By: Jasmine Driggs
Virginia Wesleyan students are questioning their safety after four ODU students were wounded and a U.S. Navy Sailor died at two different shootings while attending off-campus parties during ODU’s homecoming weekend.
The first shooting on Friday, Oct. 16, took the life of Keith Lendore who was a 26-year-old Navy Sailor. Two women, both ODU students, were injured during this incident as well.
Two men, also ODU students, were injured during a second shooting at a party early Sunday morning, Oct. 18. The shooting was believed to be the result of an argument at the party.
Neither of the parties were held on the ODU campus, however both parties were full of university students as they celebrated their Homecoming. The parties were hosted on Killam Avenue and West 40th Street, both just minutes from the heart of the university’s campus.
“The senseless firing of weapons that took Keith’s life also injured 4 of our students at two separate events over the weekend. We wish them all a speedy recovery,” President of ODU John R. Broderick said in an email.
These incidents sparked in initiative to strengthen security measures in Norfolk.
Broderick said that he spoke with the Mayor and City Manager of Norfolk about ways to improve safety for citizens in the area. “We believe this would strengthen the joint effort of Norfolk Police and ODU Police to prevent dangerous incidents before they happen,” Broderick said.
“The proactive safety enhancements and educational programs ODUPD [Old Dominion University Police Department] implemented recently have resulted in a drop in crime incidents on campus, falling below the national average for large universities. But crime in Norfolk continues to be a challenge. We are committed to supporting Norfolk Police’s efforts in surrounding neighborhoods and encourage the community to report any suspicious activity to police. The safety of our students is a top priority, and by working together, we can help prevent further violence,” Acting Assistant Vice President of the University Giovanna M. Genard said in an email to WAVY.com.
Carissa Stevens, a junior sociology major and resident at Virginia Wesleyan College, attended a party on the campus of Old Dominion University on the same weekend as the reported shootings.
Stevens said that she and friends went to Old Dominion to take part in some of the homecoming activities. Stevens said she remembers leaving the party that she attended and seeing the area where the shooting took place taped off with caution tape. Stevens said as she got closer to where the shooting took place, she could hear bystanders frantically talking about what had just happened, however she was unsure on whether to believe them since she had not heard gunshots from the party she attended.
Stevens said she had a friend who was at the party where the shooting took place. Her friend told Stevens that the people in the party were very scared when they heard gunshots and chaotic screaming after the shooting took place.
Stevens said she was thankful for the safety of Virginia Wesleyan’s campus.
“I remember walking to the cafe the morning after the shooting and hearing the birds chirping. I saw multiple security officers on my way there and I knew I was fortunate enough to be here on a campus where it is monitored and gated off,” Stevens said.
Virginia Wesleyan College is a closed, private campus and takes the safety of its students, faculty and staff very seriously.
“VWC deploys actual police officers along with our security supervisors during patrols of the campus. These patrols occur between the hours of 9 p.m. and 3 a.m. every night of the week,” Director of Security Jerry Mance said.
Mance said there are two police officers on campus on Friday and Saturday nights to assist campus security.
VWC students also have access to the Virginia Beach Police Department via radio, which helps ensure that they can respond to campus in a timely manner.
“Active patrols of the campus, including parking lot areas, occur 24 hours, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Strict-access control at the gate is also maintained with I.D. cards being checked regularly,” Mance said.
In order for Wesleyan students to have guests on campus, they must register their guests via WebAdvisor. Upon arrival to the gatehouse, the registered guest must show his or her driver’s license or proof of identification, and a security guard will subsequently grant him or her access to campus with a temporary parking pass. Virginia Wesleyan has specific visitor hours which run until midnight Sunday through Wednesday, 1 a.m. on Thursday, and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
“I feel very safe at VWC, I feel that the campus security does a very good job at monitoring who comes on and off our campus. I think that our safety and security policies are fine just the way they are,” Stevens said.
Virginia Wesleyan security also recently made the LiveSafe app available to students. The app allows members of the College community to easily share information and safety concerns with Campus Security by submitting texts, pictures, video and audio, with an option of remaining anonymous. Students may also live chat with Campus Security, view a safety map and allow friends to monitor their location for everyday safety. Students may create a profile, which will include one email address and one telephone number, which will be used by the College to notify campus members of emergencies and other timely information. The LiveSafe app works with most smartphones and is available for download in the iTunes and Google Play app stores.
“With the help of the LiveSafe app, guest registration and guest hours, our security does a great job to be sure that we are safe. We are very fortunate here at Wesleyan because we see how things could be different just like on other campuses,” Stevens said.
There have not been any reported shootings at Virginia Wesleyan College to date.
Although the state of Virginia has its own gun permit laws, Virginia Wesleyan College does not allow guns on campus except by accredited police officers.
VWC holds many events on campus that are not college-affiliated.
“Activities that occur on campus are managed by staff under the purview of the Business Office,” Mance said. Contracts are typically signed in order to rent out equipment and specific facilities of the college, however guests utilizing the facilities do not have to be registered on campus as a normal guest.
“They are contracted on as a group of whatever organization they are representing. A security officer or officers are assigned, Batten Center staff is placed on notice and at the first sign of trouble we [staff members] get involved. If an organization acts out or creates trouble they are not invited back to use the facilities,” Mance said.
Mance said Virginia Wesleyan Campus Security does its best to ensure the safety of the students, faculty and staff.