In January 2011, a man reportedly entered the Smoker Friendly in the Frontier Shopping Center, brandished a handgun and left with an undisclosed amount of money.
Marietta College Campus Police were alerted to the incident and dispatched to buildings along Glendale Road to be sure exterior doors were locked. But the suspect had one thing officers didn't, said campus police Chief Tom Saccenti - a gun.
"We're putting unarmed officers out here to guard a building from an armed gunman," he said.
That changed as of Friday, when full-time campus police officers began carrying Glock model 22, .40-caliber handguns while on duty. The policy change was approved by the college's board of trustees at its May meeting, following presentations to the Faculty Council and Student Senate and at a campus-wide meeting.
Part-time officers who meet the department's qualifications will begin carrying firearms Aug. 1.
"The decision to arm our police department was made based on a number of factors," college President Jean Scott said in an emailed statement Friday. "Even in a community as safe as Marietta, there are occasions when our officers must investigate potentially dangerous situations."
The college's security department became a certified police department with full arrest powers in 2003. Although officers have carried Tasers, they previously were not allowed firearms.
Saccenti said his opinion on whether officers should be armed was asked when he interviewed for the chief's position in 2010.
"My answer has always been: It depends on what you want out of your police department," he said. "If you want your police officers responding to emergency calls, they have to have guns."
The change was brought up during the department's last five-year review. Saccenti and the department prepared a proposal during the latest review, based on national trends and the duties they perform.
"I think it's a combination of new people on the board of trustees (and) the way the world has changed over time," said Tom Perry, director of college relations.
Saccenti said 98 percent of campus police departments are armed, so he believes that's what parents and students expect in terms of safety. He added that armed officers are more effective in controlling and stopping active shooter situations.
"During an active shooter, every minute that goes by without a shooter being engaged, 2.5 people die," he said, citing statistics from the Ohio-based SEALE Police Academy. "When a shooter is engaged (by armed officers), they stop killing people."
Although mass campus shootings like the ones at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Northern Illinois University in 2008 are rare, Saccenti said smaller-scale incidents happen more frequently than people might realize. And officers never know exactly what type of situation they're walking into, he said.
"In December, we arrested two guys for stealing $6,000 worth of copper, convicted felons," he said. "We want to make sure if those guys are on campus, we have the tools to protect our students."
When he worked for the campus police department for a year prior to joining the Marietta Police Department, Detective Ryan Huffman said he wasn't involved in many situations where a firearm was needed. But he recalled an instance where the department was alerted to an armed robbery suspect thought to be headed toward campus.
"We were out trying to apprehend a possible armed suspect and we didn't have anything to protect ourselves with," he said.
An armed suspect might not realize a campus police officer wasn't armed, Huffman said, perhaps making them more likely to act in a violent manner if they feel threatened.
Saccenti said the standards for a Marietta College officer to be armed are higher than the state minimum requirements. Each armed officer must be qualified as an Ohio Police Officer Training Academy firearms instructor. And while other law enforcement officers generally have to qualify at least once a year by scoring 80 percent in a shooting test, MC officers must score 100 percent four times a year.
"I want our officers to be the best," Saccenti said, adding that it's easier to meet those additional qualifications for a smaller department.
Incoming MC senior Zane Eschbaugh, of Marietta, said he feels arming campus police is "a necessity." As a resident adviser, he said he would prefer knowing the people he's calling for help can meet a potential threat with equal or greater force.
"Am I going to feel safe calling someone with a Taser?" he said.
Marietta Police Capt. Jeff Waite said he's glad to hear the campus police will be carrying guns.
"They're a police department, and they need to be armed. They need to have the ability to defend themselves or students," he said.
Waite said he would welcome assistance from the campus police, but noted a mutual-aid agreement would have to be signed before that could become a possibility.