PNCA ArtHouse Hit by Gunfire Over Fall Break
Updated: Jan 9
Over Fall Break (Nov. 22- Nov. 26) , the Pacific Northwest College of Arts (PNCA) ArtHouse dorms were hit by gunfire early Thanksgiving morning. ArtHouse is not on the PNCA campus but is located off the north park block in Portland. The bullets went into the building, breaking some windows and hitting some dorms, but no one was physically injured.
Rachel Rodriguez (‘24), a student at PNCA and a resident of ArtHouse, was not in the building when the shooting occurred, but had heard from a friend that it had occurred and it was believed to be a drive-by. “The lobby was kind of trashed, there was a giant board up in front of a window that was hit, some of the dorms were hit, one of my friends had a bullet hit right next to her window.” Rodriguez’s dorm is located on the fourth floor and they plan to stay in ArtHouse and in their dorm, whereas other students on lower levels have moved up floors to ensure their safety. Rodriguez stated that they enjoy living in ArtHouse but “it’s definitely a big shift living downtown. You have to get used to all the sounds of the city, like random bangs and you think ‘oh I wonder what that is’, a few days ago I looked out my window and there was a trash can on fire.” The shooting was not something that surprised Rodriguez as “it’s to be expected, but it still doesn’t take away the shock of it happening.”
Students not in ArtHouse during the shooting were made aware of it via email from PNCA a few hours later. Initially the email was only sent to ArtHouse residents rather than the whole student body. PNCA hosted a town hall meeting to hear student concerns with Area Coordinator for ArtHouse Katie Muhollan opening the discussion. Present on the panel was Director of Campus Safety, Ross Stout, Associate Dean of Students, Oli Muñoz, as well as PNCA head of security, Kevin Gastelum. Students expressed concern that there was a severe lack of security at ArtHouse, stating there's only security at the 511 building. They also requested bulletproof glass be installed, more lighting surrounding ArtHouse and on the park block and more security. They also expressed the lack of communication from the school regarding the incident was concerning, stating that students were not being communicated to in a timely manner.
The panel responded saying that they have been trying to staff security since September and it is an issue that other schools are also experiencing. There are also funding restrictions on how they can physically staff people at the building. The ArtHouse building itself is not owned by PNCA, but rather leased and so they cannot make executive decisions such as installing bulletproof glass and lighting without going through the building manager first.
Stout became the Director of Campus Safety for PNCA when the merger occurred in July, but his main office remains on the Salem campus and he does not have regular hours during which he is present at PNCA. Stout states there are supposed to be nine employees staffed at PNCA but they are still recruiting for two more positions in order to be fully staffed. Stout said that after the shots were fired, “people called campus safety, campus safety called 911, Portland police were there and also the private security company we’re contracted with called Echelon.” They found out that ArtHouse itself was not being targeted by the gunfire but a “shooting of rival factions that were shooting at one another” had occurred and ArtHouse, being in the background of that, had been hit. Stout was notified of the shooting approximately 45 minutes after it had occurred.
According to Stout, typical protocol for emergency situations like this is to initially call 911 and get professional emergency responders to the site. Campus Safety is then there to guide the emergency responders to wherever it is they need them to be and to help them gain access to the buildings and to provide information. Then campus safety reports up to supervisors and other management at the university in order for them to notify the student body if need be and provide support for students.
Stout said that they have been in contact with the management company that owns the ArtHouse building regarding changes that need to be made to ensure the safety of the students. They are looking to change the way the front door opens into the building by making it manual instead of automatic, putting in blinds over the windows as well as installing bulletproof glass and installing a video monitor by the front door that lets people see the outside of the building before they leave in order to check that their surroundings are safe.