False report of active shooter at UMC now believed to be hoax, CU alert says; separate man detained near campus

Editor’s note: This story has been updated with new information.

A false report of an active shooter at the University Memorial Center on the University of Colorado campus Wednesday is now believed to be a hoax, according to email and text alerts from the university.

The UMC area was clear as of 2:06 p.m. Wednesday and is still closed for investigation. The building will resume normal activity Thursday at 11 a.m. Students can pick up belongings left in the evacuation from 9 to 11 a.m.

The report came just hours after a man armed with a machete was shot and killed at the Champions Center on campus. The center is also closed for investigation and will open for normal hours Thursday. The CU Sports Medicine and Performance Center will open at 12:30 p.m., and patients scheduled before then will be rescheduled.

The UMC was evacuated by police and put on lockdown after police responded at about 1:05 p.m. to a 911 call about an active shooter the building. Surrounding buildings were put on lockdown as well. At about 1:20 p.m., the university Twitter account announced the report was false.

About 20 minutes later, an alert was sent to students and faculty by email and text that the report, then referred to as a report of an “active harmer,” was deemed unconfirmed, and advised those in the area to take protective action. Residence halls were locked from 1:57 p.m to 2:06 p.m., a hall director on campus said.

The report was announced false at 2:05 p.m. by alerts and a CU tweet that said it’s believed to be a hoax. The alerts still included an advisory to avoid the UMC area. False calls came to the CU-Boulder Police Department around 1 p.m. reporting an active shooter at the UMC Starbucks, and to the Boulder Police Department at about the same time reporting an active shooter at the Starbucks on University Hill, according to Scott Pribble, spokesperson for CUPD. That’s why the university believes the reports to be a hoax, Pribble said.

“I did not feel … that there were significant risks that warranted the closing of the campus,” Chancellor Philip DiStefano said at a 4 p.m. on-campus press conference. He also said after working with CUPD Chief Melissa Zak, he decided to keep campus open.

CUPD said at the press conference that students “elected to self-evacuate” after they saw officers enter the UMC armed with AR-15s— CU police described the scene as “a lot of chaos.” Pribble said students exited some areas on their own, but that police did evacuate other areas of the building. Students described a hectic scene of a crowd of people running and tripping.

Miscommunication between police and CU’s Strategic Relations office led to conflicting information from CU’s Twitter that said the report was false and from the following CU alert that the report was unconfirmed. The initial tweet was sent out before police were finished searching the UMC.

The university changed status to “unconfirmed” as the search continued, and announced it false again once the search was over, according to Pribble.

“The Strategic Relations communicators were in direct contact with the police department,” Pribble said. “During emergency situations, the news is continually changing. That is why there were two different messages.”

A man with green hair and a white van with the words “We’re still here” written on it was detained by police at around 2 p.m. near Pi Beta Phi sorority house at 11th Street and Aurora Avenue, according to a CU Sports Mag reporter in the area. Boulder police said at the press conference that the man was reportedly brandishing a gun, but they do not believe the man was related to any incidents on campus. He was not armed, Pribble said.

Classes and campus events, except for the Fall Career Fair, were still held as scheduled Wednesday.

Some students at the evacuation scene were visibly distraught. CU Housing and Dining Services sent students an email at 1:02 p.m. in reference to the armed man incident at the Champions Center earlier Wednesday morning, reminding students of counseling and victim assistance services available to them.

The university tweeted at 3 p.m. to address rumors that its texting and social media systems were hacked.

As of Oct. 11, CU police are currently not releasing information related to the false 911 calls, as the incident is being actively investigated.

Contact CU Independent Copy Editor Jordyn Siemens at jordyn.siemens@colorado.edu and on Twitter @Jordyn_Siemens

Contact CU Independent Editorial Manager Ellis Arnold at ellis.arnold@colorado.edu and on Twitter at @ArnoldEllis_.

CU Independent News Reporters Carina Julig and Lucy Haggard contributed to this report.

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