Students and professor held hostage at Fairfield University

By on February 21, 2002

Imagine being in the middle of one of your lectures when suddenly a man carrying a box wrapped in duct tape bursts open the door and enters your class, and before you can realize what exactly is going on, you are being held a hostage.
At Fairfield University on Feb. 12, this imaginary scenario became a shocking reality for 27 students and a professor.
Around 4 p.m. during a religious studies class in the Canisius Hall Building of Fairfield University, Patrick Arbelo, 24, entered the classroom and announced that he had a bomb. Minutes later, the class and the professor became Arbelo’s hostages.
Authorities arrived on the scene after they were telephoned by Fairfield campus security. There was a report of a man on the second floor of Canisius Hall who appeared to have some sort of explosive device with him.
Immediately, Fairfield University sent the campus into a lockdown, allowing no one to enter the campus.
Canisius Hall was then evacuated along with neighboring buildings and dormitories.
Fairfield police had a hostage negotiator on the scene as well as the FBI and state police.
Arbelo, who is deaf and almost fully blind (he has 25% vision in only one eye), would later be identified as a 2001 graduate student of Fairfield University from Bridgeport, Connecticut.
The entire situation lasted for seven hours. No one was injured or harmed. Police were able to remain in contact with Arbelo throughout the entire ordeal while they tried their best to negotiate.
The hostages were released in groups. The first hostages to be released were five female students just 15 minutes after Arbelo first entered the classroom.
Another seven were then released before 8 p.m. At 11 p.m. Arbelo had surrendered and was taken into custody by police.
Arbelo was arraigned on Wednesday, February 13, and was being held on $1 million dollar bond.
He was also ordered to a medical and psychiatric evaluation. Police believe that Arbelo acted alone and never actually had a bomb on him.
The duct-taped black box that he entered the room with was empty, although during the hold-up Arbelo did have a knife.
Police later confirmed that Arbelo had a knowledge of explosives.
News of what was occurring at Fairfield University hit the Quinnipiac student body quickly, for the entire situation was “too close to home” for many students.
“It was so sad to see a disturbed man go in and take innocent people as hostages,” said Jennifer Veljacic, a senior physical therapy student at Quinnipiac.
“It’s really scary when you think of what those people must have been thinking,” Veljacic said.
Michael Rubino, also a senior physical therapy student, brought up a good point about the media’s coverage during the situation as it was unfolding.
“At first the situation was really confusing,” said Rubino. “It appeared as if no one had any idea of what exactly was happening, and it took hours only to get an brief sense of what was wrong.”
“I actually felt bad for the parents of Fairfield students because they must have been going crazy, worrying if their kid was alright,” continued Rubino.
Albero’s motives still remain unclear at this time and continues to be investigated by authorities.


About Chris McLaughlin- Connecticut