Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Gonzaga students deter break-in with gun, which university seizes

Erik Fagan, left, and Daniel McIntosh stand in the doorway Friday at their apartment in the Gonzaga University neighborhood. They faced expulsion for having a gun in a campus apartment, which they used to drive off a man who came to their door demanding cash. On Sunday the two were told they'd be on probation for the rest of their time at Gonzaga. (Jesse Tinsley)

When a Gonzaga University student chased a belligerent homeless man from his front door at gunpoint, he and his roommate didn’t imagine the incident might result in their expulsion.

But seniors Erik Fagan and Daniel McIntosh may both be kicked out of school after they were found in violation of the school’s weapons policy, which prohibits students from having guns in any university-owned building. The students live in student housing at 207 E. Sinto Ave., apartments owned by the university even though they’re considered to be off campus.

At 10:15 p.m. on Oct. 24, Fagan, 21, and McIntosh, 23, were settling in for the evening, having just said goodbye to a departing friend.

Then there was a knock on the door. Fagan, believing it was his friend again, opened the door to see an apparently homeless man demanding money.

Fagan offered the man a blanket and a can of food but refused to hand over any cash, he said. The man became agitated and combative, showing Fagan what appeared to be an ankle bracelet around his foot.

“He told me, ‘You don’t want to do this,’ ” Fagan said.

The man kept coming toward him, shouting at him, Fagan said. The narrow entryway prevented him from shutting the door without injuring himself. He shouted for McIntosh, who came running downstairs holding a loaded 10 mm Glock pistol.

“I come down with the gun at a low ready, as per how I’ve been trained,” McIntosh said, pointing his hands at the ground.

McIntosh saw his roommate and the man standing there, he said. The stranger’s hand was behind his back. McIntosh didn’t know what the man was doing, but he didn’t take any risks.

“I draw on him,” McIntosh said, lifting his arms into the air to demonstrate. “As soon as he sees me, he decides he doesn’t want to deal with me. So he takes off.”

The men called police and campus security; both arrived within minutes. McIntosh told the police officer he’d chased the man off with the pistol, for which he has a concealed weapons permit, he said.

The officer commended the young men for their actions, telling them they used the right amount of force to keep themselves safe, Fagan said. The campus security guard didn’t address the school’s weapons policy at that time, Fagan and McIntosh said.

Gonzaga Executive Vice President Earl Martin said the security guard was new and wasn’t sure of the school’s policy. He waited until he had consulted with his superiors to remove the weapons from the home.

“He wanted to be certain of the proper course of action,” Martin said.

That came at 2 a.m. the following day, when the two men awoke to pounding on their bedroom doors.

It was campus security. They entered the home, went upstairs to the bedrooms and hammered on the doors, telling them to give up the weapons, the students said.

The officers confiscated McIntosh’s Glock and Fagan’s shotgun, which he uses for hunting and sport shooting. The guns still haven’t been returned to the men, and the two reported them stolen to Spokane police.

Campus officials were within their rights to enter the home without a warrant and remove the weapons, Martin said. The school’s student policy grants campus security the authority to enter university-owned student housing, even when it’s off campus, Martin said.

Martin said they had no choice but to enter the home after there was no response to knocking and a doorbell.

“There’s nothing about that not being in the middle of Gonzaga’s campus that makes this any different,” Martin said. “They followed our procedure to the letter.”

Though the lease McIntosh and Fagan signed stipulates that renters must follow all policies outlined in the Student Handbook, the two said they were unaware of the weapons policy.

However, they said, it’s an unfair policy. Their apartment is in a neighborhood where they feel unsafe and where students don’t have the same security as in dorms, they said.

“If they can’t protect us, it is up to us to protect ourselves,” Fagan said. “By having policies such as this, they are saying that we are either choosing between protecting ourselves or potentially facing expulsion.”

The two appeared before a board for a student conduct hearing Friday, where they were found in violation of student policies.

They could face suspension or expulsion but won’t find out until next week.

“No one’s a winner in this,” Fagan said. “But I’ll take a victory of not being expelled.”