Nevada Campuses Pay Respects to V.T. Massacre Victims

The clock tower at Great Basin College chimed 32 times at noon Tuesday as campuses across the state paid respects to the Virginia Tech victims of the deadliest shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.

The bell on the Elko campus in northeastern Nevada rang at a ceremony "in remembrance of the lives and spirits of the college students and faculty who died" on Monday at Blacksburg, Va., GBC President Paul Killpatrick said.

Student leaders at the University of Nevada, Reno planned a candlelight vigil at the student union Tuesday evening to express sympathy to the victims as well as members of the Virginia Tech community "who are enduring this tragedy," said Shannon Ellis, UNR vice president of student services.

Gov. Jim Gibbons on Tuesday encouraged all Nevadans to lower their flags to half-staff through Sunday "out of respect for the victims of this tragic event."

Meanwhile, officials on college campuses across Nevada were reflecting on their own vulnerability to attacks like the one on Monday.

"We have to plan better for an incident like that," said Bus Scharmann, dean of Western Nevada Community College in Fallon about 60 miles east of Reno.

"Being a small campus, we're dependent on the attitudes and customs of rural Nevada. It's not been a violent community," he said.

WNCC-Fallon is among campuses that would be handicapped in responding to such an attack because it lacks metal detectors, full-time security officers or an intercom system, Scharmann said.

The school has been unable to secure money from the state Legislature to fund a full-time security officer without having to give up money for another program. The campus has a facility attendant who patrols the grounds and buildings after 5 p.m. and escorts students to their cars after dark.

"We depend on the Fallon Police Department for any law enforcement," Scharmann said, adding the facility attendants are trained to call 911 instead of stepping into threatening situations.

The campus does have a lockdown procedure including locking windows, doors and an evacuation plan should events warrant it.

Fallon Police Chief Russ Brooks said his department and the Churchill County Sheriff's Department are trained in the "active shooter" scenario where law enforcement teams enter a building and search for a shooter.

Even the larger schools find it difficult to protect students from such tragedies, said Adam Garcia, chief of police at UNR.

"You're dealing with human nature, and it's extremely difficult unless you dig a moat around the university," he said. "We're in essence a small city so it's impossible to check everyone or to keep them out."

Garcia said his 24 officers have been directed to be on the lookout for copycats, but no other extraordinary security measures are being taken in the wake of the massacre in Virginia.

"As you recall from Columbine, there were a number of copycat incidents and threats, so that is one of my concerns," Garcia said of the 1999 shootings that left 15 dead at a high school near Denver.

The police department at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, altered its policies after the Columbine shootings, UNLV police chief Jose Elique said.

"Since Columbine, we've been convinced that this could happen anywhere on our campus," he said.

Under the old policy, UNLV officers set up a perimeter around the shooter and were to wait for the Metropolitan Police Department's SWAT team to arrive. Now, they receive the same training as other officers and will respond to the incident immediately to try to "take out the shooter," Elique said.

"You can kill an awful lot of people in just a few minutes."

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)