Armed campus intruder arrested after police search Residence Hall One
It started as an argument outside of Residence Hall One between a female student and her boyfriend, Derek Brown. They stood along the sidewalk at Fifth Avenue S., near Second Street S.
Brown, who University Police Services say was intoxicated, took a knife out of his pocket and threatened two male USFSP students, who requested to be anonymous for their safety, who attempted to intervene.
St. Petersburg police arrested Brown after he had entered Residence Hall One. He was charged with aggravated assault for threatening the two students who attempted to intervene. He was carrying a 3.78 inch Gerber Covert automatic pocket knife. Brown is now in the Pinellas County Jail, held at $10,000 bail.
The residence hall was placed under lockdown and mobile alerts leaked over the next hour.
Because the threat took place off campus, St. Petersburg police were called. Before the police could arrive, the female student and Brown left the scene. She, a resident of RHO, allowed Brown to enter the residence hall with her.
RHO assistant Nicholas Patides posted a thread on the USFSP Know-It-All’s Guide forum on Facebook.
“If you are in RHO, go to your room, lock it and stay there for now. Lock down seriously. Also don’t panic, it could be nothing,” Patides wrote.
Students began responding to this post on the forum, which launched at 10:34 p.m.
USFSP police received the first call from students inside RHO, who witnessed Brown enter the residence hall with a knife. At the time of the call, Lieutenant Reggie Oliver said University Police Services was unaware of the earlier incident on the street.
Oliver, who sent out the MoBull emergency text, was not called until 10:49 p.m., 15 minutes after Patides’s post. Oliver was at home when he received the call.
“We didn’t have any information about what was taking place,” Oliver said.
Oliver asked present police to gather more information about the incident before sending out an emergency text. They were unsure if Brown was a student or if an altercation had taken place on the street.
After confirming Brown wasn’t a student, Oliver sent out an emergency text at 11:08 p.m. reading: “ALERT USF ST. PETE: Armed intruder near RHO resident hall . Remain inside …alert. Avoid outside and hallways. Follow police instructions. Police are searching.”
Up to 85 percent of USFSP students registered with MoBull received this notification within two minutes and 30 seconds, Oliver said. Then 95 percent received it within ten minutes. Five percent never received a text.
Oliver said the delays often have to do with cell phone carrier issues, and that the USF Tampa University Communications and Marketing office is responsible for the operation of the messenger system, known as RAVE.
Many students reported receiving the first text at 11:13 p.m., while others reported receiving it at 11:30 p.m.
University and City of St. Petersburg police officers entered RHO and began to search the floors, according to a University Police Services press release. On the fifth floor, officers found the female student in the hallway. She led officers to her room on the fifth floor, where Brown was.
City of St. Petersburg officers arrested Brown for two counts of aggravated assault. Because his girlfriend allowed him to enter RHO, he did not trespass. However, he was prevented from returning to campus with a trespass warning. No injuries were reported and no crimes occurred on campus.
At 11:29 p.m., Oliver sent out a second message reading: “ATTENTION USF ST. PETE: USF Police and St. Petersburg Police have captured an armed suspect who entered RHO. No one hurt or injured. Suspect arrested, ALL CLEAR!”
RHO assistant Caitlin Greene posted that RHO was safe at 11:15 p.m. At 11:25 p.m., student Billy Makris commented, “I find it funny how I JUST NOW received the alert via text. If I was on campus or in RHO I could have been in danger.” Other posters shared his sentiment.
This post will be modified as more information comes forward. Keep up to date with The Crow’s Nest on Twitter @USFCrowsNest.