Students were told by police to leave the Court of Sciences while investigation continued after the shooting. Photo by Stephanie Wang.
Charter Oak High School

My experience during the UCLA shooting: How the police never found us and how TMZ could have gotten me killed

It’s a pretty frightening experience to see helicopter footage of police surrounding a building and think, “Hey, that’s where I am right now.” Or having to wait two hours inside a cramped office with 10 other people, holding our breath whenever there was a sound outside. At least, those were the circumstances while I was in hiding in Boelter Hall, one floor above the location where the UCLA shooting had happened.

I began my morning in Seas Café, a relatively unknown spot on the fifth floor of Boelter Hall. I was visiting my sister, a student in UCLA, while she was studying for her finals. When I saw a Bruin Alert, I simply saw “Police Activity [in] Engineering 4. Avoid area until further notice” and didn’t think too much of it. Police activity on its own was of no concern; we had better things to do. However, three minutes later, when the next Bruin Alert came stating “Shooting at Engineering 4. Go to secure location and deny entry (lockdown) now!” all of the people in the café knew that we were seriously in danger.

It all happened so fast.  While some students immediately left, others, including myself, grabbed our belongings, preparing to hide. My sister ran to the nearest door, shutting it tight while the employee in the café locked the three entrances. The remaining people dashed to the back of the café into a small office, where we locked the door, turned off the lights and closed the blinds, too afraid of what would happen if we encountered the shooter.

Those inside the office also began discussing what we would do if the shooter did happen to break into our hiding spot. Since the office we were hiding in was inside a locked café, we would be able to hear the shooter if he broke open the doors, and we decided to use the file cabinets as a barricade if that were to happen. The students who had their backpacks with them put them on their chest as a sort of shield to protect from possible bullets, and it was agreed that we would have to charge the shooter in order to survive. Everyone sat cross-legged on the floor, and soon the glow of phone screens illuminated our faces as we all contacted loved ones, family and friends to let them know our situation. My sister and I, not wanting to cause unnecessary stress and worries to our parents, were forced to lie and tell them that we weren’t anywhere near the shooting. Telling them about our situation would just make things worse, as many parents were actually driving to the location of the shooting to see their children. We couldn’t have that happen.

I was one of the last people to enter the office and was sitting in front of the door, so when the helicopters arrived on scene, I could feel the vibrations of the building. We were forced to use the news and friends as sources of information on what was happening outside. While most of the students were excused from class that day, some professors sent out emails stating that students were still required to attend class and even give presentations.

After a while, we received a phone call in the office. Thinking it was the police or someone who could rescue us, we picked up the phone, not thinking of the danger that the sound could cause.

“Is this Seas Café?” said the caller, “This is TMZ.”  We immediately hung up.

With the reminder of how noise could cause us to be discovered, we began unplugging all of the electronics in the office: printers, computers and, of course, the phone. Two hours seemed to drag by. Rescue seemed far off, but every so often, we would hear police activity because of the proximity of the café to the stairs.

Paranoia spread rumors among the students—some said there were two shooters, one in black and one in white; some said there were four shooters; it was said that there was an attack in north campus, south campus, at Sproul Hall and at apartments; some people stated that there were seven injured and even a hostage.

We were told that if someone tried to open our door, we should treat it as the shooter and not open it.  We were also told that police were evacuating the buildings, floor by floor. Because of this, even when the all clear was issued through Bruin Alert, we were hesitant to exit the office because the police had not come through Seas Café yet. However, the need to use the bathroom overpowered our fears, and we walked out.  On the way out of Boelter Hall, we soon came to realize that the police had come to almost every other room except ours, and we were glad that we decided not to wait for an evacuation.

I’ve encountered many unique events that have happened because of the shooting. One student told me that stereotypes were affecting police searches, as someone who clearly did not look like the shooter was searched while others were simply released. Another incident is that preachers used the shooting as a sick way to promote their cause the next day.

After exiting the building, the police ushered everyone out of the Court of Sciences (where the buildings involved in the shooting are located). I soon found out that there was only one shooter, not the rumored two or four, and after about half an hour, the Court of Sciences was back open, though I didn’t check Boelter Hall.

I think the most interesting aspect about this incident is the fact that while the police state that the shooting was contained in Engineering IV and that there was only one shooter, a photo is circulating among the student body of a lone man dressed in all black, carrying what appears to be a gun near the Northern Lights café in northern UCLA, far from the events of the shooting.

But I think the most important thing is to allow the UCLA campus to mourn in peace for former professor William Klug.

–Stephanie Wang

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