Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Fandom Meets Handgun Scare at Midnight Madness

As Midnight Madness drew to a close on October 16, rumors swirled around McDonough Gymnasium that a shot had been fired inside the building. Anne Kenslea (COL ’13) didn’t hear a gunshot, but she recalled being on the verge of panic.

“We were all worried that something had actually happened, and part of it was we didn’t think that it could have actually been that serious, because it didn’t seem that real,” she said.

Around 10:20 p.m. that night, then-freshman William Thiele, who goes by Alex, fired a handgun at a toilet in one of the men’s restrooms near the gymnasium’s lobby. He then went to his residence hall, Village C West, according to police reports. Thiele reportedly found the firearm inside the purse of off-duty U.S. Park Police officer Sherice Clanton, who left the accessory on the bleachers.

While Metropolitan Police Department and Georgetown’s Department of Public Safety responded to the incident, attendees remained in the arena, barred from leaving the premises. Their cheers for the men’s and women’s basketball squads continued for several minutes until patience seemed to run short. Dylan Hunt (COL ’13) said many in the crowd swarmed in the lobby of the arena, eager to leave at the festivities’ scheduled end time.

“It was frustrating since no one knew what was going on, so everyone was getting annoyed with being cramped into that pretty small space,” Hunt said.

According to Kenslea, who was in the middle of the gym while the arena’s exits were blocked off, men’s basketball Head Coach John Thompson III started an “impromptu dance party,” ostensibly to stay panic and disorder. But she said it didn’t take long before uneasiness began to set in.

Within about 40 minutes of the gunshot, Thiele – located by MPD and DPS in his residence hall – was in police custody. Those who attended to celebrate the kickoff of official basketball practices were permitted to leave the building at around 11:05 p.m.

A little over four hours after the initial alert of the incident, Rocco DelMonaco Jr. and Todd Olson, vice presidents for university safety and student affairs, respectively, sent an advisory e-mail to the university community. Informing students, faculty and staff that MPD had arrested a suspect, DelMonaco and Olson said the situation was under control.

“Police tell us this appears to be an isolated incident and there is no continuing threat to the university community,” the e-mail stated. “As you know, we take the safety and security of our campus community very seriously and we appreciate the quick and effective work of DPS and MPD officers to resolve this matter expeditiously.”

As MPD conducted a follow-up investigation, the crisis colored ongoing Senior Parents’ Weekend programming; DelMonaco addressed family members of the Class of 2010 about university safety protocol Saturday, according to university spokesperson Julie Bataille.

Looking back, Hunt said he wishes he had been notified sooner of the university response.

Kenslea agreed, citing students’ uncertainty as they made their way out of McDonough late that Friday evening.

“We had all been hearing rumors for those four hours [before the announcement was made]. Everyone’s still talking, and I feel like at that point, the word had gotten out across campus but nobody knew the full story,” she said.

Kenslea added that utilizing the HOYAlert emergency notification service could have helped ease student tension.

Andy Pino, director of media relations, said HOYAlert wasn’t employed due to the effectiveness of the coordinated MPD and DPS response.

“University law enforcement officers were prepared to use the HOYAlert system during this incident, but determined that law enforcement considerations, including the situation’s swift resolution, made it unnecessary,” Pino said.

Following Thiele’s October arrest, he pleaded guilty to carrying a handgun without a license, in a case that led to a sentence of 18 months probation, to be served in his home state of California. He plans to re-enroll in college in the fall. Clanton, whose purse contained the handgun acquired by Thiele, remains a U.S. Park Police officer, according to Sgt. David Schlosser, U.S. Park Police spokesperson.

If anything, Kenslea said, the gunshot fired at October’s Midnight Madness was the final act in a series of unfortunate events.

“I feel like the combination of kids who were all riled up for Midnight Madness, some of whom were probably drunk, and an unattended gun – it’s obviously not an ideal situation.”

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