After a year, Ferrum's gunman remains mystery
Tips still come in about the report, which caused a lockdown at the Franklin County college.
By Janelle Rucker
It's been a year since a gunman was spotted at Ferrum College, leading to a lockdown of the campus and a manhunt, but the suspect still has not been identified.
Investigators continue to receive tips, but nothing leading to a break in the case, said Justin Sigmon of the Franklin County Sheriff's Office.
Investigators from the sheriff's office are working with Ferrum College police to solve the case.
On Feb. 26, 2008, a campus housekeeper reported seeing a man with a gun in the lobby of Bassett Hall, home to about 420 students.
No one was injured and no shots were fired. As a safety precaution, the entire campus and neighboring Ferrum Elementary School were locked down while more than 300 law enforcement officials unsuccessfully searched the 700-acre campus for the gunman.
Fourteen "persons of interest" were questioned that day, but no one was taken into custody.
Investigators got a lot of tips at first, but then the tips slowed down, Sigmon said.
By early March, investigators had received about 50 leads before there was a lag in the investigation.
Ferrum President Jennifer Braaten credited the emergency alert system and regional law enforcement for the orderly way the lockdown and manhunt were handled.
When the housekeeper's supervisor alerted campus police, they alerted the Franklin County sheriff, who in turn notified regional law enforcement. Federal, state and local agencies responded, including the U.S. Secret Service, U.S. Marshals, and area fire and rescue squads.
While law enforcement organized, the college focused on notifying students by e-mail and text messages. Also, an alarm was sounded on campus, alerting students to stay inside until they were moved to a central location.
"On that day, weeks, months and years of emergency planning and preparation by both the college and neighboring counties was successfully put into place," Braaten said after the incident.
Since then, the college has implemented new security measures on campus, including key card entry to newer buildings.
"Along with all other colleges and universities nationwide, we have implemented several new processes and procedures on campus ... to ensure the safety of our students, faculty and staff," said spokeswoman Natalie Faunce. "It is essentially an ongoing process."
As a result of the April 16, 2007, shootings at Virginia Tech, the college installed a siren on campus and was one of the first to implement campuswide text-messaging alerts.
Investigators continue to take tips and investigate leads. The previous reward of $1,500 has been increased to $2,000 for anyone who provides information that leads to an arrest.