Social Media ‘Effective’ in Response to University of Texas Shooter
As the University of Texas reacted in September 2010 to panic about a masked gunman on the Austin campus, Facebook and Twitter proved “effective” in the school’s first-ever use of social media to issue emergency alerts, according to a new report.
The report, released by the University of Texas Police Department as a followup to the campuswide scare, noted that the school’s public affairs office and web team continuously provided updates on Facebook and Twitter as law enforcement officers hunted for the gunman – UT sophomore Colton Tooley.
The 19-year-old Tooley wound up shooting himself to death inside a campus library; no one else was injured. During the search for Tooley, the campus was locked down.
The Police Department said its Facebook page jumped from 469 “likes” on Sept. 27, 2010 – the day of the shooting – to 10,313 just two days later. The department said its first Facebook post about the shooting went online at 8:30 a.m., about 20 minutes after Tooley arrived on campus.
A subsequent social media update read like this: “Law enforcement still searching for second suspect on campus. STAY AWAY from campus or remain locked in your building!”
It turned out there was not a second shooter.
In all, Tooley fired 12 rounds from an AK-47 that he pulled from a backpack. After exiting a city bus near UT, Tooley fired 11 shots at three locations on campus but didn’t aim at anyone. Before entering the university’s Perry-Castañeda Library, Tooley removed a white hooded sweatshirt he was wearing over a formal suit and tie and put on a black ski mask. Sitting at a table on the sixth floor of the library, Tooley fired the 12th (and final) round from the rifle – a round that ended his life.
While the Police Department report praised response to the Tooley manhunt as generally “very successful,” authorities haven’t overlooked the fact that Tooley “could have hurt and most likely killed many individuals if he had chosen to do so.”
With an enrollment of more than 51,000, the University of Texas is one of the largest universities in the country.