Rollins students were in a “shelter in place” lockdown for almost two hours after a man was shot on Orange Avenue next to the Rollins Alfond baseball stadium, less than a mile from campus.
Monday’s lockdown felt all too familiar for students, who experienced a similar event in March when Campus Safety sent out an R-Alert saying there was an active shooter on campus.
Panic was unveiled. Some students locked themselves in closets, while others were forced to flee their buildings after classroom doors did not have locks.
While it wasn’t related to that incident, over the summer, Campus Safety took measures to heighten campus security. With the help of the campus locksmith, they surveyed all classrooms, student study spaces, and office suits to ensure they could be locked.
“We have addressed… just about every area we had listed or that community members had reached out to us about,” said Ken Miller, vice president of public safety.
“There certainly are a few outstanding areas that are physically challenging on a campus that is more than 130 years old and with a distinctive architectural style. In some situations, if the area is unable to be secured, we are designating places of refuge for entire floors or smaller buildings that will afford some level of protection,” Miller said.
They also installed video cameras in almost all building entry points and placed R-Card readers at Bush Science Center entrances which allows Campus Safety to remotely lock the building in the case of an emergency. In addition, students must now use their R-Cards to enter Bush on weekday evenings and weekends.
When Campus Safety sent the first R-Alert to the community at 3:33 p.m. ordering a “shelter in place” lockdown, people were unsure of what was happening. Ally Rost (‘20) said she was heading into the Alfond gymnasium when coaches and athletics personnel shouted to get inside.
“I honestly was thinking I can’t believe how often this happens (in a sad way) and I honestly was pretty nervous about the whole thing especially because there was little information at the time,” Rost said in a text.
While it was frightening, she said she felt safe the entire time. “I felt very safe in the gym. We were in an empty office with no windows and there were many faculty in there with us that were keeping watch outside and checking for updates,” she said.
“Overall, I think Rollins handled the situation really well,” she said. “Even when the police had no more information, Rollins continued to send update texts and calls throughout the two hours.” She said that she thought Monday’s incident was much more organized than what unfolded last spring.
Manhunt ends in arrest
Winter Park Police arrested 19-year-old Jerad Christopher Vasquez around 10 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 17 after a nearly seven-hour manhunt.
Police were called to the Goodwill on Orange Avenue at around 2:40 p.m. over a suspected shoplifting. Police then allegedly saw Vasquez shoot an approaching citizen in the groin. The citizen did not die.
The shooting and search for the suspect prompted Campus Safety to send an R-Alert at 3:33 p.m. ordering students to seek shelter.
The notification read: “A shelter in place notification is in effect. Go into nearest room and lock the door. Await further information.” Students then received update notifications via text, email, and phone call every 15 to 20 minutes ordering them to continue sheltering in place until the all-clear notification came at 5:16 p.m.
Winter Park police identified the suspect as 20-year-old Jerad Christopher Vasquez. A person at Spatz, a local sports bar about a half mile from campus, videoed police with their guns drawn at Martin Luther King Jr. Park as they searched for the suspect.
The same park is where the Rollins softball team plays and practices. There were no players at the field during the incident. Police officers were monitoring the field late into the night with K-9 units.
Police searched the surrounding area for nearly seven hours until Vasquez was finally apprehended around 10 p.m. on Monday. He was found hiding under a trailer and gunfire was exchanged between him and responding officers. No one was injured.
According to records, Vasquez was arrested after attempting to steal keys from valet drivers in April. He pled no contest to burglary, grand theft, petit theft, and carrying a concealed weapon, and was sentenced to 45 days in jail and two years on probation.
Now, he faces charges of attempted first-degree murder, aggravated battery with great bodily harm, resisting officers with violence, shooting into a vehicle, and petty theft. He is currently being held without bail in the Orange County Jail.