North Lake College students panic at sound of gunfire

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by ERIC VALADEZ

WFAA

Posted on October 7, 2012 at 10:09 PM

Updated Sunday, Oct 7 at 10:42 PM

IRVING — Dozens of students at North Lake College in Irving feared for their lives on Friday. They heard gunfire and saw police inside the nursing building.

While their panic was real, the situation was anything but — and now school leaders are reviewing what happened.

Erin Culton is studying to be a nurse at North Lake College. Her biggest concern on Friday was passing a big test.

"It was a really hard test, and most of the people failed," she said.

But minutes after she finished the exam, her relief turned to fear.

"We heard two gunshots and women screaming loudly," Culton said.

The sound of gunfire just feet outside her classroom sent students scrambling.

"I pulled a chair over me and was grabbing bags and building a fort over it," she said. "One student checked and said there was a shooter in the hall ... there was a woman around me crying."

Culton started texting her boyfriend, a state trooper: "Shots at school. Call police."

What Culton didn't know was that the gunfire was all part of a planned drill.

"Police said it was an 'active shooter class' — meaning they were practicing for scenarios like a shooter on campus," Culton said.

But Culton said not even the North Lake faculty had been made aware of the drill.

North Lake College told News 8 it sent out two warning e-mails, but is now reviewing its procedure and looking at making public address announcements to alert students and faculty to future exercises — especially after a rash of complaints from panicked students.

"The only thing going through my mind? Try to hide and protect yourself," Culton said, adding she's thankful for a classmate who went to the hall to find a way out.

"After seeing the the Aurora [Colorado] shooting in the movie theater, he didn't want us to be sitting ducks," Culton said.

The Dallas County Community College District said college administrators call the drills "necessary," but they will continue to review the process and make changes as they are needed.

E-mail evaladez@wfaa.com

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