JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — East Tennessee State University sophomore Laila Smith was on her way to interview for a position as a resident assistant at the Buc Ridge apartment complex around 12:20 p.m. Wednesday afternoon.
“I walked out, and there was a police officer standing with an AR gun,” Smith told News Channel 11.
She and other residents at the on-campus complex found out about the police activity before a campus-wide alert was issued warning people to avoid the Buc Ridge area or shelter in place.
“My friend who lives in the unit beside me texted me and she’s like, ‘dude, there’s cops everywhere,” senior Abigail Slater told News Channel 11.
The university said in a statement Wednesday afternoon:
“An armed robbery occurred near campus and the suspects were tracked to the Buc Ridge area. Law enforcement and public safety officials arrived on the scene quickly, and we issued a warning to campus that included advising people to avoid the area. Those already in the vicinity were directed to shelter in place.”–East Tennessee State University
Slater lives in Building A, where she said she saw four people arrested.
The first, Slater said, was arrested while trying to drive away from the building.
“Two guys, they had jumped out of the second-story window,” Slater said. “They arrested them. And there was another guy that walked out, they arrested him. And we all got a front view.”
The Johnson City Police Department announced late Wednesday that three people had been arrested in connection to the alleged armed robbery. Kendrick Holld and Michael Robinson, both of Knoxville, and Daylan Taylor, of Johnson City were all charged with aggravated robbery.
ETSU sent a follow-up alert giving an all-clear at 2:04 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. But some residents say the university’s communication was too little, too late.
“I was allowed to walk straight out of my building, police around everywhere,” said Smith. “I really felt like my life was in danger.”
Smith told News Channel 11 she wishes the university had communicated more quickly and clearly with students about the potential threat on campus.
“My message is ETSU do better,” Smith said. “Because next time, it’s not going to be just an arrest and somebody leaving, it’s going to be more than that. It’s going to be somebody’s life ending.”