Northwestern gives the all clear, saying gunman report was a hoax

  • Evanston police officers leave after an investigation at Northwestern University Engelhart graduate residence hall in Evanston, Ill., Wednesday, March 14, 2018. Police said the report of a gunman at Northwestern University was a hoax and "swatting incident." Police said they found no evidence after reports of shots fired on the campus.

    Evanston police officers leave after an investigation at Northwestern University Engelhart graduate residence hall in Evanston, Ill., Wednesday, March 14, 2018. Police said the report of a gunman at Northwestern University was a hoax and "swatting incident." Police said they found no evidence after reports of shots fired on the campus.

 
Daily Herald report
Updated 3/14/2018 6:31 PM

Northwestern University locked down its Evanston campus for about an hour Wednesday afternoon after a false report of a gunman in a graduate-student residence hall earlier Wednesday.

"Police have determined that the report of a man with a gun in Engelhart Hall was a hoax," the university reported in a tweet when police finished investigating after 4:30 p.m. "It was made in a call to the Evanston Police Department. No danger to the community exists. Police are investigating the false report."

Evanston police Cmdr. Ryan Glew said a call to police reporting shots fired at Engelhart Hall, a graduate student residence, was a "swatting" hoax. The term describes when someone calls in a false report in the hopes of prompting a SWAT team to respond.

Heavily armed Evanston police and university police officers did rush to the dormitory, and the call prompted Northwestern to urge people in the area to "shelter in a safe place and stay until further notice."

This is finals week at Northwestern.

Glew told ABC 7 Chicago they received a call about 2:17 p.m. from a person saying he shot his girlfriend in a building associated with the university on the 900 block of Maple Street -- Engelhart Hall. The university issued an alert at 2:39 p.m. telling anyone on campus to seek shelter and stay in place until told otherwise.

When police arrived at the location, they secured the building and checked the residence but found no evidence of a shooting, no victim, no gunman and no gun, Glew said.

At 2:55 p.m., the university tweeted an update that there was a report of a person with a gun in Engelhart Hall.

At about 3:15 p.m., Evanston police reported on Twitter that in searching the area there was "no evidence of a victim, scene, or gunman found." But, they added, authorities "continue to search and secure the area."

The university then lifted the lockdown for students not in the area of Englehart Hall as police investigated the possibility that the report may have been a hoax. Northwestern tweeted an all-clear at 4:33 p.m.

"Anytime you get a report of man with a gun or anything like that, this is the sort of thing that is a nightmare to a university," Northwestern spokesman Alan K. Cubbage said.

Evanston Township High School was briefly locked down as well.

Glew said the student who the caller reported had been shot was later located unharmed.

Police said the call came from an area southeast of Rockford. The apartment that police responded to Wednesday had been vacant since around Thanksgiving.

Such "swatting" calls can be dangerous. In December, Wichita, Kansas, police officers who responded to such a hoax call fatally shot a man as he answered his door.

The alert at Northwestern came shortly after hundreds of university students participated in the National School Walkout. The students gathered to support calls for tighter regulations on guns sales in the wake of the shooting at a Parkland, Florida, high school that left 17 dead.

• The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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