trevis, EC clinical psychologist Jan Schaeffer and Community Relations Director Ann Garten.

Higdon said, when asked, there are no plans for PA systems to be in classrooms to make announcements because, she said, when students and faculty know about a situation, they’ll “run” to the crime scene and there will be a crowd problem.

Higdon started the forum by reading the latest update the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department sent out Friday via Nixle. Higdon said as of noon Tuesday, 1,700 people have signed up for ECPD’s Nixle alerts.

The first Nixle alert about the shooting was sent out at 11:59 a.m. Thursday, about 45 minutes after the shooting happened.

After Higdon encouraged everyone to sign up for the alerts, Smith said even if as much as 20,000 people sign up for the alerts, they don’t help if they’re being sent out 45 minutes after the fact when students, faculty and staff are getting their news elsewhere.

It hasn’t been confirmed if shooting suspect 18-year-old Peyton Dingman has a mental illness, but Higdon said he left a suicide note, implying he’s a troubled man. Higdon said Schaeffer was there to talk about mental illness or troubled people, but Schaeffer never spoke throughout the 40-minute forum.

The college never went on lockdown Thursday because it was a situation officials said was never ongoing, Higdon said. Higdon added that it was “immediately” known it was a false hostage call, the area was taped off and no students were in danger.

Last semester, Trevis received backlash at a Humanities Division faculty meeting when faculty members said they weren’t promptly informed of death threats a student allegedly made. Then, he said a Nixle alert never went out because Nixle’s only used for ongoing threats and that wasn’t one. The next day, one was sent out.

“I’m learning I need to be careful with the words I use. There’s no doubt I said that,” Trevis said last night, adding that Nixle is used for both ongoing threats and other things the community needs to know about.

Garten said the Sheriff’s Department is handling all media calls regarding the shooting and has referred “The Union” to them. She added they should have been handling Thursday’s press conference, but she and Trevis couldn’t connect with them, which is why Trevis did it.

“(The news organizations) were all grateful they got factual information from the chief,” Garten said.

Garten added Trevis did interviews with professional news organizations. “The Union” was restricted from interviewing Trevis at the same time other reporters were interviewing him Thursday, but was able to interview him at a later time.

To sign up for Nixle alerts from the El Camino Police Department, text “ECCPD” to 888777.