Police release CSUF lockdown tapes

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Reposted from my article at the Daily Titan.

Suspect may have left Mihaylo area 30 minutes before SWAT was called

An armed robbery suspect who prompted an eight-hour campus-wide lockdown in December may have walked through the Steven G. Mihaylo Hall lobby half an hour before police called SWAT onto campus, believing he was still in the building, according to police and new documents released to the Daily Titan.

The man, considered to be the fifth at large suspect in a Moreno Valley pawn shop armed robbery and high-speed pursuit that landed on Cal State Fullerton’s doorstep Dec. 12, may have only been inside the main Mihaylo Hall building for less than 20 seconds.

He made his way from the south entrance overlooking Nutwood Avenue to the north entrance into the plaza next to the Mihaylo statue, according to police and footage from two security cameras in the first-floor Mihaylo Hall lobby.

The security footage, made available to the Daily Titan through a Public Records Act request, show who police deem as two “likely” candidates for the outstanding suspect who evaded police detection as officers from seven different agencies, including three SWAT teams, swarmed the campus.

Both candidates for the outstanding suspect walk through Mihaylo Hall’s south entrance that overlooks Nutwood Avenue at around 3:46 p.m. on the camera tapes and head to the north entrance leading to the Mihaylo plaza area.

It is unknown if the suspect—if one of the people shown on the tapes is the suspect—stayed in the Mihaylo Hall area or, if he fled, when he left the area and what direction he headed, said University Police Capt. John Brockie.

They were last seen exiting the north Mihaylo Hall entrance eight and a half minutes before University Police initiated the Mihaylo Hall evacuation and 34 minutes before authorities called SWAT, according to Brockie, who served as the incident commander for the day’s events.

He led a coalition of Orange County law enforcement that included an arsenal of snipers, armored transports, helicopters, a medical staging area and two mobile command units.

It was the first time SWAT has been called to campus, Brockie said.

Police are unable to positively identify either man, both of whom appear to be wearing dark clothing, as the outstanding suspect since the cameras are far away and an accurate facial description is not possible, said Brockie.

However, it is likely that one of them is the suspect, Brockie said.

“It’s likely that they could have been, that they were one of the suspects,” Brockie said.

Both people are not seen on the security footage again, he added.

Police search the crash site in front of Mihaylo Hall on Wednesday, Dec. 12, soon after the suspects fled onto campus (Tim Worden)
Police search the crash site in front of Mihaylo Hall on Wednesday, Dec. 12, soon after the suspects fled onto campus (Tim Worden)

Police believe that when the robbery suspects crashed in front of the Marriott, three fled south down Folino Drive.

Of the three that went south, one was apprehended outside College Park, one allegedly carjacked a vehicle and was apprehended in Watts after a subsequent police pursuit, and the third fled on foot into Fullerton and was caught two weeks later.

Police believe two fled northwest onto campus into the south entrance of Mihaylo Hall.

There are two security cameras in the Mihaylo lobby area. One is located in the southwest end of the Grand Foyer that overlooks the south entrance and the Starbucks.

The second, in the west wing of the lobby, looks to the main north entrance that opens toward the Mihaylo statue and plaza.

At 3:46:05 p.m., a male with a stocky build wearing a white shirt and baggy jeans is seen casually walking through the south entrance of Mihaylo Hall.

Based on his clothing and build, he is “more than likely” to be Jerome Allen, the suspect who a California Highway Patrol officer apprehended minutes later in the area between Mihaylo Hall and the Carl’s Jr. on campus, according to Brockie.

Allen, as police identified him, heads north through the lobby. With a slight glance behind him, he exits the north entrance of the building toward Mihaylo plaza at 3:46:21 p.m. He was in the building for 16 seconds.

After Allen, two other people enter the building via the south entrance, followed soon after by a California Highway Patrol officer.

The second person, the first of the two possibilities for the outstanding suspect shown on the tapes, according to Brockie, enters the south end of the building at 3:46:15 p.m., 10 seconds after Allen.

He appears to be of a medium to tall build and is dressed in dark clothing, carrying something in his hand.

He glances behind him as he opens the north door and exits the building at 3:46:31. He too was in the building for 16 seconds.

The third person, the second of the two suspect candidates, enters from the south doors at 3:46:19 p.m. He appears to be a male wearing dark clothing—a hat obscures his face.

The man is wearing a backpack. He exits the building at 3:46:38 p.m. He was in the building for 19 seconds.

The CHP officer wearing a beige uniform enters the south doors at 3:46:31 p.m.

A man in line at the Starbucks and a man at the north end of the lobby at the couches both point to where the three previous men had gone at the north exit.

He exits the building at 3:46:44 p.m. He was in the building for 13 seconds.

Brockie said the second and third persons are considered a possibility for being the outstanding suspect since they are in close proximity to Allen and enter the same entrance that the CHP officer said he saw the remaining suspect enter in.

“I’m agreeing that the other one (the second person; the one carrying something) is more likely (to be the suspect),” Brockie said.

“Because it’s (the camera) so far away, we weren’t going to hang our hat on any particular person,” he added.

The CHP officer quickly apprehended Allen in the area between Mihaylo Hall and the Carl’s Jr.

“He (the officer) ordered him down to the ground at gunpoint,” Brockie said.

The suspect complied and the officer called University Police’s dispatcher from a blue phone located just southwest of the Carl’s Jr.

Since the officer’s focus was on apprehending Allen, he did not see the second suspect again, according to Brockie.

Mihaylo Hall branches off into three pathways at the north entrance of the main building.

Heading out the doors, left heads west to Langsdorf Hall, center heads northwest to the Carl’s Jr., and right heads north to the Eastside Parking Structure.

Since the CHP officer was apprehending Allen in the center pathway, there is a “very good possibility” that the outstanding suspect headed left or right, according to Brockie.

“That is possible to conclude, yes, just like it’s possible to conclude that he went back into the building (via a side entrance or stairs to a second-story entrance) or went back into (the island buildings north of the main Mihaylo building),” Brockie said.

Brockie said the CHP officer who apprehended Allen told him that the outstanding suspect went into the main south doors of Mihaylo just as Allen did. The description given of the remaining suspect was that he was a male with a thin build, black and wearing dark clothing.

The CHP officer also told Brockie the suspect was still in the building after police set up a perimeter.

Brockie, who normally serves as University Police’s public information officer, arrived to the crash scene at 4:08 p.m. and quickly took an incident commander role, meaning he led all aspects of the day’s emergency response.

“When I got here and took charge, the information I had was that there was a perimeter set up around this building, that it’s likely that he’s still inside the building, and that he was last seen entering that building,” Brockie said.

In addition, the officer told Brockie the man was “an armed murder suspect,” Brockie said.

Police later discovered that the group of five were robbery suspects who shot a pawn shop clerk—who was in stable but critical condition—and that it was unknown if any of the suspects still carried the weapon from that shooting.

University Police set the fire alarm off at Mihaylo Hall at 3:55 p.m. and soon after sent an audio message inside the building saying to stay away from the south side of campus, according to Brockie.

As incident commander, Brockie said his first two focuses were sending out a campus-wide shelter-in-place message and calling in SWAT. The first message was sent at 4:17 p.m. and Brockie initiated the SWAT call at 4:20 p.m., according to his police log.

“I believed that he was most likely inside that building because our response was quick, we had a perimeter set up and the eyewitness information that we had from the CHP officer, so that’s what I based my decision on to put out the shelter-in-place message and call SWAT,” Brockie said.

The security tapes made available to the Daily Titan cut off at 4:40 p.m. since that is about the time when SWAT arrived to campus, and SWAT tactics on how Mihaylo Hall would be cleared is confidential, Brockie said.

Later on, Brockie said the reason why the Education Classroom underwent a full SWAT scouring beginning around 8:55 p.m. is that a person reported a single gunshot fired inside the building.

Anaheim SWAT secured the building, interviewed hundreds of students and searched for expended shell casings, and found the report unfounded, Brockie said.

University Police does not have any open investigations on the incident because there were no crimes committed on state property, Brockie said.

Moreno Valley Police Department now heads the investigation since the crime of origin was in its jurisdiction.

Detective Ed Rose, who is leading the investigation, declined to comment on the tapes. He said he would not release or discuss any information related to the case since it is an ongoing investigation.

While one of the two people who enter Mihaylo Hall’s south entrance sandwiched between Allen and the CHP officer may be a suspect, Brockie said there are too many unknowns for the footage to be useful.

He said the information gleaned from the tapes was not an integral part of his investigation as incident commander.

“We looked at all the information that we had and it didn’t seem to give us a good enough description of a person,” Brockie said.

It is unknown when either candidate for the outstanding suspect left the Mihaylo area or what direction they went, he said.

“You’ve heard the expression ‘hindsight is 20/20’ right? … OK, in this case it’s not,” Brockie said. “We didn’t find him in the building, I’ll make that statement. We didn’t find him in the building.”

“There are a lot of possibilities,” he added.

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