Alerts Praised After NYC Campus Scare

Thursday, September 27th 2007, 6:35 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) _ When a masked freshman came to campus carrying what police said was a loaded rifle sticking out of a bag, St. John's University lost little time warning students.

Less than 20 minutes after he was spotted, students across the university's Queens campus were notified and told to stay indoors as officials searched for possible additional suspects.

None were found, no injuries were reported, and students and officials praised a new emergency response system that quickly dispatched e-mails, text message and telephone alerts about the incident.

The student, identified as Omesh Hiraman, 22, was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of criminal possession of a loaded weapon, police said early Thursday. Information on his arraignment was not immediately available.

His father called the incident Wednesday ``a misunderstanding,'' and Hiraman's lawyer, Anthony Colleluori, told the New York Post his client was ``tired, he's confused, and he's scared.''

St. John's, a Catholic school of about 20,000, put its new emergency alert system in place after the April 16 shootings at Virginia Tech, where a student killed 32 people and himself.

The Blacksburg, Va.-based university's administration sent a mass e-mail to students about two hours after the first victims were shot in a dormitory. The e-mail, which warned students to be cautious and contact police about anything suspicious, went out about 20 minutes before the gunman opened fire again.

At St. John's, the suspect was first captured on security cameras entering the Queens campus at about 2:20 p.m. Five minutes later, public safety officials called 911.

Ten minutes later, he was apprehended by a student cadet and unarmed campus security officers. Eight minutes after that, students were notified of the incident.

``They were on it,'' Sophomore Irene Kontonicolaou, 19, who got a text message alert in a business law class, said of the law enforcement response. ``They did a really good job.''