The University of Rhode Island and law enforcement authorities said a report of an active shooter on its South Kingstown campus was a false alarm. An investigation revealed that “at no time was there a gun or an active shooter on the campus,” Rhode Island State Police Frank B. Castallone said.
The campus was placed in lockdown shortly before noon, and university used the Web and text messaging to advise students and staff to remain in doors for over two hours while police searched the Chafee Social Science Center, where the gunman was falsely reported to be. State Police Superintendent Steven O’Donnell said police received the first report of a possible gunman at 11:22 a.m.
Ahnise Kassab, a student at the school, said in a telephone interview he was in a physiology class in an auditorium in the Chafee building when a student several rows in front of him stood up and yelled, “I’m done being a nice guy!”
Kassab said he did not see the student with a gun but heard another person scream that the student had one, prompting a rush for the classroom’s doors.
“What made it a big deal was the way everyone reacted,” he said. “There was some pushing and shoving, but I didn’t see anyone get trampled.”
At a press conference on campus, Castallone said the professor in the classroom told police that a male student had yelled, “I’m a good guy and I have a gun.”
Castallone said officers found several Nerf guns in a backpack that was left in the auditorium, but authorities have not confirmed whether the owner of the Nerf guns was the same person whose yell sparked the commotion.
David M. Dooley, the university’s president, said the university would examine whether a student group called the Humans vs. Zombies Organization was involved with the incident.
The group’s website said students involved in the organization play a modified game of tag, in which “human” students must defend themselves with socks or toy dart guns from “zombie” students who are trying to tag them.
“We have the group on campus. They’re a recognized group and we’ve never had any problems in the past,” Dooley said.
After locking the campus down, advising everyone to stay indoors unless they were in Chafee. Police went through the building, the largest on campus, room by room. Shortly before 2:30 p.m., the university posted a statement, saying that the campus was safe.
URI police, South Kingstown police, and State Police were dispatched to respond to the situation, O’Donnell said. Ultimately, they determined there was no threat, the university said.
Todd Feathers can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @ToddFeathers.