Update: North Garage Police Activity

At 11 a.m. June 11, President Mohammad Qayoumi emailed the following message to all faculty, staff and students.

Dear Campus Community,

With sadness, I am writing to let you know of a death overnight in the immediate vicinity of the North Garage. The University Police Department (UPD) and Santa Clara County Medical Examiner are investigating.

On behalf of the SJSU community, my heart goes out to the victim’s family and friends.

Although few details are available, police assure us there is no threat to public safety.

While officials continue to investigate, we want to support anyone affected by this tragedy. Various services are available to students, as well as faculty and staff members. Please avail yourself of these services as needed and pass along this information to others, as you deem appropriate.



Update: Police Activity

The University Police Department at San Jose State University has re-opened the Boccardo Business Complex after completing a floor-by-floor search of the building in response to a report of a gunman.

The incident began at approximately 3 p.m. today, when a student entering BBC overheard a conversation between several students leaving BBC.

The students had been discussing the possibility of a gunman in the building. The student who overheard the conversation immediately called UPD.

BBC (a classroom building for students) and the adjoining Business Tower (an office building for business faculty and staff) were evacuated.

UPD conducted a floor-by-floor search of BBC and found no evidence of a gunman, nor any other witnesses who had seen a gunman.

The buildings were re-opened at 4:30 p.m. During the incident, a portion of 10th Street was closed to vehicular traffic. The street has since been re-opened.

SJSU encourages all members of the university community to report safety concerns. Students, faculty and staff can call 9-1-1 or contact UPD directly at 408-924-2222.

400 prieta

Where Were You on Oct. 17, 1989?

Spartan Daily

The Spartan Daily student newspaper front page the day after the Loma Prieta earthquake (photo by Peter Caravalho, ’97 Graphic Design).

Much of San Jose State’s current student body was not born when the 6.9 magnitude Loma Prieta earthquake hit the Bay Area 25 years ago on Oct. 17, 1989.

Yet the fact that San Jose State took the need to prepare for the next big one seriously is clear to anyone on campus today.

“I was serving as SJSU’s associate vice president for administration when the earthquake hit,” said President Mohammad Qayoumi.

Starting the moment the shaking stopped, SJSU has been working with the California State University system to plan, fund and complete numerous projects with the goal of improving campus safety.”

Spartan Daily quake story

This Spartan Daily story, published shortly after the Loma Prieta earthquake, made clear the need to seismically retrofit many campus buildings (photo by Peter Caravalho, ’97 Graphic Design).

Three large construction projects underway now began after structural engineers recommended SJSU retrofit 10 buildings to make them safer.

The $55 million seismic retrofit of Yoshihiro Uchida Hall and Spartan Complex spans an entire block from South Fourth Street to El Paseo de Cesar E. Chavez.

In addition, the $90 million seismic retrofit and expansion of the Student Union spans another block from El Paseo de Cesar E. Chavez to the Ninth Street Plaza.

One more project is in the works and six others have been completed as follows:

  • North Parking Garage Seismic Retrofit, 1993
  • South Parking Garage Seismic Retrofit, 1993
  • Tower Hall and Morris Dailey Auditorium, 1996
  • Duncan Hall, 1997
  • Sweeney Hall, 1998
  • Trades Building, 2009
  • North Parking Garage Stair Tower, planned

What should you do if an earthquake hit campus today?

“Although I have been a California resident for most of my life, the power of the 6.9 Loma Prieta earthquake was astounding,” said SJSU Chief of Police Pete Decena.

If there is one thing I would like the campus community to remember in the event of a major earthquake, it is to Drop, Cover and Hold On. Then, when the shaking stops, leave if it is safe to do so.”

The University Police Department website offers more information including assistance for the disabled. A refresher course on how to protect yourself during an earthquake is available online.

police officer shoulder patch and car

SJSU Holds Active Shooter Exercise

UPD officers

University Police Department officers will participate in an active shooter exercise July 25 at King Library (Christina Olivas photo).

San Jose State University would like to advise our neighbors, the public and the media that the University Police Department will hold an active shooter exercise 9 a.m. to noon July 25 inside the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Library. The library will be closed to the public until 1:30 p.m. We apologize in advance for any inconvenience.

The media will be able to observe the exercise from outside the library. Media parking will be provided in Lot 1. We will hold two brief press opportunities at 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. at Tower Hall.

The California State University system requires each campus to hold a full-scale exercise every five years. This exercise will be a simulation designed to help employees and first responders practice responding in a coordinated fashion to an active shooter.

The San Jose Police Department, San Jose Fire Department and Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office will take part in the exercise as well as library employees. Expect to see many public safety officers and vehicles outside the library and to hear the sounds of simulated gunfire.

Please direct questions to Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU media relations, pat.harris@sjsu.edu, 408-924-1748.

police officers

Update: Sweeney Hall Re-Opened

Media Contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-656-6999

The following message was emailed to the media shortly before noon Oct. 10:

The San Jose State University Police Department has issued an all clear regarding this morning’s lock down of Sweeney Hall. UPD worked with the San Jose Police Department to search the entire building. The suspect, described as a white male in dark attire carrying a hand gun, was not located. Police are asking members of the public to continue to call in all tips. UPD can be reached at (408) 924-2222. UPD would also like to thank all members of the university community for their cooperation as well as the San Jose Police Department for its assistance.

10 Tips for Staying Safe

10 Tips for Staying Safe

10 Tips for Staying Safe

The University Police Department is committed to providing a safe and secure learning environment through professional, progressive and superior police, emergency, transportation and educational services in alliance with the campus community (Christina Olivas photo).

At a town hall meeting Sept. 3 in Morris Dailey Auditorium, officials shared tips for staying safe on our urban campus. The panelists included:

Here’s a quick recap:

    1. Update your contact info on Alert SJSU with a cell that accepts texts.
    2. Report suspicious activity. Call 408-924-2222 or text TipNow.
    3. Use the Evening Guide and Evening Shuttle programs.
    4. Be an Empowered Bystander. See Something. Say Something.
    5. Read guidance from Spartans for Safety.
    6. Review crime prevention info and related UPD classes.
    7. Take care of yourself with Counseling Services’ workshops and groups.
    8. Report sexual harassment. Human Resources and UPD will investigate.
    9. If you decide to drink, know your limits and stick with them.

Our 10th tip could come from you: UPD needs a hand. Chief Decena is creating a student advisory committee.

“The purpose is primarily to engage our students in the process of building and maintaining a safe campus community,” Chief Decena said. “I am seeking their input on public safety issues and will hopefully have the opportunity to answer questions or explain actions taken by the University Police Department or law enforcement in general.”

If you would like to join the group, email peter.decena@sjsu.edu.

KGO-TV: SJSU Police Officers Switch to All-Electric Motorcycles

Posted by KGO-TV July 23, 2013.

View the story. 

By Jonathan Bloom

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) — Their patrol cars may be black and white, but at one local police department the newest addition to the fleet is all about being green. As ABC7 News found out saving the planet can have some advantages when it comes to fighting crime.

They are in fact the quietest police motorcycles you’ve ever seen and about the only noise they make is from their police siren. For police at San Jose State University, they may be the best tool yet for curbing crime on campus.

“It’s smaller, it’s more maneuverable, and its deathly quiet. So we can approach people, we can get up into situations quicker and easier,” said San Jose State Police Capt. Alan Cavallo.

Cavallo was a motorcycle sergeant for San Jose, hired to start a motor unit at San Jose State. He could have gone with the bikes he knew and loved, but instead, he went with all-electric zero motorcycles, made right up the road in Scotts Valley. The model they have goes up to 75 miles an hour and gets more than enough range for a 12-hour shift. The officers aren’t complaining.

“They get up and they move and they move just like any other motorcycle, especially in Downtown or making car stops. I mean, we can get through traffic quite quickly and we can get up and going when we need to,” said San Jose State University Police Ofc. Paul Marshall.

These bikes may be awfully quiet, but they still attract a lot of attention. And police say it’s exactly the kind of attention they’re looking for. Everywhere they go someone has a question about their new rides.

“My favorite thing about this is actually interacting with the public and answering questions when people come up and they are in disbelief that there is an electric motorcycle, most people have not seen one,” said Marshall.

And criminals may not see one until it’s too late.

“We do from time to time have crimes that occur in the parking garages. The guys can get on the motorcycles, they can sneak up on people, they’re not going to be seen or heard,” said Cavallo.

If you’re a car burglar, the cops just broke up your party.


University Police Department Goes Green

University Police Department Goes Green

The University Police Department has made a couple cool additions to its fleet of patrol vehicles. Keep an eye out for these new electric motorcycles.

“We purchased these motorcycles for our patrol division because we believe the company and product blends well the university’s strategic vision and it’s a great way to support the local economy,” said UPD Captain Alan Cavallo.

Scotts Valley-based Zero Motorcycles equipped the bikes with police lights and sirens, as well as saddlebags carrying gear and emergency medical equipment.

The bikes look a lot like gas-powered motorcycles, but they’re super quiet and environmentally friendly, reflecting SJSU’s “agility through technology” goal.

The bikes also allow officers to reach every corner of campus quickly, arriving well before officers on foot and squeezing through spaces far too small for a car.

With top speeds of 80 MPH and a range of approximately 112 miles on a single charge, the motorcycles can be used for a full, 12-hour shift.

The bikes are housed and charged in the South Garage, and are out on campus now for routine patrols, special events and emergency calls.

SJSU Police Officer

Police Arrest Assault Suspect

SJSU Police Officer

UPD investigators have cracked the case of the Clark Hall attacker (Christina Olivas photo).

With help from two people who knew what to do when a crime happens, police have arrested the man who allegedly attacked a student 9 p.m. March 15 in Clark Hall.

Here’s the University Police Department’s description of events: Shortly after the victim in the Clark Hall case contacted police, UPD sent a safety alert to the university community.

The victim of a separate off-campus robbery read the Alert-SJSU message, and then called UPD to report that the suspect in both cases had the same physical description.

UPD investigator Michael Barnes followed up with the San Jose Police Department, which was investigating the second victim’s case and had obtained images of the suspect. Campus library security officers recognized the man as 23-year-old Brandon Escamilla.

A little more than a week after the Clark Hall incident, police tracked down Escamilla and arrested him. He has been booked for robbery, burglary and assault with the intent to commit a sex crime.

So the new Spartans for Safety motto works: “See something. Say something.”

UPD’s 21st Toy Drive Success

Once again, the University Police Department distributed toys in December to more than 1,000 children and their families living in neighborhoods near campus. UPD officers, staff and volunteers drove a sleigh up and down the streets south of SJSU to hand deliver gifts, donated and wrapped by staff members and students. This year marks the 21st anniversary of the UPD Holiday Toy Drive, coordinated with donations and assistance from the entire university community.

UPD Launches 21st Annual Toy Drive

UPD Launches 21st Annual Toy Drive

Each year, UPD officers and employees join Santa and his elves to hand deliver gifts to families in need residing in neighborhoods near campus.

The University Police Department is preparing for its 21st Annual Holiday Toy Drive, which provides both toys and food to neighbors in need.

UPD will work with Lowell Elementary School to identify families that need assistance. Applications from the extended campus community south of the main campus are also being accepted in the UPD lobby service area.

If you are a student or employee who could use a little help this holiday season, please come to the UPD building lobby service area and ask for an application for assistance. You will need your Tower Card to complete the process.

Because of the slow economy, UPD especially appreciates all donations. Please donate toys, money, gift cards and/or your time wrapping toys Dec. 14.

If you would like to place a toy collection bin in your office or collect gift cards from your staff, that would be very much appreciated.

You may also donate online. When you reach this page, click on the “give,” click on “other” and then enter “UPD Holiday Toy Drive.”

Mail checks to the Tower Foundation (Tax ID #83-0403915), One Washington Square, San Jose, CA 95192-0183. Note that your donation is for the UPD Holiday Toy Drive.

Here are a few dates to remember:

  • UPD will pick up donation boxes Dec. 6 and 7.
  • UPD will hold a wrapping party noon to 3:30 p.m. Dec. 12 in the Aerobics Studio at the Event Center.
  • UPD will deliver gifts to families 8 a.m. to Dec. 15, starting at the Seventh Street Garage.

Last year UPD helped more than 200 families, including over 750 children. This year’s goal is 250 families. A very special thank you in advance for your help!

For more information, please contact Claire Kotowski at (408) 924-2174 or Manuel Aguayo at (408) 924-2168.


Provost Ellen Junn speaking with Power Point in the background

SJSU Welcomes 26,800 Students to Spring Term 2012

Provost Ellen Junn speaking with Power Point in the background

Ellen Junn at her first forum as SJSU's chief academic officer (Robert Bain photo).

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

Sunny skies greeted nearly 26,800 students beginning spring term 2012 Jan. 25 at San Jose State.

Around 800 transfers arrived on campus, including at least one San Francisco 49er. Donte Whitner lit up Twitter with tons of questions on everything from barbecue to student services.

New Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Junn became perhaps the first SJSU administrator ever to incorporate live audience polling via cell phone into a campuswide forum on the budget and strategic plan.

President Mo Qayoumi began the term with a welcome back message vowing to move forward on Vision 2012. “I am well aware that ‘strategic plans’ can become empty words. Let me assure you that this is not our path,” he said.

“Acceleration: The Campaign for San Jose State University” will continue to make progress toward its $200 million goal, while Governor Brown proposed a flat budget for the CSU in 2012-2013. He’ll update the numbers in May.

The University Police Department introduced an evening shuttle, providing safe transit for campus community members traveling between SJSU and nearby residences, workplaces, classrooms or public transit.

Students of course continue to work away on a wide range of academic and pre-professional endeavors. One example is a team of aspiring engineers developing a futuristic spherical drive system.

Athletics Director Tom Bowen will provide all faculty and staff two free tickets to a Spartan Basketball doubleheader Feb. 4, when rally towels will be given away to the first 500 people in attendance.

Later this semester, on Feb. 25, MSNBC political analyst Rachel Maddow will accept the John Steinbeck Award, “In the Souls of the People,” following in the footsteps of Sean Penn, Michael Moore and many others.

Spring term is for milestones. The Honors Convocation will celebrate its 50th anniversary April 20, recognizing students with top GPAs. The same day, an Investiture Ceremony is planned for President Qayoumi.

At Commencement May 26, SJSU will send more than 8,000 students into the workforce or on to graduate school. Go Spartans!

CSU police badge

UPD Expands Evening Guide Escort Program

CSU police badge

The new SJSU Evening Shuttle will offer campus community members safe transportation to nearby destinations.

Jan. 25, 2012 – San Jose, Calif. – The San Jose State University Police Department has expanded its Evening Guide Escort Program to include an Evening Shuttle that provides service beyond the previous two-block off-campus limit.

The new boundaries for the Evening Guide Escort Program and Evening Shuttle include South 16th Street, Julian Street, First Street, and Interstate 280.

The Evening Guide Escort Program and Evening Shuttle provide a safe means of nighttime travel for campus community members who need to get to their nearby residences, workplaces, classrooms, study areas, cars, or public transportation stations.

The off-campus Evening Shuttle is only available to current SJSU faculty, staff, students with Tower Cards or on-campus employment identification, and it will operate Monday through Friday from 7 p.m. to 1 a.m., excluding holidays. Traditional on-campus Evening Guide services do not require ID.

The Evening Shuttle is limited to groups of three at a time and one single round-trip per rider/group per night. The Evening Shuttle does not provide transportation to and from alcohol related establishments, such as nightclubs, bars, or taverns, and visibly intoxicated individuals will not be allowed to ride.

Those wishing to receive an Evening Guide escort on or off campus must call the UPD directly at the Evening Guide Hotline at (408) 924-2000, or use a campus blue light phone. The Evening Shuttle will not stop for flag-downs.

Read more on the Evening Guide Escort Program and Evening Shuttle Service.

3 UPD officers in uniform sort a huge pile of toys ready to be wrapped.

UPD Santa Delivers Toys to 1,000 Neighborhood Children

Santa Delivers Gifts Donated to UPD Holiday Toy Drive

Student volunteers wrap gifts Dec. 14 in the Event Center (Ryan Whitchurch photo).

By Pat Lopes Harris, Media Relations Director

The University Police Department distributed toys Dec. 17 to more than 1,000 children and their families living in neighborhoods near campus. UPD officers, staff and volunteers, including one dressed as Santa, drove a sleigh up and down the streets south of SJSU to hand deliver gifts, donated and wrapped by campus community members. A second crew distributed gifts and food boxes from UPD’s offices. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the UPD Holiday Toy Drive. Donations of new or gently used toys for children 0-14 years are accepted all year. You may also donate online. When you reach this page click on the “GIVE” button, click on “OTHER” and enter UPD Holiday Toy Drive. Or you may send a check to the Tower Foundation (Tax ID #83-0403915) c/o San Jose State University, One Washington Square, San Jose, CA 95192-0183 – again indicating that your donation is for the UPD Holiday Toy Drive. For more information, please call Claire Kotowski (408) 924-2174 or Liza Rios, (408) 924-2171.

UPD Launches 20th Annual Holiday Toy Drive

UPD Launches 20th Annual Holiday Toy Drive

UPD Launches 20th Annual Holiday Toy Drive

You can donate an unwrapped toy for a child 0-14 years at the UPD lobby or donation boxes around campus.

A big THANK YOU to all of you who have helped UPD in the last nineteen years! We invite you to join us in our 20th Annual UPD Holiday Toy Program for members of the campus community and the extended neighborhood community. Last year, we reached out to over 250 families (about 1,000 children), bringing toys and food to cheer up their holidays.

A few dates to remember: You can donate an unwrapped toy for a child 0-14 years at the UPD lobby or donation boxes around campus. UPD will collect toys years around for the following year. Donation boxes will be picked up Dec. 8. A wrapping party will be held Dec. 14 in the Aerobics Room at the Event Center. The toys will be delivered Dec. 17.

You may also donate online. When you reach this page click on the “GIVE” button, click on “OTHER” and enter UPD Holiday Toy Drive. Or you may send a check to the Tower Foundation (Tax ID #83-0403915) c/o San Jose State University, One Washington Square, San Jose, CA 95192-0183 – again indicating that your donation is for the UPD Holiday Toy Drive.

For more information on volunteering, donating or submitting an application, please call Claire Kotowski (408) 924-2174, Liza Rios, (408) 924-2171 or Manuel Aguayo, (408) 924-2168.

Thank you and Happy Holidays from UPD!

Female SJSU student getting ready to defend herself against an attacker in a simulated class scenario

Self Defense Class Empowers Women

Female SJSU student getting ready to defend herself against an attacker in a simulated class scenario

The writer, junior journalism/nutrition major Amanda Holst, prepares to use the tactics she's learned in RAD training against an "attacker" in a simulated abduction scenario (photo by Elena Polanco).

Walking on campus alone at night can be a chilling experience. As a woman taking an evening class, I worried that I would not have a line of defense should I run into trouble returning to my car. The Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) class I took over the weekend changed all of that for me. The 12-hour, two-day workshop, offered by the University Police Department since 1998, is a way to mentally and physically prepare women for escape from attempted sexual assaults.

The first day of my class, I walked into the UPD building and was escorted by an officer to the “off-limits” second floor. I walked down a long hallway and into a classroom by the UPD officer locker rooms. The first half of the day was spent learning how to reduce the risk of an attack and how to use my body parts as personal weapons. We broke for an hour lunch and then spent the rest of the day in the Spartan Complex gym learning basic stances and repeated movements including strikes, kicks and blocks. The most empowering event of the day was when I escaped a choke hold from my instructor!

The next day we returned to the mats, this time learning how to defend ourselves if the attack went to the ground. I appreciated the mental preparedness that came along with these exercises. The last part of the day we suited up in padding and experienced real-life simulations of being attacked, using all the techniques we learned in class. Adrenaline rushed as I fought my way to escape each situation.

Although I may never need to use this training, I know that should I be attacked, I will be able to defend myself … and that’s an empowering feeling.

Classes are $5 for female SJSU students, faculty, staff and other community members. The next RAD class is Nov. 12-13. Please keep in mind SJSU community members can request an Evening Guide Escort by calling UPD at (408) 924-2222 or by using a campus bluelight phone.

SJSU in the News: UPD Nabs Suspect in Campus Sexual Assault Battery Case

Police Arrest Suspect in SJSU Sexual Battery

Originally published by NBC Bay Area based on a Bay City News Service report Sept. 22, 2011.

A man has been charged with the sexual battery of a female student near the San Jose State University engineering building earlier this month, university police said Thursday.

Michael Anthony Parrish, 39, of San Jose, was arrested on Sept. 14  for a probation violation and is being held in Santa Clara County Jail,  according to SJSU police.

Police believe he is the person who, on Sept. 5, lured a female student into a secluded area and groped her after offering her a cigarette.

The student was sitting on a bench on campus near South Seventh and East San Fernando streets sometime between 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. when a  man offered her the cigarette, university police Sgt. Robert Noriega said.

He then lured her into the alcove of a nearby building, where he groped her and tried to keep her from leaving, Noriega said.

She was able to break free and caught a bus nearby, but the man  followed her onto the bus, Noriega said.

He eventually got off the bus, and the victim rode the bus to the  end of the line at Capitol Expressway, then reported the incident to police  at about 11 a.m.

The SJSU Police Department is reminding students to be aware of  their surroundings, avoid walking alone at night or when the campus is closed, and to report suspicious activity to police.

Any student, employee, or visitor who wants a police escort can call SJSU police at (408) 924-2222 or use a campus blue-light police services  phone.

Anonymous tips can be sent to the SJSU Police Department via text or e-mail to sjsu@tipnow.org or text or voicemail to (408) 337-2919.

SJSU in the News: UPD Captain Belcastro Recalls His Work With NYPD on 9/11

Local responders look back on ground zero duty as ‘personal badge of courage and honor’

Originally published by the San Jose Mercury News Sept. 11, 2011.

By Sean Webby

Most have mementos of their mission in Manhattan a decade ago: sad, stirring photos of them working themselves into exhaustion on the smoking wreckage; a small medal for their service; a piece of the shattered street address of 1 World Trade Center that a firefighter found in the debris.

Many of the Northern California emergency workers also brought back chronic health problems, rashes, bloody noses, a respiratory condition so common its nickname is “World Trade Center Cough.”

All of them have memories, nightmarish ones, that make them tear up 10 years later recalling the import and bonding of a job that left them so covered with dirt and debris that emergency workers from San Mateo were indistinguishable from those from Staten Island.

“It will be a personal badge of courage and honor we will all carry with us the rest of our lives,” said Menlo Park fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman, who led a local task force that responded to Manhattan after 9/11 and still suffers from a chronic shortness of breath. “All of us were grateful for that opportunity.”

About 130 firefighters, engineers, emergency workers and others flew on military planes from the Bay Area to New York City to help within the first days and weeks of the attacks.

There is the Palo Alto rescue worker who today keeps an urn with the ashes of her beloved rescue dog that died of cancer years after his most important job. There is the San Jose State police officer who was there in the chaotic Manhattan streets, trying to help the terrified dust-covered crowds streaming away from the toppled towers.California emergency workers who went to help have mixed emotions on the 10th anniversary of the attacks. Many suffering health problems will be able to tap into a new compensation fund for out-of-state responders. But New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg limited the official guests for the Sept. 11 memorial service, leaving out the thousands of out-of-town emergency workers who had gone there to help.

Some, like Schapelhouman, say it devalued the service of those who served and could use their own closure. Oakland fire Captain Kevin Nuuhiwa said he respected the decision because he felt his colleagues’ sacrifices should never be compared to those of the men and women who were killed.

“That was my honor to be there,” Nuuhiwa said. “It’s my job, and, frankly, it was about being on somewhat hallowed ground.”

“Hazmat” Harry Jackson, a San Jose firefighter, will always remember the commander who told him he could not tell rescue workers to evacuate a shifting pile of rubble even if there was poisonous gas. They had to get to a firefighter’s body.

Crawling through unstable piles of jagged steel beams for a week to find nothing but body parts, Jackson understood. The week after 9/11, there were times to do the job with the utmost devotion and there were times to understand that some devotions trumped others.

“You hear that bell and there is a fire. You get pumped up because you are going to work,” said the veteran fire captain. “This was even more. You hear the bell and this is an all-out attack on our country.”

They slept underneath tables and desks at a convention center. Their jobs began as a search for survivors under layers of steel and quickly became a task of recovering the dead. Nuuhiwa and Oakland fire Lt. Chuck Garcia helped discover the bodies of an entire command post of New York firefighters buried so deep it took two weeks to get to them.

Shirley Hammond, a Palo Alto rescue worker, searched a sector of “The Pile” with Sonny Boy, a Doberman pinscher she had trained to find survivors.

At one point, Sonny Boy started pawing near firefighters cutting a steel beam to find their team leader. It was strange because pawing was a sign for cadaver dogs, not rescue dogs. Later, a firefighter told her that Sonny Boy had keyed on the dead firefighter, whose body was soon recovered.

Sonny Boy fell ill three years after he came back from Manhattan. A tumor in his neck grew until it killed the Doberman. Hammond suspects the toxic dust led to Sonny Boy’s illness, as it did for many search dogs that worked at ground zero. He and other rescue dogs could not wear filtration masks as did most of the humans. It would have impaired their ability to smell.

With the help of the Doberman Pinscher Club of America, Hammond returned this week to New York for a service for the dogs that served at ground zero.

“He was a special boy,” she said.

San Jose State police Lt. Frank Belcastro was a captain at the time with the NYPD and commandeered the Staten Island Ferry shortly after the planes crashed into the twin towers.

The iconic boat, which usually brings commuters and tourists to and from Manhattan past the Statue of Liberty, was filled with police officers, firefighters and their equipment. But it was stopped dead in the middle of the harbor. A dust storm from the toppled south tower had enveloped the ferry dock. The ferry operator didn’t want to take the boat in.

That wasn’t an option. “I went up to the captain and persuaded him to take the boat in,” Belcastro said. “I wasn’t going to abandon the city in that time of need.”

When they landed in lower Manhattan, there was chaos, thousands of people ghost white.

Belcastro recalled trying to calm an officer who ran toward the wreckage trying to find his missing brother. Then the second tower collapsed. In the cloud of confusion, Belcastro and his team went back and rescued him.

Belcastro, who still suffers from a chronic nasal irritation, moved to California a few years ago, to retire and soak up some sun. Now he patrols the San Jose State campus, where most of the students were in elementary school when the towers fell.

As he looks at students strolling across campus, he hopes the next generation truly appreciates the heroes who ran into the towers that day.

“I didn’t do anything spectacular. I did my job,” Belcastro said. “The real heroes went into those buildings to save total strangers.”

Contact Sean Webby at 408-920-5003.

An aviation student in the flight simulator.

SJSU Remembers 9/11

By Sarah Kyo and Pat Lopes Harris, Public Affairs

As America mourns the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, SJSU’s campus community reflects upon its own connections to the historical event.

The pilot of hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 was a SJSU graduate, and his name lives on in a scholarship for aviation students. A former U.S. Army Ranger in Afghanistan becomes a University Police Department officer. And a free memorial concert and vigil this Sunday will use music to pay tribute to those who lost their lives.

An SJSU Alum’s Legacy Lives On

Tommy Ondrasek stands next to a plaque for Captain Jason Dahl, pilot of United Airlines Flight 93. Photo By Elena Polanco

Tommy Ondrasek stands next to a plaque for Captain Jason Dahl, pilot of United Airlines Flight 93. Photo by Elena Polanco.

Ever since he was a young boy, growing up near a major Houston airport, Tommy Ondrasek wanted to be an airline pilot.

Ondrasek graduated from high school in 2001, the year that 9/11 occurred. Instead of giving up on aviation, he became more passionate and desired even more to become a pilot. The 9/11 attacks also influenced his decision to defend his country.

“I knew that I wanted to join the military prior to September 11th, but those events solidified my drive to do so,” he said.

Almost a decade later, Ondrasek, a SJSU aviation operations student, became the recipient of the 2010 Captain Jason Dahl Scholarship. He used the $5,000 award toward flight training.

Dahl, a 1980 SJSU alumnus, was the captain of hijacked United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Passengers and crew members prevented the terrorists from completing their mission. The Captain Jason Dahl Scholarship Fund, a non-profit corporation founded by Dahl’s widow, Sandy, awards aviation college students with these scholarships.

After enlisting with the Navy, Ondrasek was shipped out to boot camp on March 12, 2002. He served as an Aviation Electrician’s Mate at Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

“For my job, it was maintaining anything and everything electrical on an aircraft,” he said.

After being honorably discharged in 2006, Ondrasek headed to California with his wife, who started graduate school at UC Berkeley. Meanwhile, he attended Diablo Valley College, where his career counselor introduced him to SJSU’s aviation program.

“I love it,” Ondrasek said. “SJSU is the only public institution that offers a bachelor’s degree in aviation.”

After graduating, Ondrasek hopes to start off as a flight instructor and look for flight-related jobs. He wants to work his way up to become a pilot for a major airline, just like Dahl.

While Ondrasek has earned other scholarships in the past, the Dahl Scholarship means the most to him.

“I feel more of a need to push myself to achieve great things because of it,” Ondrasek said.

UPD Officer Has Army Roots

Jason Celano in the back of a Toyota Tacoma. He bought the same make and model for his trip across country when he returned to the states after serving six months in the Middle East.

Justin Celano in the back of a Toyota Tacoma in Afghanistan. He bought the same make and model for his trip across country when he returned to the states after serving six months in the Middle East. Photo courtesy of Justin Celano.

Now a University Police Department corporal, then a U.S. Army Ranger, Justin Celano was one of almost 2,000 soldiers deployed in early 2002 for what became known as Operation Anaconda.

He seemed well prepared, having trained for a few years, since enlisting straight out of Santa Teresa High School, Class of 1999.

But there were many lessons to be learned in Anaconda, including one directly affecting Celano, a sniper.

“As a sniper team, you’re most effective in the woods so we were still training in thickly wooded areas,” he recalled. “Then you find yourself in a place with no woods and no place to hide. These days, everyone’s training for the desert.”

Celano wound up earning a place in history after sharing his experiences with embedded Army Times reporter Sean Naylor, who penned “Not a Good Day to Die.” The New York Times bestseller is a detailed account of the operation told through the eyes of soldiers like Celano.

When Celano returned to the United States, one of the first things he did was buy what he knew was one of the most reliable cars on the road, a Toyota Tacoma.

“That’s what we were using over there, and they seemed to run forever with bullet holes in them,” he said.

Celano and a cousin drove the truck across the country and back to San Jose, where a family friend told him UPD was hiring. Within a few months, he was on the job. He had just turned 22, making him younger than most SJSU students.

“I looked at myself at 21, having been in the military, as years older than someone who was 21 and hadn’t been in the military,” he said.

Now 30, Celano sold the truck a few years back. Married and expecting his first child in November, he is steadily climbing the ranks at UPD.

“Corporal Celano possesses a level of maturity, knowledge and experience that makes him an attractive candidate for any number of law enforcement agencies,” SJSU Chief of Police Peter Decena said. “Yet he remains very loyal to UPD and the campus community.”

Celano also remains modest and reserved. He doesn’t talk much about his military experience.

“It’s not because it’s hard to talk about but maybe it was the way I was raised,” he said. “I’m proud of what I did but I don’t feel the need to let the world know. I know and that’s good enough for me.”

Into Light: A 9/11 Memorial Concert

A flyer with a U.S. flag, candles, and music notes for Into Light: A 9/11 Memorial Concert on Sunday, September 11, at 8 p.m. in the Music Concert Hall Building.

Into Light: A 9/11 Memorial Concert. Graphic by Ali Hanshaw.

In remembrance of September 11, the School of Music and Dance is hosting a memorial concert that is free and open to the public. “Into Light: A 9/11 Memorial Concert” will take place on September 11 at 8 p.m. in the Music Building Concert Hall.

Dr. William Meredith from the Beethoven Center approached professors Joseph Frank and Layna Chianakas about organizing the event, and they were happy to do it. They will also be performing.

For the event, Frank, a tenor, chose to sing “America My Wondrous Land,” an award-winning song that recognizes the American spirit.

“A perfect piece to honor the memory of our fallen citizens on 9/11,” Frank said.

Frank had lived in New York for many years and performed at the Metropolitan Opera. He remembers the stress of trying to contact his friends there after the attacks on the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers.

“I heard numerous personal stories from my friends who experienced the horror of that day — walking through clouds of debris and hearing sirens and having no communications with the outside world,” Frank said. “It was an infamous day for America, and one we should never forget.”

At the concert, Chianakas, a mezzo-soprano, will perform “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child,” an African-American spiritual.

“This piece is very close to my heart because my mother died one week before 9/11, and I know many other people lost their mothers on the day of the attack,” she said. “It just seemed the right piece to sing on our concert.”

Many SJSU students were only children when the attacks happened, and Chianakas hopes that the event will allow them to experience the impact it had on the country.

“We are also showing our students a part of history,” she said. “I believe what happened made us all far more aware of how small we actually are in this world, but also how when called upon, we as Americans can support each other, grieve together and eventually triumph over tragedy.”

SJSU’s new President Mohammad Qayoumi will also provide opening remarks before the concert.

“The past 10 years has been the time period for us to reflect and see what we have learned and how we can use this experience in a way that will strengthen us as a nation,” Qayoumi said.

Other participants include the faculty of the School of Music and Dance; Nils Petersen, Santa Clara County’s first poet laureate and a SJSU professor emeritus; and SJSU’s Air Force ROTC Color Guard. The event will conclude with a candlelit vigil.

Cell phone

Tragedy Puts Alert-SJSU in the Spotlight

Share your feedback and suggestions on improving crisis communications
By Cyril Manning, Director of Communications

Cell phone

Sign up for Alert-SJSU

When gunfire rang out at SJSU’s 10th Street Garage on Tuesday night, the murder-suicide left three dead and the campus community buzzing with questions and anxiety. In the hours immediately following the shooting, many students who had registered with the campus emergency message system Alert-SJSU were surprised and frustrated that they didn’t receive an immediate text message warning them of the unfolding events.

The event was contained within minutes of being reported, and triggered a series of emergency communications from campus officials, including an announcement through campus speakerphones and emergency phones within 20 minutes of the event. But for many in the community, the information was too little, too late.

How Alert-SJSU works
“We want to be able to provide urgent instructions that can save lives—for example, to shelter in place or to avoid a dangerous area,” said SJSU Chief of Police Peter Decena. “The idea behind Alert-SJSU has not been to provide information updates to the campus. Things happen too fast in a real emergency.”

When a major crime occurs, all available police resources are enlisted to respond to the situation, aid any victims, interview witnesses and manage a chaotic scene. Only in an incident with a current, ongoing threat would an officer or dispatcher be expected to break away from the emergency at hand to send an emergency message to the campus via Alert-SJSU.

Police emphasize that if the May 10 tragedy had played out differently—for example, if there had been any immediate threat to lives or safety—the UPD commander’s first priority would have been to break from other pressing duties to send an immediate text message, email and PA announcement to Alert-SJSU users instructing the public how to avoid the threat.

Room for improvement
Clearly, however, many individuals who have signed up for Alert-SJSU have different expectations. Several have raised the legitimate point that having no information or hearing rumors only increases public anxiety about an emergency situation. On the other hand, when Alert-SJSU was used in October 2009 to notify the campus of a still-at-large shooting suspect near campus, university police received hundreds of complaints from people who felt they had been unnecessarily bothered.

It may be impossible to please everyone, but the university’s experience this week does provide valuable lessons for future emergencies. Options being discussed include making the alert system opt-out rather than opt-in (meaning students, faculty and staff would automatically receive all alert messages); designating personnel beyond UPD to share the responsibility for sending alert messages during an emergency; and revising the threshold for what types of incidents will trigger a message.

As we continue to improve our crisis communications plan, we are seeking the community’s feedback and ideas. To share your feedback on this issue, please email cyril.manning@sjsu.edu.