After learning the potential threat made against Hillsdale College on Wednesday allegedly came from a student formerly enrolled at Hillsdale, students said they were surprised and concerned for their former classmate.
The suspect was arrested in Coldwater on Wednesday shortly after 2 p.m., according to the Daily Reporter, a newspaper based in Coldwater.
Although many said they did not think much of the initial announcement about the lockdown, after learning the suspect once attended the college, students said they prayed for him and hoped that he would get medical help.
“It’s a reminder to be understanding and gracious to the people you know, because there are things you don’t know about people, and things you can’t see,” sophomore Bobbie Briggs said.
Students said when Director of Security William Whorley initially sent an email to students, faculty, and staff about campus being put on lockdown at 12:26 p.m., they still felt secure, expecting the incident to end shortly.
“We didn’t know about it until after noonday prayer,” junior Monicah Wanjiru said. “The initial reaction was that students said, ‘I wonder if I can go to Galloway or the old snack bar.’ We were not scared. Nothing ever happens here.”
Freshman Lauren Adams said she didn’t think much of it at first.
“I thought it was just someone close to campus,” Adams said. “I mean, this is a school where we get emails about when deer season starts.”
Freshman Adelaide Holmes was eating lunch with President Larry Arnn when he got a phone call about the situation.
“He was just really open and honest about what was going on,” Holmes said. “He was really peaceful, and that helped me not worry. He knew it was well-handled and under control.”
Junior Allison Deckert said she was in a class on the second floor of Lane Hall, during the lockdown, giving her a view of many police vehicles traveling around campus.
Shortly after sending the email, an emergency telephone call was made to students and their emergency contacts, informing them of the lockdown and that there wasn’t an immediate threat.
“I appreciated the call,” said Mike Bruno, father of senior Frank Bruno. “I wouldn’t have known what was going on without it…The first thing I thought is ‘Wow, this is the type of thing you see on the television, and now it’s happening to us.’ I told Frank to lay low and contact me when it is all safe and cleared up.”
Stuck in the buildings they were in, students continued mostly as they were, eating lunch and playing ping pong and card games in the Grewcock Student Union, while they waited for updates. A.J.’s Café continued its service, as well.
“I was in the library, and it was really quiet, like normal,” junior Jessie Kopmeyer said. “They just asked us to move away from the windows, and the librarians were really nice, going around and asking if we wanted water.”
Some students said they did have problems with connecting to the internet, especially in the union, as people were trying to find more information about the lockdown on social media and from news reports.
After learning that the suspect in the case was a former student, however, current students said it became more personal.
“I knew him,” junior Kevin Wilkinson said. “I wouldn’t ever have expected that.”
Senior Shelby Nies said she knows the former student, as well.
“I didn’t think anything would happen on campus,” Nies said. “I was more concerned for his well being.”
Adams said learning that it was a former student made her more nervous.
“That freaked me out, because it wasn’t just someone upset and near,” Adams said. “It was someone who knew the college well, and I was in the union with hundreds of people, and that is not a place you want to be.”
Kristina Perkins ’16 arrived to campus, during the lockdown, to visit friends. She said she hopes people still see the school as the safe campus that she experienced for four years.
Wanjiru said junior Peter Wenger led a group of students for 30 minutes in prayer, since many of them knew him through extracurricular activities.
“We prayed for his soul, for grace,” Wanjiru said. “We prayed for him as a friend. It was surprising that this was even possible that a former Hillsdale student did this.”
Wenger said the former student was a good friend of his when he attended Hillsdale.
“I was concerned for him, and I knew that only God could restore his heart and heal his mind,” Wenger said.
Once given the all clear, campus activities continued as normal, and students returned to class. Bon Appétit Management Company, however, did extend lunch dining hours for students who missed their meal while being held in other buildings.
After the lockdown, students said they were unclear on what happened, since updates from the college to students did not hold many details, but they said they were grateful that security and police handled the situation.
“It’s a comment that students feel safe on campus, because no one was scared by it,” Nies said. “That’s a blessing.”