Tower 1: A Year Later

 

On Monday, March 18, 2013 UCF avoided a tragedy.

James Oliver Seevakumaran, a 30-year-old former student still living on campus was found in his dorm room after his apparent suicide. Also found in the room: a tactical rifle, a pistol, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, homemade explosives and a timeline ending with “good luck and give them hell.”

Nearly a year later, the chaos in the UCF community has subsided and everything is seemingly back to the way it was, but in many ways the event has actually changed the university forever.

Arabo Babakhani, roommate of Seevakumaran and senior aerospace engineering major, first alerted police.

"I’m not worried but I also don’t take chances with people," Babakhani said. "I’m not, maybe, as nice as I may have been in the past or trusting as I may have been in the past.”

Babakhani is in the Air Force ROTC. He moved to the house of his fraternity, Kappa Sigma, after the incident. He has since moved off campus to University House.

"I’m reminded of it all the time because, more often than not, somebody I’m with brings it up," Babakhani said. "Or if I’m at a bar, somebody recognizes me.”

Babakhani was not the only one phased by the incident.

"[My family and friends] were really, really shocked and surprised," Babakhani said. "Especially because they saw me on TV. My sister lives in England and I was on the newspaper there. She couldn’t believe it. They were just floored.”

Babakhani feels like UCF handled it really well when they helped him relocate, but he said that the university should not have let Seevakumaran slip through the cracks and stay there for so long.

"It’s been more of a stressful experience because I’ve been forced to relocate," Babakhani said. "This is the first time I’ve been settled and comfortable and feel OK. There’s a big financial burden with moving too. The positives are very superficial, intangible things like having a lot of people recognize me. It’s nice to be known for something so good."

Keke Bowden, Tower 1 resident and health sciences pre-clinical major, lived on the 5th floor at the time.

"I was really kind of bothered," Bowden said. "I felt like it was downplayed by UCF, because at the end of the day, there are so many people that really go through with their plans. So it’s really just a blessing and I really thank God.”

Amanda Osuna, junior legal studies major, also lived on the 5th floor.

"It was pretty intense," Osuna said. "You know mothers that are overprotective. My mom was going crazy about it; she wanted me to move back home and everything. I was like ‘no, we just need to pray about it and let it go.'”

Karen Hofmann, director of UCF Counseling and Psychological Services was a first responder. CAPS provided counseling for weeks after the incident.

"I think the counseling was very well received. I think students appreciated us being there," Hofmann said. "I think that we had several people that were really traumatized by the incident. Either they were struggling before and this really put them over the edge, or they were fine and this really triggered something."

Hoffman said that more than 2,000 people contacted CAPS two weeks following the incident.

Detective Sgt. Christopher Gavette of UCF's special investigations unit was a first responder as well.

"The good thing was the situation had pretty much de-escalated before it could potentially harm anybody else, us or any of the UCF students living in the tower," Gavette said. "So yeah, I mean, our heart rates were up but we were glad that the situation was over.”

On the second floor of the UCF police station outside of the patrol room, there are framed pictures of posters that Tower 1 students put on their windows after the incident. The messages read “We <3 our UCF police,” and “Thank you for keeping us safe.”

"To me, that’s my reminder when I walk by every day; the fact that [students] do care," Gavette said. "It’s not every day that you go to call and get that love and admiration from the community. Usually you’re dealing with a headache; most people don’t want to see you."

Courtney Gilmartin, assistant director and public information officer for UCF Police, said that room 301 in Tower I remains vacant and that there is a new policy regarding minimum enrollment standards implemented by UCF Housing. A warning communications coordinator in the Office of Emergency Management has also been hired to update the UCF mass alert system.

"Improving the university’s security infrastructure is a multi-faceted and long-term goal with initiatives such as a universal keying system under consideration for the future," Gilmartin said.

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