Students attending University of the Incarnate Word said the campus was on “lockdown” Tuesday evening after receiving reports of a man carrying a rifle on campus grounds. The alleged gunman was never located and following a campus search, university officials gave the all-clear, and also said an official lockdown had not been initiated.
Hours later, however, a second report triggered a lockdown and second police sweep of the UIW campus.
An official UIW Rave Alert went out Wednesday at 12:26 a.m. after a second report of suspicious activity prompted university officials to order a lockdown:
“UIW campus on lockdown. University police have received another report of a possible armed individual on campus. Surrounding agencies are again responding to assist in the search of the area. Persons on campus should remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to 829-6030 or email@example.com.,” the Rave Alert text message stated.
The lockdown followed a report by night cleaning crews of a man trying to open a locked door, but a review of security video showed the individual actually was a police officer checking to make sure the door was locked.
By 1:07 a.m. a second UIW Rave Alert announced the end of the brief lockdown:
“University officials have conducted a thorough search of campus following another report of a possible armed individual. After reviewing security footage it was confirmed that the sighting was not an armed suspect but actually a security guard. The campus lockdown has been lifted.”
Given the rise in on-campus, gun-related violence across the nation, university leaders and campus police are on heightened alert and are responding quickly to reports of possible violence. The activity at UIW comes as local legislators and university officials are working on new campus policies in response to legislation passed this year and signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott that makes it legal to possess guns on campus. University officials hope to make classrooms and other student gathering spots weapon-free zones.
Virtually every college and university president and urban police chief in the state opposed the open carry bill, but the measure was passed by the Texas Legislature and supported by Gov. Abbott.
In the first incident early Tuesday evening, unconfirmed reports of an alleged rifle-toting male stalking the campus quickly spread through social media as campus police, and San Antonio and Alamo Heights police units quickly imposed a security ring on the campus at Broadway and Hildebrand Avenue and undertook a comprehensive campus search.
UIW freshman Leo Gonzalez was sitting in one of the Incarnate Word indoor lounges just before 7 p.m. when he caught word that a man was carrying two rifles around the campus at 4301 Broadway St. “Suspected armed individual reported on campus near Joeris. Take caution,” read a text message sent to students and faculty.
“I was just sitting in the lounge and a few ladies came in and they looked really concerned and they started talking about how there was some sort of lockdown going on because there was an alleged sighting of a man in all black with a rifle,” he said. “They said to stay put.”
Listen to Gonzalez’s account of the situation below, interviewed by Rivard Report Photographer Scott Ball:
About 30 minutes later, many students and staff members were notified by another text, that there was no threat on campus.
“I feel safe (going back to school tomorrow),” Gonzalez said, adding that some of his peers were not as convinced.
Timothy Pullum, a UIW senior, was playing intramural softball when he caught wind of the suspected gunman.
“One of the athletic directors came and told us everybody needs to get off the field because there was a suspected gunman,” Pullum said.
Pullum didn’t seem unnerved as he sat on the curb with his teammates near the University’s Athletic Complex, most of whom were laughing. But minutes earlier he was in a more panicked state of mind.
“We all took off running from the field to my friend Rubin’s car,” he said. Pullum and his friends stayed in the car until deciding the coast was clear.
Police at the scene declined to comment.
UIW officials have released the following statement:
The University of the Incarnate Word received a report of a suspected armed individual on campus this evening. Surrounding and local agencies responded to assist thoroughly searching the campus and surrounding areas.
No suspect was found to support the report. Throughout the search, university officials encouraged those in the area to use caution and report suspicious activity.
Social media contributed to erroneous reports of multiple lockdown situations however since no threat was confirmed the university was never in a lockdown situation. The all-clear was given at 7:34 p.m.
*Top image: An San Antonio Police Department vehicle is parked at the Hildebrand Ave. entrance to the University of the Incarnate Word following the pursuit of a man armed with at least one rifle. Photo by Scott Ball.