An overview of the April 18 student gun incident

UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow speaks during an open forum Thursday afternoon

UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow speaks during an open forum Thursday afternoon

A UW-La Crosse student was arrested and apprehended Thursday morning, April 18, after walking into a campus building carrying a shotgun. No shots were fired and no one was injured, but the campus is still shaken by the incident that happened in the wake of the recent Boston Marathon bombing.

“This is a big wake-up call that this kind of thing can happen anywhere and we need to be prepared,” said UW-L Chancellor Joe Gow. “Our campus police were very prepared.”

The student, who was taking one online course, came to the Campus Police Station about 4:45 a.m. Thursday and talked to an officer. He made some confusing, irrational statements and suggested that he wanted officers to contact the chancellor and an employee in Student Affairs to tell them to stop contacting his parents. He was not armed, did not indicate he intended to harm anyone and was cooperative with the officer who performed a search of him for weapons. It was determined that he did not pose any threat at that time. The officer followed him to his residence on State Street and the student went inside.

Police Chief Scott Rohde speaks during Thursday's open forum.

Police Chief Scott Rohde speaks during Thursday’s open forum.

Later in the morning just before 9 a.m., officers received a phone call that someone was on campus carrying a weapon that looked like a hunting rifle. It was later determined to be the same student carrying an unloaded 870 Express Shotgun, a common hunting rifle. It was in a case and slung on his back. Officers went to the area where he was seen after entering Cowley Hall and walking into a classroom. Within minutes, an officer observed him in a nearby parking lot and made contact with him at the corner of Badger Street and East Avenue. He was disarmed, arrested and apprehended. He was not carrying any ammunition and cooperated with authorities. He is now undergoing psychiatric evaluation.

At a forum Thursday afternoon, members of the campus community learned more about the incident and were able to ask questions. Also counselors were on hand. Counseling services are available for faculty, staff and students.

“This is very unsettling for us all, but everyone is safe and we don’t have any reason to believe anything else like this will happen again,” said Gow.


Q: Was someone being targeted in Cowley Hall?

A. Police Chief Scott Rohde says they have ruled this out.

Q: What do I do if there is an active shooter on campus?

A: Active shooter information is available on the UW-L Police Services website.

Q: Where can I carry a gun on campus?

A: All university buildings, stadiums and recreational fields are off limit for firearms, loaded or unloaded.

Q: Why didn’t I get a City Watch alert right away?

A: The message about the threat was queued in City Watch as the incidents were beginning to unfold; however, police officers were able to apprehend the individual very quickly, so a modified notice was sent to indicate there was no immediate threat to the campus. Police Chief Scott Rohde also explained that the system does not send messages instantaneously. Instead, it sends messages to thousands of people via diverse cellphone providers and email over three to four minutes. Faculty, staff and students should update their information on City Watch as even an incorrect cellphone provider name can create challenges in delivering the message. Sign up and make sure your City Watch information is correct:
Student sign up
Personnel sign up

Q: Is our campus safe?

A: Yes. University campuses like UW-L are some of the safest public places. Our campus security procedures worked well on Thursday and the individual was apprehended very quickly. Nonetheless, this incident is a powerful reminder of how important these procedures are.