LOCKDOWN: Suspects still at large

Photo by Robert Huskey/Daily Titan

Photo by Robert Huskey/Daily Titan

The manhunt for two robbery suspects ended at 11:51 p.m. Wednesday, and as the coalition of SWAT and other law enforcement agencies cruised away from campus, so went their steady stream of updates and intel.

Since the campus-wide lockdown Wednesday, police have released little new information on the at-large suspects. One was believed to have fled into Steven G. Mihaylo Hall and the other went south, but their whereabouts remain unknown.

The two splintered from three others after a high-speed chase that began in Moreno Valley culminated in a crash on Nutwood Avenue and Folino Drive.

The other three were eventually apprehended by police.

According to Sgt. Jeff Stuart of Fullerton Police Department, Riverside County Sheriff’s Department is heading the investigation.

“Because the shooting and the robbery and everything occurred in their jurisdiction, everything has a nexus back to them. They’re the lead agents. They took the bodies, and they get the investigation,” said Stuart.

Sgt. Lisa McConnell of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department confirmed the department is taking the case.

“We’re still actively involved in the case,” she said. “(But) I don’t have any updated information on what they’re working right now.”

Moreno Valley Police Department, which partnered with the sheriff’s department, is leading the investigation, headed by Investigator Ed Rose of Moreno Valley’s Robbery Suppression Team.

Rose was unavailable for comment, but McConnell said police there are focusing on the jewelry robbery.

“What happened at Fullerton is being handled by the Fullerton Police Department and we’re handling what happened over here,” McConnell said.

Stuart said that his last update was that the entire investigation had been entirely switched to the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department.

“(Riverside County law enforcement are) taking the lead on it because it all stems from a robbery at a jewelry shop up in their city in their jurisdiction,” Stuart said.

“The only thing we would be taking if we did take anything would be the second carjacking and that suspect is in custody, so anything else, we’re not handling,” he added.

Capt. John Brockie, of University Police, agreed it is Riverside’s investigation now.

“Fullerton may have a supporting role, but it’s the Riverside Sheriff’s Department’s investigation at this point and they would be the lead as far as searching for the two outstanding (suspects),” he said.

Brockie headed the campus investigation during the incident at Cal State Fullerton Wednesday as the incident commander, an emergency position focusing on five areas: incident command, operations, planning, logistics and finance and administration, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

An incident commander cannot also serve as a communications officer, so Stuart stepped up as the night’s public information officer, Stuart said.

Even though SWAT scoured the campus, University Police headed the operation, Brockie said.

“It’s our jurisdiction and it’s our responsibility, so they’re there to assist and I think we worked extremely well and when SWAT gets there, we still have control of the situation,” Brockie said. “They handle the specifics of tactics, but we’re still guiding the investigation or search.”

Only Mihaylo Hall and the Education Classroom Building underwent a “methodical and complete search,” Brockie said. In other campus buildings, which were not fully searched by police, the degree of the searches varied from scanning appearances to checking IDs.

University Police were informed of the suspect situation late, Brockie said.

“We found out (about the situation) by the CHP officer that pushed the emergency blue phone that went to our dispatcher,” Brockie said.

According to NBC Los Angeles, the phone was pulled when a California Highway Patrol officer caught one of the suspects and realized he did not have radio communication.

Brockie arrived on the scene eight minutes after being notified, he said.

“We would have liked to have known that that was going on beforehand, but sometimes you don’t and when you’re in a situation where you’re going 100 miles an hour, there’s a lot of things that are going on and a lot of things to think about,” Brockie said.

According to one student, part of the early confusion centering on Steven G. Mihaylo Hall may have been caused by someone pulling the fire alarm.

The fire alarm was pulled at 3:58 p.m., according to David Wooding, 20, a business major who was sitting in the second floor of Mihaylo Hall, about to attend a class.

“It is my understanding that if there is an armed suspect on campus, then the protocol is to immediately place the campus on lockdown, not to pull the fire alarm,” said Wooding. It is unknown who pulled the alarm.

A police officer directed students toward the orange grove and fountain south of Langsdorf Hall, then a police SUV pulled up to the door in Mihaylo Hall overlooking the grove and a policeman holding a rifle stepped out, Wooding said.

“Many people were not taking the evacuation seriously, but it seemed that attitude changed when everyone saw the police with weapons drawn,” Wooding said.

In McCarthy Hall, one class prepared for the worst.

“We barricaded the door at the front of the room and posted guards at each entrance,” said Raymond Jacobs-Edmondson, 23, a biology major and EMT with the San Bernardino Mountain Search and Rescue.

The 96-member biochemistry class in MH-121 distributed a few canisters of pepper spray to the three door guards and was prepared to subdue the suspect by sheer numbers, he said.

Jacobs-Edmondson said people’s attitudes shifted from annoyed to scared as the night wore on.

Students began leaving the classroom at 9 p.m., and by the time they were officially released at 10:20 p.m., Jacobs-Edmondson estimates the class was only half or two-thirds its original size.

They began walking out after hearing reports of other students who left safely, he said.

Sergio Rocha, 20, a pre-business major sheltered in the Titanshops bookstore, said 20 of the 40 students locked in left at 8:15 p.m., before the building’s lockdown had been lifted.

“I applied for a job (at the bookstore) in there, while I was waiting,” said Rocha.

Stuart addressed the media flurry with five press conferences throughout the night in a makeshift media briefing area in the middle of the Nutwood and Folino intersection.

“When something’s evolving like that, we’re trying to get information out as quickly as possible … I know that some people may have thought that some of it was conflicting, but the feedback that we’re getting overall has been positive,” Brockie said.

The first university message sent, to shelter in place, was sent at 4:17 p.m.

About Tim Worden

Tim is a senior journalism major at Cal State Fullerton and is serving his second semester as copy editor for the Daily Titan. He plans on becoming a reporter and copy editor after graduating in May. In his free time, he enjoys reading.