David Chilton, the man who is accused of threatening a campus security officer and committing several other crimes in the Portland area, has been arraigned and charged in federal court.
The charges leveled against Chilton include armed bank robbery, car-jacking, possession of a weapon while being a felon and two counts of brandishing a weapon during a criminal act.
Chilton and another man were approached by a campus security officer June 11 on Portland State’s campus. The officer spoke with them and, after discovering the other man had an outstanding warrant for his arrest, decided to arrest the suspect. Chilton then drew a gun on the officer and made a direct threat. The officer spoke with Chilton and disengaged the situation, then made contact with Portland Police Bureau. Chilton then ran from the scene.
“We received the call at 10:57 a.m., and we were on scene almost immediately. We were there for several hours,” said Robert King, a spokesman for the Portland Police Bureau. “We interacted well with CPSO. We work together routinely and have formed a good partnership.”
Later, Chilton allegedly robbed a northeast Portland bank and stole a car from a woman. He was arrested in a Fred Meyer at 10:15 p.m. June 12.
Students, faculty and staff were alerted to the situation through PSU Alert, an emergency notification system. The program is voluntary for students, so those who want to receive the alerts must offer their email, phone number and other contact information in order to receive the alerts.
Those who were registered for the alert system received a notice at 10:34 a.m. which read: “PSU Alert Public Safety and Portland Police are looking for a male subject with a gun near Parking Structure 3. Stay away from the area.”
They later received a follow-up notice alerting them that Chilton had not been apprehended and was still at large. PSU also sent out a “timely warning” to students, which is sent to all students through their PSU email.
The Helen Gordon Child Development Center, one of PSU’s on-campus child care facilities, was already in the process of securing the building when they received the alert.
“One of the parents, as she was walking in, saw the police and the initial pursuit of the man who had pulled a gun on the PSU security folks. She alerted the teacher and alerted the office staff,” said Ellie Justice, director of the center.
“We have developed an emergency plan here at Helen Gordon. People had some good sense as to what they needed to do. They brought the children inside and shut the window shades. About this time the PSU alert went out. A campus security officer said they were officially in lockdown mode. The Portland police were also in our building as well,” Justice said.
During the lockdown, some children who were under the care of the center had gone out for a walk. Justice said that those children were relocated to the gymnasium.
“We had one group that was out in the community already. They found a space in the gym where they were welcomed. Campus security brought them a lunch, diapers, some other supplies. The kids that were kept in the center said they felt safe. Everyone who was here felt safe,” Justice said.
The PSU Alert program was designed to alert students to any immediate dangers on campus. Similar programs exist at other college campuses and vary in how they work. At PSU, the decision was to make the program an opt-in system. Students can register for the program through the campus public safety website.
“Opt-in allows users to hone how they want to be contacted (phone, alt. phone, email, text). Users who opt-in are consciously deciding that they would like to be made aware of situations that impact their security and safety,” said Bryant Haley via email. Haley is the emergency management coordinator at PSU.
During the fall, the university re-examines its safety practices. The PSU alert system may be re-examined during this time.
“It has always been an opt-in program. We have discussed making it an opt-out program. There are some difficulties with that because you need to get the best contact. We are still discussing how to improve PSU alert. Right now PSU students, faculty and staff can submit cell phone, home phone, email, multiple emails. It has been fairly successful. This is the one we chose to go with a while back,” said Scott Gallagher, director of communications at PSU.
While the program is still being tweaked, the major challenge the university faces is informing students of the program.
“Right now we are in the process of reviewing safety on campus to update it with new best practices and lessons learned. Every fall we are trying to get people to sign up for PSU Alert. It’s always a challenge when students have so much on their minds and this is another thing,” Gallagher said.
Although the incident caused additional stress to students during finals week, the situation was resolved by officers.
“The thing to take away from that incident is that we have a CPSO officer who was doing what he was trained to do,” Gallagher said.