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Armed robbery of Stanford employee prompts early morning emergency alert

An armed man robbed a Stanford employee at gunpoint shortly after midnight Thursday morning, and then fled toward the interior of the campus, prompting activation of the campuswide emergency alert system.

The employee, who was leaving work along Palm Drive at 12:20 a.m., fled to the Palo Alto train station and promptly reported the crime to Palo Alto police. The suspect, described as a black male approximately 25 years old, was wearing a black beanie, brown bandana with white accent, a brown hoodie and blue jeans. He ran up Palm Drive toward the center of campus, where police searched the campus for several hours but did not locate the suspect.

Armed robberies on the Stanford campus are very infrequent. Police records show that there have been six armed robberies since the year 2000, and of those, three involved a gun and three involved a knife.

Stanford's AlertSU notification system was immediately activated after the police report, because an armed suspect with a gun was seen running toward the campus center and potentially posed a threat to the security of the campus community.

Stanford is required by law, the federal Clery Act, to issue alerts when a security threat is present.

Several people inquired about why they received multiple alerts via text, email and phone.  

Stanford Police Chief Laura Wilson explained that the AlertSU system can be used to send notifications in combination. "We generally select the email and text options because they are less intrusive, especially in the middle of the night," Wilson said. "In this case, we did not intend to use every option, and I apologize for the inconvenience that was created. Although unintentional, we learned a valuable lesson about the time lag associated with using the phone call feature. I hope people understand the intent of the notification was good. Looking at this incident from another perspective, had the suspect harmed someone else last night, people would be asking today why we didn't use every means possible to notify the community."

Members of the Stanford community are reminded to update their security notification preferences and contact information on the StanfordYou web portal.

Information regarding Stanford's AlertSU notification system and instructions for adjusting notification preferences can be found on the Emergency Preparedness website.

Stanford strongly urges all members of the university community to maintain their notification alerts with current information. Students and campus residents are encouraged to include all phone contact information. Employees who live off campus can determine whether they want to receive notifications via their home phones, but are strongly encouraged to maintain mobile phone notification.

All members of the university community are also reminded to be vigilant about their surroundings at all times, to make sure doors and windows are locked, and to report suspicious activity by immediately calling 911.