Weber State University officials spent Friday wondering if or how they could have prevented a deadly confrontation between three feuding students.
They concluded that little more could have been done."Our employees have managed this professionally . . . several have spent dozens of hours trying to resolve the situation informally," said President Paul H. Thompson.
No one, he said, could have anticipated that Mark Duong would bring two concealed guns into a grievance hearing Thursday and then open fire with one, apparently seeking to kill the husband of a woman who had charged him with sexual harassment.
A bullet from Duong's .22 caliber revolver grazed the temple of the man, Tuan Nguyen. Another struck the face of a campus police officer before the officer returned fire, killing Duong.
Thompson said the shooting will result in a review of school policies regarding dispute resolution between students. But officials would never consider tightening security through the installation of metal detectors.
"We can't disrupt the thousands of activities that take place here every day to frisk people," Thompson said. "This is an institution of higher learning."
Several staff members on campus wondered privately Friday whether the incident was indeed over. "It seems there have been a lot of aggravating things said (to reporters) by family members. I think we're all wondering if it will stop here," one administrator said.
Police officers in Clinton, where the Nguyens live, confirmed they have increased patrols at the couple's home. "In fact, I just came from there . . . to make sure everything looked OK," said officer Dean Livingston late Friday. He would not discuss specifically why he had been instructed to increase patrols but said, "yes, you could assume it's related to the (shooting)."
Thompson said the incident was the first and only fatal shooting in the school's history. He added that it was the first time since the university adopted a grievance process that a complaint had gone to the hearing stage. Policy allows students, staff and faculty to first resolve complaints of violating school rules and codes of conduct among themselves. Sanctions against violators range from a verbal reprimand to expulsion from the institution. The panel convened at the hearing had not decided what sanctions, if any, Duong would face, Thompson said.
More than 100 complaints handled at Weber State during the past three years were settled through the less-invasive process of meetings between students, staff and faculty, he said. But if differences can't be settled informally, as was the case with Duong and the Nguyens, then a student-faculty panel is convened to rule on the matter.
Campus police had responded to several confrontations between the pair, one violent. So why did administrators hold a hearing, given the history of hostilities?
Spokesman Craig Nelson said there was little choice. The university had to follow its grievance procedures and there was no other forum to address the problem.
Weber County Attorney Mark DeCaria agreed. "If the university contacted me I would have told them they were acting appropriately. They were dealing with a violation of their own policy.
Police in Layton, Sunset, Roy and on campus fielded complaints about the dispute. Charges of telephone harassment against Duong were brought to DeCaria's office twice, Nguyen's attorney and the county attorney recalled.
"They were screened by our attorneys who declined to file charges because of lack of evidence," DeCaria said, noting he did not see the complaints himself and could not recall the charges the Nguyens sought.
"The unfortunate by-product of that is this thing was allowed to fester."
Thuan V. Tran, Nguyen's attorney, said he intentionally used the school's procedure in an attempt to keep the dispute private and not ruin the reputations of his client or Duong.
"We wanted to use the school system to put pressure on him to stop the behaviors," Tran said. "It would be less traumatizing than going through criminal court."
Weber State University President Paul H. Thompson released the following statement in the wake of Thursday's shooting on campus:
"As far as we can determine, this is the first time a shooting has occurred on the Weber State University campus. We feel the shooting was an isolated incident. The campus is secure and summer classes are continuing as scheduled.
"We are all shocked by this tragedy. Our hearts go out to those injured and to the families of all those involved.
"We would like to express our appreciation to University Police Sergeant Kent Kiernan and to our legal counsel Richard Hill, who helped subdue the gunman. These two men put their own lives at risk to protect the other people pres-ent at the hearing."