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ECU News Services

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Police officers direct people to move out of the area around the West End Dining Hall after reports of an armed suspect in the vicinity of Fifth St. and Reade Circle. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)



ALL CLEAR
ECU lockdown ends with no arrest


By Doug Boyd
ECU News Services



Greenville and East Carolina University breathed a little easier Wednesday afternoon when a suspected gunman near campus turned out to be a pedestrian with an umbrella.

Greenville Police surveillance cameras at 9:37 a.m. captured a man crossing Fifth Street at its intersection with Reade Circle carrying what appeared to be a long, thin object in a backpack, said Greenville Police Sgt. J.C. Williams. See the video below, courtesy of ECU Channel 31:




At 10:12 a.m., ECU issued an emergency message that a possible armed suspect was spotted at the intersection and put the campus in “lockdown” mode. Students, faculty and staff were ordered to stay inside or get inside buildings and lock the doors.

Approximately 60 law enforcement officers from ECU, Greenville Police, the Pitt County Sheriff’s Department and the N.C. Highway Patrol searched campus and the surrounding neighborhoods for the next couple of hours, assisted by a law enforcement helicopter, Williams said.

Despite reports via social media outlets of persons with a gun and a crossbow and suspicious persons, no one with a weapon was found, Williams said.

Pitt County Sheriff’s deputies identified a man matching the one in the video and determined the object he was carrying was an umbrella, Williams said.

ECU issued an “all clear” message at 12:52 p.m., and classes resumed at 3 p.m.

Though the incident happened near main campus, a few miles away, the ECU Health Sciences Campus also went into lockdown mode. An email message ending that went out at 12:34 p.m.

In addition to the ECU lockdown, four nearby schools – C.M. Eppes Middle School, Elmhurst Elementary, Sadie Saulter and Wahl-Coates Elementary – were put in modified lockdown mode, according to Pitt County Schools.
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A police officer prepares to test the door on a bus parked at the Student Recreation Center on campus.


“We are relieved that the reports of this incident turned out to be unfounded,” said Dr. Steve Ballard, ECU chancellor. “East Carolina University will always err on the side of campus safety when these situations arise.

"Our response by faculty, staff and students was timely and professional. We appreciate the concern of the parents of our students, as well as the cooperative efforts of the Greenville Police Department and the Pitt County Sheriff’s Office as the university responded to this incident.”

ECU student Jake Hall was in Spanish class in the Bate Building when the lockdown was issued. He said his professor instructed students to tape over the windows for safety.

“Tense,” he said of the situation in the classroom, “but everyone stayed calm.”

Williams praised the response by law enforcement and the coordinated effort to identify the person in the camera footage. He also praised ECU’s response to the potential danger.

“Their process went exactly as planned and exactly as it’s supposed to,” Williams said.

Williams said people using social media to report suspicious people led law enforcement officers to “chase ghosts.”

“Social media ended up causing a lot of obstacles as far as sending out fictitious information,” he said.

One example was at the Rivers Building on ECU’s main campus, where a student posted a message on a social media site saying a suspicious person was in the building. ECU Police evacuated and searched the building but found no one, police said.

Police were also alerted to possible suspects on ECU and Greenville buses, but searches turned up nothing, Williams said.

“In this case, Facebook and Twitter worked against us,” Williams said.

Nevertheless, he said, the event did have some positives.

“This alert system went perfect,” Williams, referring to ECU’s emergency email, text, Web and speaker network. “Overall, the operation, even though there was no weapon, it went great.”

In August, local law enforcement agencies conducted an “active shooter drill” on the ECU Health Sciences Campus. In that drill, two actors portrayed gunmen who took hostages in a campus building. Police eventually got one gunman out of the building, but not before the mock deaths of an officer, the other suspect and a hostage.

Williams added that even if the person on camera Wednesday had been carrying a gun, it wouldn’t necessarily have been a crime unless he was displaying it in a threatening way.

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Below are details that were posted while the lockdown was taking place.

Video of press conference following the lockdown, courtesy of ECU Channel 31.

Posted below is the surveillance video of the alleged gunman, courtesy of ECU Channel 31.

MEDIA UPDATE:

Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011 at 1:35 p.m.

 

ECU campus lockdown lifted; classes resume at 3 p.m.

East Carolina University Police have given the all clear to campus. The initial report of a man carrying a weapon near campus has proved to be unfounded.

Greenville Police initially contacted ECU Police around 10 a.m. today regarding surveillance camera footage of what appeared to be a man carrying a rifle. An investigation found that it was not a rifle.

ECU police officers were aided in the three-hour investigation on campus and in the surrounding neighborhood by Greenville Police, Pitt County Sheriff’s Department and the N.C. Highway Patrol.

Classes will resume at 3 p.m. today. Student transit operations will resume at 2 p.m.

A Parent Call Center has been established, 252-737-5100, and will continue to operate until 5 p.m.

Steve Ballard, ECU Chancellor, sent the following message to campus after the “all clear” was given:


STATEMENT TO THE ECU COMMUNITY FROM CHANCELLOR STEVE BALLARD

To the ECU Community:
 
As you know, there were reports this morning of a man carrying a rifle near the ECU campus.
We are relieved that the reports of this incident turned out to be unfounded.  East Carolina University will always err on the side of campus safety when these situations arise.  Our response by faculty, staff, and students was timely and professional.  
 
We appreciate the concern of the parents of our students, as well as the cooperative efforts of the Greenville Police Department and the Pitt County Sherriff’s Office as the university responded to this incident.
 
Please know that East Carolina University will continue to make the safety of our campus a top priority.
 
Steve Ballard
Chancellor
 

 

MEDIA UPDATE:

Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011 at 12:57 p.m.


All clear. Lockdown lifted.

Details will follow as information comes in.



MEDIA UPDATE:

Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2011 at 12:25 p.m.

 

Campus continues on lockdown

The lockdown notice for ECU’s West Campus (the Health Sciences Campus) has been lifted. The main campus of the university continues on lockdown at this time.

ECU Police have searched the Rivers Building on campus after a report of a man matching the description of the suspect was reported. Police have swept the building; no suspect has been found. Students have been evacuated from the building by police and have been taken by ECU buses to another part of campus. They will be held there until the lockdown notice has been lifted.

No suspects have been apprehended at this time.

ECU Police report no hostages have been taken on campus and no injuries. They continue to investigate the report of an armed suspect spotted near the corner of 5th and Reade Streets around 10 a.m. today.

A Parent Call Center has been established: 252-737-5100.

ECU Police are coordinating with Greenville Police and the Pitt County Sheriff’s Department as officers search through the neighborhood next to campus.

Residence halls have been locked down and are secure.

Go to the ECU News Services home page: http://www.ecu.edu/news  where these advisories and other updates will be posted.

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Images from ECU campus show police searching for an alleged suspect following a report of a man see with a weapon near campus. In the upper left, an officer sits on the roof of a house at Johnston and Rotary Streets during the search. At upper right an officer prepares to test the door on a bus parked at the Student Recreation Center on campus. In the lower left Officers approach a bus as part of their search. In the lower right, police officers direct people to move out of the area around the West End Dining Hall. No hostages reported. New information will be posted as soon as it is received. A parents call center number is listed below. Photos by Cliff Hollis

MEDIA UPDATE:

UPDATE: 12:08 p.m. Nov. 16

Parent's Call Center - 252-737-5100




MEDIA UPDATE:

UPDATE: 11:58 a.m. Nov. 16

 

Campus continues on lockdown

ECU Police report no hostages have been taken on campus and no injuries. They continue to investigate the report of an armed suspect spotted near the corner of 5th and Reade Streets around 10 a.m. today.

No suspects have been apprehended at this time.

ECU Police are coordinating with Greenville Police and the Pitt County Sheriff’s Department as officers search through the neighborhood next to campus.

Residence halls have been locked down and are secure.

Go to the ECU News Services home page: http://www.ecu.edu/news  where these advisories and other updates will be posted.

# # #

 

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  ECU remains on lockdown while police continue to search for a reported gunman in the vicinity. Updates will be provided as soon as new information is received. (Photos by Cliff Hollis)
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UPDATE: 10:45 a.m. Nov. 16

 

Campus continues on lockdown

ECU Police are systemically sweeping the campus as they continue to investigate an armed suspect spotted near the corner of 5th and Reade Street around 10 a.m. today.

Residence halls have been locked down and are secure.

ECU Police are coordinating with Greenville Police and the Pitt County Sheriffs Department.

Media are asked to gather at the parking lot of the Student Recreation Center, which can be accessed off of Charles Street

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ECU on lockdown. Report of Armed individual on 5th Street. Secure offices and buildings.
For more information see http://www.ecu.edu/alert

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