Shooting Threat Closes Houston Community College Campus - Higher Education
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Shooting Threat Closes Houston Community College Campus

by Sammy G. Allen

HOUSTON—For the second day in a row, the Houston Community College Central Campus will be closed due to a shooting threat made on social media over the weekend.

Neeta Sane

The anonymous threat didn’t name an individual, nor was it specific to any department of the college.

A media briefing has been scheduled for noon on Tuesday. HCC Chancellor Cesar Maldonado and HCC Police Chief Greg Cunningham are expected to provide updates on the investigation and when the campus will reopen.

HCC is working with local and federal law-enforcement agencies to identify the source and the veracity of the threat. Anyone with information about the threat is asked to contact the HCC Police Department at 713-718-8888.

“We also ask that any information of a suspicious nature, no matter how small or large, always be relayed to HCC PD immediately. If you see something, say something,” the press release stated.

“We will remain vigilant and respond thoroughly whenever any reports of a concerning nature are received,” said Maldonado. “HCC is a place of learning. We also want it to be a place where everyone is safe.”

The incident caught many students off guard.

“I took the (city) bus down here this morning to take a final,” said Aida Mendez-Solomon, who is studying to be a medical assistant in HCC’s Health Sciences program. “I didn’t know about the shooting threat. I’ve been studying all weekend and was not on social media and didn’t see it in the news.

“It was quiet when I got here, but a security officer told me what had happened. I couldn’t believe it.”

HCC’s other locations, more than  dozen, remained open Monday with additional security. HCC District sent out a Tweet on Sunday announcing the Monday closing of the Central Campus. It was not clear Monday evening when the central campus would reopen or how long the additional security would last, authorities said.

The college was made aware of the threat to the 1300 Holman Street campus on Saturday, said HCC spokeswoman Linda Toyota. The post was deleted that same day.

“Importantly, the poster similarly threatened to attack unspecified schools in the Houston area (including referencing a “high school”) on Tuesday, May 22, 2018,” Neeta Sane, who serves on HCC’s Board of Trustees, posted on her Facebook page Monday. “HCC is providing this information so that your organization may take steps it deems necessary. HCC and its police department are working with local and federal law enforcement authorities to locate and neutralize the source of the threat.”

Sane could not be reached for additional comment. Other law enforcement agencies did not confirm her concerns Monday.

During the 84th Texas Legislature, lawmakers passed the “Campus Carry” Bill (Senate Bill 11). It allows licensed individuals to carry concealed handguns on academic campuses. The law took effect August 1, 2016 for all institutions of higher education except for community colleges. The effective date for HCC and community colleges across the state was August 1, 2017.

The state campus carry law lets anyone over the age of 21 with a gun license carry a handgun on college campuses in Texas as long as it is concealed. Private colleges and universities can opt out, and community colleges can have gun-free zones.

Sane’s Facebook post also said: “Central College will remain closed until further notice and HCC will provide additional information as it learns more. Until the campus is reopened, only law enforcement personnel and authorized HCC employees will be allowed onto Central Campus. HCC will also provide additional security at all of its campuses until the threat is eliminated.”

All course finals that were scheduled at the Central Campus for Monday were rescheduled for this Friday, the HCC District announced on its Web site and via Twitter and other media.

Houston Community College is one of the country’s largest singularly-accredited, open-admission community colleges offering associate degrees, certificates and workforce training in about 300 programs and lifelong learning opportunities, in total reaching more than 70,000 students each semester, according to its website.

“HCC takes all matters with implications for the security of its students, faculty and staff seriously,” the college announced in a news release. “HCC and its police department are actively working with other law enforcement agencies to identify the source of the threat in an effort to eliminate the risk of harm.”

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