The union that represents Towson University police condemned the university’s security protocol and the suspension of an officer after three people were shot at an early Saturday gathering of hundreds of people on campus.
In a statement, Joe Gregory, the president of Towson University Police Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 2, said the school’s police officers were told to “stand down” before the shooting and not break up the gathering, which occurred in Freedom Square and included a DJ and alcohol.
“I am confident that as the public learns the events of that evening, as well as previous gatherings, the Towson community will see the suspension as an attack on a decorated, veteran officer who was carrying out the orders of the University President Kim Schatzel and Towson University Police Chief [Charles] Herring,” Gregory said in the statement.
In a statement, Herring called the accusation that university police had been ordered to “stand down” during the gathering Saturday “reckless, misleading and categorically false.”
“It hinders the investigation underway and it undermines the authority of active duty officers who continue to protect and serve the TU community,” Herring said of the police union’s statement.
On Tuesday, Towson officials said they placed a veteran officer from the Office of Public Safety on paid leave while investigating the officer’s conduct that night.
The suspension followed “an initial internal review,” according to a statement from Schatzel, Vernon Hurte, the vice president for student affairs, and Herring, the university’s director of public safety.
The statement from the university police union said the officer on leave had the entire on-duty shift of TUPD officers nearby monitoring the crowd closely and that when the shooting began, they ran through the crowd to locate injured victims and search for the suspect.
Samuel Nnam of Greenbelt was arrested Tuesday in connection with the shooting, and now faces more than half a dozen charges, including attempted first-degree murder, assault and handgun violations, according to court records.
He was ordered held without bond Wednesday after Judge Susan Chambers Zellweger determined Nnam to be a “public safety and flight risk,” due to his lack of a job and connections in Baltimore County.
Prosecutors said in court that Nnam did not have any ties to Towson University.
Gary Bernstein, Nnam’s attorney, declined to comment to The Baltimore Sun, but he argued in court that the video footage from Saturday did not show Nnam shooting the gun and that there was no probable cause to charge his client with attempted first-degree murder.
“He’s overcharged,” Bernstein said in court.
Police documents allege Nnam shot himself in the leg and also shot two other people, including one Towson student, during the gathering.
Nnam and the two victims were treated at area hospitals. All three have since been released.
Charging documents for Nnam allege that Towson officers responded to the scene around 2 a.m. Saturday when they found two gunshot victims. After another 911 call, Nnam was found by a stairwell nearby on Union Bridge with a gunshot wound to his leg. All three were sent to local hospitals.
According to police documents, Nnam told police he couldn’t remember anything about the night, what happened, who he was with or how he got to the party.
Police alleged in charging documents that surveillance footage of the night shows Nnam, the male victim and another man walking across the courtyard over to an unknown person who police say Nnam hits in the head. The video then shows crowds scattering away from the men, showing one man lying in the center of the courtyard where police later found two spent bullet shell casings, according to charging documents.
Police say the video then shows the man throwing a gun and someone else taking the gun and a purse before running away.
The man on the ground, who police say is Nnam, then makes a phone call before a group of people carries him in the direction of where Nnam was later found by police suffering from a gunshot wound.
The male victim who was seen walking with Nnam over to the man police say Nnam hit in the head, told police he was “very intoxicated” and could not give more information on the incident.
The third victim told officers she saw a large crowd pushing to get away from something but could not see what was going on before she was shot.
According to the police union’s statement, the officer currently on leave was communicating with Baltimore County police following the shooting.
“The officers’ actions should be commended by the University and Baltimore County, not condemned and be made a scapegoat for the failure in leadership at Towson University,” the statement read.
Gregory claimed university police have been asking the university to fill open positions in the department and expand protocol for large gatherings for months.
In the statement, Gregory said that the university experienced a similar large gathering several days before where officers were given “similar orders” and that university leaders were aware another potential gathering may be possible but “took no action to prepare for it.”
On Monday, officials said campus officers would double foot patrols and increase their monitoring of unsanctioned events and their “active engagement” with those who attend them.