This afternoon around 12:30pm I left my apartment to run a few errands. As I exited the driveway of my apartment complex I noticed an ambulance was parked in the right lane of Vairo Boulevard with orange traffic cones stretching across the road beside it, preventing me from turning right. I turned left, and saw several police cars in the parking lots of the apartment complexes that line Vairo Blvd.
When I returned around 2:45pm I noticed more police officers along Vairo Blvd, and the road was blocked at Majorie Mae Street. I pulled into the Lions Crossing parking lot–sitting in my car for a moment wondering what was happening. Then I got a text from a friend:
I walked to the barricade on Vairo Blvd and asked the township workers standing guard what was going on. They told me the road was closed for a police emergency and that they were not allowed to say anything else. By this time I had received more texts and seen reports on Twitter, so I asked them where the gunman was. They seemed surprised and said that they couldn’t talk about it (and they wanted to know where I heard a gunman was involved), but their response made it clear they knew something.
A CATA bus was sitting along Majorie Mae Street, sent there to be a shelter from the sun and looming rain for people stuck outside their apartments. Most people walked or drove away from the area, so for about 20 minutes I stood by the bus and talked to the bus driver. We discussed how scary the world was, higher education economics, phones, and the weather. I read him the updates I was finding on Twitter about the situation and texts I was receiving.
At the barricade I was surprised at how angry some people were at being prevented from driving through. One man in particular stands out. He was a middle-aged guy who seemed to be in a hurry. He wanted to get to the apartment complex I live in–which was completely off limits at the moment. Here is a paraphrase of the conversation:
The Guy: I need to get to that (pointing) apartment complex. Can I drive around to the other end of Vairo Blvd and get in that way?
Guard: No, I’m sorry, Vairo Blvd is closed right now for a police emergency.
The Guy: Can I park and walk over?
Guard: No, I can’t let you do that. We are not allowed to let anyone past this point, walking or driving.
The Guy: I have to get back to my apartment! (When I saw the agitation on his face I thought he might have a loved one he was concerned about.) How long will I have to wait?
Guard: I have no idea.
The Guy: But I HAVE to get back to my apartment! (Anger now very obvious.)
I HAVE GROCERIES HERE!
It was interesting. In that moment losing a gallon of milk and some frozen vegetables trumped personal safety. The efforts of the protectors were met with disdain.
By 3:30pm news vehicles were starting to arrive. When they stopped at the barricade they were told the road was closed for a police emergency, then they were told to move on. The same was happening with civilian cars. Since I was standing close to the barricade I got to hear the guards deflect questions and refuse to comment (they did a very good job holding the line literally and figuratively).
Authorities on the scene keep saying they can't talk about what is going on here on Vairo Blvd. The news vehicles are accumulating.—
Benjamin Hoover (@thebenjamin9) July 26, 2012
At 3:40 I decided this might take a long time to resolve, so I drove to Otto’s Pub and sipped a Nittany Pale Ale and had an Ottonator.
Based upon the story posted by the Centre Daily Times it looks like the situation was a stand off with police by a man experiencing an emotional crisis (and he had access to weapons–no word on whether he made any threats). He was in the apartment complex directly beside the one I live in. No shots were fired. Things were resolved around 3:15pm, while I was talking to the bus driver by the barricade.
I hope the distressed guy gets help. I’m grateful for authorities who are able to bring a conflict to a peaceful resolution. And I think my neighbor’s groceries are going to be just fine.