The shooting death of a student at the University of Utah has left a veil of grief over the campus after a tense and anxious night in which students sought shelter while police swarmed in search of the gunman. The tragic loss of 23-year-old ChenWei Guo will reverberate in the coming days as authorities try to make sense of a pointless and callous crime. The nature of the swift and effective measures taken by campus officials and law enforcement agencies to secure the safety of students and employees and apprehend the alleged perpetrator is positive.
Within moments of the report of a shooting, the campus went into lockdown. Students and personnel were alerted by text message to take shelter. Police from at least eight agencies responded to make sure there was sufficient force to prevent the gunman from finding more victims.
The young man who was gunned down was a well-liked computer science student from China who was to celebrate his 24th birthday this Sunday. There is no measurable depth to the grief afflicting his family and friends or the sadness cast across the wider community for his untimely loss. There is some relief that the suspected shooter was caught within a day and will be brought to justice, but the young undergraduate student who made many friends, excelled at his studies and volunteered for his church as a Latter-day Saint missionary in Provo will be deeply mourned.
Campuses in Utah have experienced limited incidents of violence over recent years, but there are statistical reasons all campuses need to be on the alert for assaults involving firearms. A study last year found that between 2001 and 2015, the number of shootings on college campuses increased by 153 percent. In that time, there were 190 incidents on 142 campuses that involved at least one person being shot. In the majority of cases, the shooters were somehow affiliated with the college. Here, the suspected shooter was on the run from other alleged crimes, hiding in a canyon that happened to be in close proximity to a campus where he could pick out a victim for what police believe was an attempted carjacking.
Like all campuses, the University of Utah has taken significant measures to ensure the safety of its students and workers in the event of a shooting. The incident this week demonstrates that work. In addition, there was an immediate and formidable response by police agencies from throughout the Salt Lake Valley. University President David Pershing expressed due gratitude to those agencies in a letter delivered campuswide the morning after the shooting.
It is a sad reality of modern life that such measures have to be in place in defense of armed predators, but it is at least comforting to know that authorities here are poised to muster such a quick and effectual response. That comfort, though, cannot diminish the pain of loss for the life of a young man with a bright smile and an equally bright future who came to our community to study, to serve and to find his path to success.