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After campus killing, UArizona boosts security

Promised after Dr. Thomas Meixner shot to death
Posted at 7:11 PM, Jan 19, 2023

TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Universities strive for an open atmosphere but an angry, dangerous world can still intrude. Now the University of Arizona is listing how it will harden its defenses.

It’s been about three and a half months since a gunman went into a University of Arizona class building and shot and killed Doctor Thomas Meixner. Now the University has released a plan to increase campus security.

The murder case against the man charged with the killing is making its way through the courts. UA faced a lot of criticism for its security from Doctor Meixner’s family and from faculty members who say they made sure UA knew the man was a threat.

Now University President Doctor Robert Robbins has released a plan to make the campus safer.

A professor shot and killed on campus. How could it not weigh on the students?

Mei Dotzler says, “I'm just a freshman. So I, that was like the first experience that I've ever had with a shooting like that. And I think when it first happened, like Yeah, it was a little alarming. And it made me not really want to come here like that much. But I know that they've been working to make it more safe, so I feel better.”

After earlier incidents, the former graduate assistant charged with killing Doctor Thomas Meixner had been identified as a threat and prohibited from being on campus but that did not stop the killing that happened Oct. 5.

Colleagues, family and friends said the University had not done enough to keep the campus safe.

Doctor Robert Robbins promised a study to enhance campus security. He says it included input from nearly 12 hundred students, staff, parents and community members including members of the Department where the shooting happened: Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences.

Now in an email, he has outlined some of the results.

Security upgrades include:

  • Updated security assessments of all buildings
  • Locks on classroom doors
  • More keyless entry to campus buildings
  • Expanded criminal background checks including all graduate assistants
  • Automatic registration for UA Alert, which sends emergency warnings to cell phones and emails.
  • More training on how to defend against an active shooter.

Justin Headley says he was in the building, and heard the shots that killed a professor he knew and respected. He says the plan is a good start, but he wanted more.

"One thing I didn't see is reform of the UAPD itself. Let's not forget that they really dropped the ball here. This was completely preventable and they were almost negligent in their unwillingness to take the concerns of the victims seriously.”

The University of Arizona says it worked to file charges against the alleged killer before the shooting but the Pima County Attorney's Office found the evidence at the time insufficient to support charges. You can see more detail about the University's statement and the Pima County Attorney's response at this link.

Enhanced background checks for graduate assistants will begin in July–about the time they’d bring in new hires.

There’s no specific timeline spelled out for the other security upgrades.

Craig Smith is a reporter for KGUN 9. With more than 40 years of reporting in cities like Tampa, Houston and Austin, Craig has covered more than 40 Space Shuttle launches and covered historic hurricanes like Katrina, Ivan, Andrew and Hugo. Share your story ideas and important issues with Craig by emailing or by connecting on Facebook and Twitter.