Questions remain a year after the Cal State Fullerton lockdown

A year later, a robbery suspect who prompted an eight-hour lockdown remains at large — and unidentified

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 on Nutwood Ave. near Mihaylo Hall on Dec. 12, 2012, soon after the suspects fled onto campus. (Photo by Tim Worden)

It was a cloudy winter day, nearly the shortest day of the year, and students were busy preparing for the end of the semester. A few were even cramming for finals.

That all changed shortly before 4 p.m.

It’s been a year now since that day, the December 12, 2012, “lockdown” shelter-in-place, where helicopter floodlights and SWAT teams scoured the affluent North Orange County campus of Cal State Fullerton looking for a man suspected to have been armed and involved in a pawn shop robbery.

But today, little information has reached the public as to how that man was able to skirt through the campus and apparently remain on the lam for a year.

A companion of his who also evaded the tri-county manhunt, by allegedly fleeing south from the group’s crash site at CSUF into the city of Fullerton, was caught two weeks later — 30 miles away.

Moreno Valley police Investigator Ed Rose, who is handling the case as the initial pawn store robbery occurred within his jurisdiction, has kept a tight lid on his investigation.

While contacted for comment in March 2013, he told this reporter that he would not release or discuss any information related to the case since it is an ongoing investigation.

Rose did not answer a request for comment for this story.

The at-large suspect

Various reports by authorities during the night of the lockdown included that the alleged robber may have been wearing dark clothing and that he was suspected to have possibly been armed.

However, authorities have not publicly identified him or stated if, in fact, he was actually armed or not.

It is believed that the suspect was last seen entering the Steven G. Mihaylo Hall building around 3:46 p.m. that night, according to authorities.

Security cameras inside the building show two possible people who police could have considered to be the suspect, both of whom are last seen entering the building’s south side near the Starbucks, and exiting at the main north entrance.

It is not known if either of those men were the suspect, University Police Capt. John Brockie, who commanded the police and SWAT teams’ lockdown response, said in a previous interview. 

For more information on the Mihaylo Hall security camera footage that may show the suspect, read the Daily Titan’s March 2013 article here.

It appears that nothing more about the at-large suspect has been released.

He is believed to be at-large.

The four captured suspects

A man wearing shorts and a white shirt (left) exits the Mihaylo Hall building. He was caught by the California Highway patrol officer shortly after he exited the building. (Photo courtesy of CSUF)
A man wearing shorts and a white shirt (left), who police believe is suspect Jerome Allen, exits the Mihaylo Hall building. He was apprehended by a California Highway Patrol officer shortly after he exited the building. (Photo courtesy of CSUF)

Of the five suspects who were involved in an armed pawn shop robbery that led one or more of the suspects to allegedly shoot the store’s clerk, three were caught that evening.

While being chased by California Highway Patrol officers, they exited the 57 Freeway onto Nutwood Ave., crashed in front of campus and fled on foot in different directions. Two were apprehended at CSUF: One near the Carl’s Jr. (pictured at right) and another at College Park.

A third was caught after carjacking another car and a high-speed pursuit into Watts, Calif.

A fourth suspect, who authorities said fled south into the city of Fullerton, was captured in Long Beach two weeks later.

The suspects have allegedly pled not guilty in court; updates on their trials are not readily available.

The social media buzz

There were more than 3,500 posts on Twitter during the duration of the lockdown that mentioned the lockdown with a #csuf hashtag.

In the first of these mentions, at 4:01 p.m., a student asked, “So why are we evacuating?”

By the time SWAT teams arrived on campus, around 5:45 p.m., there were already more than 1,000 mentions of the lockdown on Twitter with the #csuf hashtag.

Cal State Fullerton and #CSUF were trending through the night in Twitter’s Los Angeles region.

The campus

News vans park in front of Cal State Fullerton on December 13, 2012, the day after the lockdown.
News vans park in front of Cal State Fullerton on December 13, 2012, the day after the lockdown.

At Cal State Fullerton, the night of the lockdown paralyzed the California State University’s largest campus, as about 10,000 people were estimated by officials to have been on campus at the time.

Many were able to evacuate campus in the initial hour or so, but those who did not were put into a modified shelter-in-place.

Many classrooms were reported to have gone with minimal food and water for as long as six or seven hours, and some classes fashioned makeshift barricades to prevent the possible suspect from entering.

Many students, however, disobeyed university officials’ orders to shelter in place and left their buildings hours before SWAT had cleared them.

Overall, it is reported that emergency procedures in place on the campus — such as the blue phones, an emergency alert system and prompt evacuations — worked well.

But it is not known if the lockdown, which happened two days before the tragic Sandy Hook shooting in Connecticut, has impacted the campus’ police and emergency procedures.

Brockie, CSUF police’s administrative captain, declined to comment on how or if the lockdown has affected the campus and police department.

____________

For further information on the lockdown, here is the Daily Titan’s excellent issue published the morning after the lockdown: View it here.

____________

By Tim Worden. Published Dec. 12, 2013.

For questions or comment, contact me at timrworden@gmail.com.

A note on the Twitter statistics: I culled through the #csuf Twitter posts a week or two after the lockdown to count how many posts were made mentioning the lockdown.

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