September 19, 2019

Student pulls fake gun and knife out at SGA meeting

Webster student Chris Austin pulled a fake gun and knife out of his coat pocket during a demonstration at a Student Government Association (SGA) meeting two weeks ago. Austin said he did it to prove a point.

Nobody else in the room knew about the two fake weapons until Austin pointed the bright orange, rubber gun at SGA President Vladimir Radojkovic. Austin, the former president of the self defense club at Webster, bent the knife to show everyone it was fake.

“It’s that easy,” Austin said after pulling out the fake gun. “It should not be that easy.”

SGA Vice President Fayeshun Brown (left) and President Vladimir Radojkovic (right) vote on various initiatives posed to SGA. Photo by Ryan Gines.

Austin made the demonstration on behalf of Grace von Seckendorff, who reported to Public Safety that someone attacked her outside her on-campus apartment. Austin said he used the demonstration to show the lack of security cameras and overall security at Webster.

Webster has 168 security cameras and five Public Safety officers per shift according to Patrick Giblin, director of public relations at Webster.

Austin admitted nothing could prevent someone from walking into any school with a real gun or knife. He said he still did not regret pulling out the fake weapons.

Radojkovic said Austin told him he planned on speaking at an SGA meeting. He left out the fake gun demonstration in their conversation.

Radojkovic said Austin pulling out the rubber weapons did not bother him.

“You never see a real gun being orange,” Radojkovic said. “Obviously it was a toy.”

Radojkovic said SGA members who are native-born American expressed more concern about the demonstration than SGA members who are not native to America. Radojkovic is a Serbian native.

SGA Senator for the School of Education John Wallis sat in Sunnen Lounge as Austin walked from the podium to Radojkovic. Wallis said he was shocked after Austin unzipped his coat pocket to reveal what was inside.

Wallis said Austin’s message wasn’t clear until after he explained what he was doing.

“I firmly believe there needs to be a serious discussion about safety on this campus,” Wallis said, “but demonstrations like that are not the way to get things done.”

Wallis said he believed increased patrol from Public Safety could help campus security. Wallis suggested adding two or three more Public Safety officers as well. 

Austin said he met with Dean of Students John Buck after the SGA meeting to talk about the impact his demonstration had on the people who attended the meeting. Buck said he was directly behind Austin when he showed the fake weapons and did not see the orange gun right away.

“I was concerned that his demonstration was more than necessary to make the point he was trying to make,” Buck said.

Buck mentioned the importance of proactive measures rather than reactive measures in an active shooter situation. He said the most important thing students can do to help prevent attacks is speak up if they see odd behavior.

As far as reactive measures, Buck said it isn’t as simple as it may seem. Security cameras require a well-lit area to work properly, Buck said.

“It [campus security] is a multilayered complex fabric of systems and people and technology,” Buck said. “It’s not just one thing that’s going to resolve the issue.”

Radojkovic said he planned to work with Public Safety to better campus security. He said he wanted to focus on adding security cameras and ID card readers.

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