When a 45-year-old gunman killed a 77-year-old man and injured two women, ages 59 and 65, in Azusa on Nov. 8, thousands of people trusted Azusa Police Department’s (AZPD) social media team to provide live updates on their Facebook and Twitter feeds.
The shooter was under the influence of cocaine when he committed the crime, which took place in the Memorial Park area. The suspect opened fire against officers but none were harmed, and the officers returned fire and killed the suspect.
Though there were speculations early on that the shooting was related to the election, there has been no proven correlation thus far. Because of the shooting, however, two polling places were closed and voters were forced to go to other locations in the community. Mountain View Elementary School and Slauson Middle School were put on lockdown as well.
Azusa PD has since turned over the investigation to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.
Sergeant Xavier Torres of AZPD is on the department’s social media team; he posted three status updates and responded to comments throughout the afternoon to keep the community informed. The team recorded three live videos, the most popular of which featured an update from AZPD’s Chief Steve Hunt and garnered over 93,000 views, over 1,000 reactions and 634 shares.
“We’ve gotten a lot of positive community support, a lot of it through our social media platforms,” Torres said.
He posted two other videos throughout the day, which both climbed to over 16,000 views and received well-wishes and inquiries from community members. Azusa resident Susie Vega showed her support of the AZPD in the comment section of a video.
“God bless the men in uniform!” Vega wrote. “Hard workers and are always protecting us! My heart stopped knowing the kids were on lockdown!”
Vega, who actively comments on the police department’s posts, said she often gets her community updates from the Facebook page.
“I think it’s important that Azusa PD takes their time to post important updates of what’s going on in our city and the rest of the cities with happy stories and sad stories,” Vega said. “It gives me an opportunity to send them directly my prayers and also blessings at all times.”
Azusa resident Dina Michelle said she follows all Azusa-related social media pages to find out what is going on in the city, especially in regard to news and events. She posted a comment telling the Azusa PD to be safe and said that they were in her prayers. She said she felt inclined to comment because she wanted to include positivity in the comment section and wanted to stand up for AZPD.
“I don’t think [other commenters] understood that the police department was trying to help a dangerous situation,” Michelle said. “They had no time to be on Facebook.”
Rosie Sandoval Rocha commented on a video because said she felt it was important to show her appreciation. In her comment, she shared that her daughter was just let out from Slauson Middle School and was grateful for the police department’s protection.
“Although it was a terrifying moment, I felt confident that our kids were safe,” Rocha said.
Vanessa Jones posted a comment on a video expressing her appreciation for the consistent updates and responses from AZPD’s account.
“Thank you for taking the time to comment,” Jones said below the video. “[I] live very close. Scared.”
Follow AZPD on Facebook and YouTube at “Azusa Police Department,” and on Instagram and Twitter at @AzusaPD.