Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

January 24, 2014

DAVE BANGERT: 'This happens on the news, not at Purdue'

Thousands gather for vigil after shooting


Kokomo Tribune

---- — The guy standing at a North-western Avenue bus stop, just outside Purdue University’s Electrical Engineering Building, looked out of place from the window of Jordan Raynor and Alex Poerio’s apartment across the street.

“At first, the kid was just wandering around, like he didn’t know what was going on,” said Raynor, a Purdue junior. “It was like he didn’t have a backpack, no coat — just a T-shirt. It was weird.”

Less than a minute later, Poerio said, officers came at the guy from two directions, the man laid face down on the sidewalk and police had him handcuffed.

“We got a text from the university about a shooting a few minutes later,” Raynor said. “That’s just crazy. This happens on the news, not at Purdue.”

A lot of that was going around on the West Lafayette campus after a fatal shooting just after noon in a basement classroom in the Electrical Engineering Building — with one student accused of killing another student.

This happens on the news, not at Purdue.

“Except it does,” said West Lafayette Mayor John Dennis.

“And it did,” Dennis said. “It’s a horrible day for this city. For this campus. For this state. Man.”

Man, is right.

“The fact of the matter is we are prepared for these type of events,” said Dennis, a former police officer. “Unfortunately, it’s not that big of an anomaly. … Today is a perfect example of that.”

Police swarmed, a suspect was caught and the university even tried to get back to normal — or as close to normal as possible, Provost Tim Sands supposed — within hours. Purdue Police Chief John Cox said he was confident this was a targeted situation, not someone bent on a random shooting spree. He also quickly knocked down rumors about a second shooter and other theories conjured during a campus lockdown.

Sands was confident enough to resume classes by 1:30 p.m., and to say: “We feel we had control of the situation and we are encouraging students to continue about their usual business.”

But anomaly or not, the glazed looks on campus, as TV news station helicopters circled the east edge of Purdue, gave way to another reality.

Boilermakers were stunned. And trying to make sense of things. And wondering, What if?

Purdue officials recognized that soon enough, canceling classes late in the afternoon and through Wednesday.

This happens on the news, not at Purdue.

Just as quickly as news about the shooting made its way around campus, word spread about a vigil, a show of strength in the face of confusion. By 8 p.m., Purdue had mustered thousands of candles of every shape, color and size for a vigil at the steps of Hovde Hall.

Thousands of students came, filling the space from the steps to the Purdue Mall Fountain. When the Purdue Bell Tower stuck 8, they fell absolutely silent, save for the shuffling of feet against the 2-degree night. Taps played against the frozen night. The Purdue Glee Club and Purduettes sang a melancholy rendition of “Purdue Hymn.”

Kyle Pendergast, Purdue student president, told about walking through the vigil crowd as it started to assemble. And he talked about how no one really wanted to be out there on a frigid Tuesday night — not under these circumstances.

“But I didn’t see people who were scared,” Pendergast said. “I saw people who cared — cared about Purdue. I’m glad I see unity tonight.

“As Boilermakers, we’re a family.”

That also happened at Purdue on Tuesday.

Dave Bangert is a columnist for the Journal & Courier, Lafayette. Contact him at dbangert@journalandcourier.com.