A loud thump vibrated through the quiet library at City College of San Francisco late Tuesday morning, and a witness heard a man shout, “I have a gun.”
Flordellyn Castillo ducked underneath the table where she was studying for a math test and grasped a stranger’s arm, trembling with fear as she looked around the room.
Nearby, a father cupped the mouth of his preschool aged daughter to prevent her from screaming. An older woman hurt her back ducking beneath a table and let out tears. About a hundred others took cover.
“It was real,” Castillo said, recounting the incident. “I did not dare to look, nobody dared to look. Everybody stayed quiet.”
Had she looked, Castillo might have seen what authorities say was a fight between three students near the front entrance of the Louise and Claude Rosenberg Jr. Library, during which one of the suspects is believed to have brandished a gun. No shots were fired.
But those inside the library didn’t know that. From the study tables and computers at the back of the first floor, the commotion sounded as though an active shooter was live on the CCSF campus — like in recent months at colleges in Sacramento or Roseburg, Ore.
Rumors of a shooter spread throughout the campus community until CCSF posted on its Facebook at 11:23 a.m., dispelling them. The first formal notification to campus affiliates was emailed at 12:44 p.m.
“Minutes after, nobody said anything,” Castillo said. “There was no text, no alert system.”
When she spoke with the San Francisco Examiner on Tuesday afternoon, a still shaken Castillo said CCSF focused more on correcting rumors than consoling those who feared for their lives inside the library.
“There’s at least a hundred people who will tell you that we all had to duck and cover, just on that floor alone,” Castillo said. “The people who were on that floor, we needed to be empathized with.”
“It’s not that it wasn’t handled properly, but there should have been more compassion,” she said.
The father who hid under a table with his daughter was so upset by the threat of an active shooter, that he picked up a chair and threw it as the library cleared out, Castillo said.
“I feel like the dad felt like throwing a chair because his daughter’s life was in jeopardy,” she said. The woman who hurt her back “was asking for help.”
Outside, people were lined up at the cafeteria to get food, unaware of the incident. Castillo went to her math class and took a test. Her instructor had still not heard about what happened, she said.
Jeff Hamilton, a spokesperson for CCSF, focused on the swift response of the campus and San Francisco police departments.
“We have campus police, not all colleges can say that,” Hamilton said. “Our folks were the first to respond to staff calls, the San Francisco police showed up very shortly thereafter and then the two departments cooperated to secure the building and clear and reopen it.”
Campus police were on the scene within a minute, he said. San Francisco police were there within three to five minutes.
Hamilton said the two suspects, one of whom reportedly pulled out a gun, are known to the 17-year-old male victim.
All three involved are believed to be students of City College, Hamilton said. No arrests have been made.
The victim and one other witness told police they saw a suspect with a gun at the plaza in front of the library, Hamilton said.
Kurt Tautenhan was promoting Southern New Hampshire University at a booth inside the library, near the front entrance, when he witnessed two men chase the victim inside.
“‘I’m gonna get you,’” Tautenhan said he heard a suspect say. Then “they basically just jumped him.”
At least one of the attackers hopped on the victim’s back. Tautenhan reached out his hand to the victim during the fight, pulled him away and the suspects fled.
“Within 30 seconds, a cop car pulled up,” he said.
Tautenhan said the victim’s face was swollen from being hit, but that he did not see a gun.
Read more criminal justice news on the Crime Ink page in print. Follow us on Twitter: @sfcrimeink