Erik Fagan, a senior at Gonzaga University, answered a knock on his apartment door on Thursday October 24th to find 6-time felon John Michael Taylor at his doorstep. Fagan offered a blanket and some food in place of the $15 that Taylor demanded, so the man revealed his ankle bracelet tracker to intimidate him. When Taylor began to enter the apartment, Fagan yelled for his roommate, Dan McIntosh. Taylor fled as soon as McIntosh, who holds a concealed weapons permit, displayed his handgun. “I draw on him,” said McIntosh. “As soon as he sees me, he decides he doesn’t want to deal with me. So he takes off.”The students immediately called the Spokane Police and campus security to report the attempted home invasion and described the involvement of the handgun. The police quickly arrested Taylor, and the two seniors thought it was all over.
Then at about 2:00 A.M., university police returned to raid the off-campus, university-owned apartment. They found a hunting shotgun as well as the handgun and confiscated both firearms, which were legally owned but not permitted under Gonzaga’s no-gun policy. “It feels violating, having someone open your bedroom door,” said McIntosh. “Especially after what happened. It’s a really unsettling feeling.”
Fagan and McIntosh were served notices to attend a November 8th hearing with the University Discipline Board on alleged violations of the Student Code of Conduct, including weapons violations and disturbing the peace. The seniors said they didn’t realize that Gonzaga’s on-campus rules, including its no-gun policy, applied to the off-campus apartment they rented through the university. In an interview with Gonzaga Bulletin, Fagan said, “We were more than willing to share the information [about the gun] and didn’t figure that we were going to be getting potentially expelled for it.”
At the disciplinary board hearing, Fagan and McIntosh were found guilty of possessing weapons on school grounds and putting others in danger by the use of weapons. The students have been placed on probation for the rest of their time at Gonzaga, and harsher consequences may follow if they violate university policies in the future, according to their lawyer Dean Chuang. While there had been a possibility that they would be expelled, the seniors still found their probation too severe a punishment; the penalty goes on their permanent record, meaning they aren’t “in good standing” at the university. “We don’t feel like we should have to carry that around with us, and be punished for something as simple as defending ourselves,” said Fagan.
Fagan and McIntosh are appealing the school’s decision. Gonzaga University does not own the apartments but rather holds a lease from the complex’s owners and subleases units to students. Chuang noted that the school’s policy may not apply in this the situation as the apartment complex is not university-owned property, but Earl Martin, the university’s Executive Vice President, said, “I am very confident that we are fully within our rights and responsibilities to manage this property appropriately for our students.”
On the Monday following the incident, the university stood by the decision to enter the apartment in the middle of the night. “The director of our campus security was concerned for the safety of the occupants and others and he made the appropriate decision to collect the weapons that night,” said Martin.
Following the hearing, university President Thayne McCulloh said, “[This incident offers] an opportunity to do some important work, as a community, to re-examine our firearms policy.” The incident has sparked debate nationwide about private property rights and gun rights.
“We’re glad it didn’t have to end in tragedy for them to consider changing the policy there,” said Chuang.
Both students have said that they wouldn’t have done anything differently if they could go back to that evening. McIntosh said that, if he had known about the firearm policy, he would not have lived there in the first place. “I would’ve moved out … I do not feel safe, because it’s the Logan Neighborhood. It’s not a good place… This has done nothing but reaffirm why I had [the gun].”