Chi Alpha Responds to NAU Campus Shooting
"There was a whole bunch of shots, rapid fire . . . and then there was screaming and yelling and lots of crying."
That's what Chi Alpha Campus Ministries staff member Nicole LaPierre at Northern Arizona University heard from her home early on Friday, Oct. 9, when an altercation between two student groups became physical and evidently led to an 18-year-old freshman pulling a gun and killing one student and wounding three others.
LaPierre, who lives just across the street from the parking lot where the shootings occurred, has worked with AG U.S. Missions Chi Alpha Campus Pastor Ryan Ribelin for the past three years, ministering to the 20,000 students at NAU in Flagstaff. According to University of Arizona campus police Chief, Gregory T. Fowler, what led suspect Steven Jones to open fire at 1:20 a.m. Friday, Oct. 9, on the other four male students has not yet been clearly determined. However, when campus police arrived on the scene, Jones was taken into custody without incident and Fowler says he has been cooperating with police.
An AG U.S. missionary associate, LaPierre, says she woke up about 30 minutes before the gunfire broke out. Following the shooting, she said police, ambulances, and other emergency vehicles swarmed the area, closing the area off. "I could hear students crying and yelling, 'This isn't real, this isn't real!' and others saying, 'Yes it is, yes it is!'" LaPierre says. Unsure of what took place at the time, LaPierre says she began reading her Bible, praying, and interceding for those who may have been hurt.
Although this shooting appears to have resulted as part of an escalating fight between two groups of students, this marks the second campus shooting that has resulted in death in just over a week. On Thursday, Oct. 1, suspected gunman Chris Harper-Mercer, 26, killed nine people before taking his own life at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.
Ribelin says he was on campus all day, making himself available to NAU students and staff. Ribelin also lead NAU Chi Alpha, which has about 90 members, in a prayer meeting at their building, which was open to all students.
"Our campus building is less than 100 yards from where the shooting took place," says Ribelin, a U.S. missionary who has been serving NAU students through Chi Alpha for 16 years. "We have some Chi Alpha student leaders who live there, but they are safe."
"We're just believing that in the midst of the unknown of this tragedy," LaPierre says, "that God's truth will reign and people will come to know Him, find comfort and peace in His love, and in His people who surround them. We want to be a light on the campus in this time."
Ribelin says that Chi Alpha stands ready to serve. "I'm not sure what the university will allow or what will be available to us," he says, "but anything they do allow, we'll take part in."
For those wanting to offer their prayer support for NAU Chi Alpha, see its Facebook page.