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).
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.