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Portland Shooting Reignites Debate Over Armed Campus Police

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Armed campus police at Portland State University in Oregon fatally shot and killed a man last week. And that restarted debate over the increasing number of universities that provide guns to security officers. Rob Manning reports from Oregon Public Broadcasting.

ROB MANNING, BYLINE: The shooting happened around 1:30 in the morning outside of a popular bar next to the PSU campus. A video obtained by a local TV station shows campus police responding to a crowd of men shoving and hitting each other. A man later identified as Jason Washington appears to be trying to break up the fight. He has a pistol holstered to his hip.

(SOUNDBITE OF VIDEO)

JASON WASHINGTON: Everybody, get [expletive] back. Get back. Get back.

(CROSSTALK)

WASHINGTON: It's not clear in the video. But eyewitnesses say when Washington fell to the ground, his gun slipped out of his holster. He reached for it, and then campus police shot and killed him. Washington's open possession of his gun was legal. This was the first shooting by Portland State University campus police. But there have been shootings by other college police elsewhere. Last year, a Georgia Tech student was fatally shot by campus police. And in April, University of Chicago campus police shot and badly wounded a student. On the PSU campus, student activists are calling for the administration to disarm their police. Zoe Stuckless was part of a protest over the weekend.

ZOE STUCKLESS: I'd say that there's a small and specific set of students who feel safe when there are armed police officers on campus. And there's a whole lot of people who don't and who are put at higher risk.

MANNING: An increasing number of colleges are arming their campus police. And now at least 75 percent provide their security forces with guns. Jeff Allison is a retired police officer who consults with college campuses about police security. He says these officers get the same training as local law enforcement, and colleges want to protect their students in an increasingly violent world.

JEFF ALLISON: A lot of that is in response to Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois, the shootings that occurred there - mass casualties that occurred there. If you do instruct your public safety agency to respond to those situations, then they need to be adequately prepared.

MANNING: Campus officials say after Portland police have investigated the shooting that killed 45-year-old Jason Washington, they will revisit their policy to arm security officers on campus.

For NPR News, I'm Rob Manning in Portland.

(SOUNDBITE OF LOCAL NATIVES SONG, "YOU AND I") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.