Purdue University Police Department Capt. Allen Myles said last month's crush at Mackey Arena, which resulted in two injuries and one hospitalization, was “blown out of proportion,” in a town hall on Thursday. He told the small audience that few people at Mackey that morning were truly in danger.
Myles and three other PUPD officers, including Chief Lesley Wiete, spoke at the town hall, which was hosted by the Purdue Student Government, on the topic of campus safety and what students should do in the event of a dangerous situation at Purdue.
The event, despite being announced last week via email to the entire undergraduate student body, only saw two attendants.
Via an online submission, a student asked the officers how they planned to address future situations like the one at Mackey.
“We did an extensive after-action review on that and it is still ongoing,” Myles said. “It could have been unsafe, but by no means was it a stampede.”
Myles said PUPD extensively reviewed camera footage, eyewitness accounts and medical reports of those injured, and determined the situation was quickly brought under control by event organizers, with little threat to the wellbeing of students who were in attendance.
“People were lined up very early prior to the start of that game,” Wiete said. “It was a really large crowd.”
In the early morning of the crush, students began lining up outside of Mackey in the hundreds, Tthe Exponent previously reported. From the time the first attendees arrived to the time of what students in the crowd called a stampede, no organizers from Purdue Athletics or officers from PUPD were present to control the crowd and ensure the situation didn’t get out of hand.
"Our daughter will be a senior next year. (She) called us bawling and terrified. She said she was getting crushed and couldn't breathe,” Brad Copp said on the night of the stampede. “She said the limited police and Mackey security were laughing at ‘how crazy’ it was."
After the events at Mackey, Associate Athletics Director Patrick Crawford said in a press release the crush should never have happened.
“Purdue Athletics ticketing and event planning should have anticipated a large student turnout and implemented mechanisms to ensure a smooth and fair process for all who gathered,” Crawford said.
Andrew Askounis, PSG press secretary, asked Myles if officers had been in attendance at Mackey before the stampede to control the crowd, to which Myles said they had not been, but they were in the area of Mackey at the time.
“We had officers on the scene very quickly,” he said. “We got officers there about 10 minutes after (the crush began).”
Myles declined to comment on if he believes PUPD should have been on the scene from the beginning.
He said the public generally has misconceptions on how the events at Mackey played out, with many believing the crash was a large, long ordeal.
“It happened very quickly,” he said. “(Looking at footage of the event) brings emotional responses.”
Myles said few people at Mackey who PUPD spoke to feared for their safety.
“The reality is, it wasn’t a major safety issue.”
Myles said the crush at Mackey could not be considered a major safety issue unless there had been a high likelihood of injury, and that the injuries some students sustained could not be reliably attributed to the crowd surge.
“The injuries were all well after our officers were on the scene,” he said.
On the evening of Feb. 5, after the events at Mackey, President Mung Chiang posted on Twitter that crowd management training would be updated for officers in PUPD, which Myles said included a lecture and a PowerPoint presentation.
Additional reporting provided by Mikayla Busse, staff reporter