Local News

Umbrella, not gun, causes lockdown at ECU

Posted November 16, 2011

— East Carolina University was locked down for about three hours Wednesday after people reported seeing a man with an assault rifle walking casually on a main thoroughfare near the Greenville campus.

The item the man was carrying was, in fact, an umbrella.

The man was seen near the corner of 5th Street and Reade Circle at about 10 a.m., ECU spokeswoman Mary Schulken said. Campus police, Greenville police, the state Highway Patrol and Pitt County deputies systematically swept the campus and nearby neighborhoods to search for the man.

When they found him, they determined he was not a threat. 

The lockdown was lifted shortly after noon for ECU's medical campus, and it was lifted for the main campus at 1 p.m.

Greenville police Sgt. Carlton Williams said rumors circulating on Facebook and Twitter caused authorities to "chase ghosts" and use resources inefficiently. Still, he said, the university handled the reports properly, law enforcement worked well together and students remained calm and orderly.

Sgt. Carlton Williams Police: Gunman reports at ECU false, but response warranted

False leads about a potential hostage situation caused the evacuation of the Rivers Building.

Police also surrounded several city buses with weapons drawn after witnesses reporting seeing the armed man on board. That report was unfounded and all the buses were secured, authorities said.

"We'd rather respond 10 times than have someone not call and have it be something tragic," Williams said.

About 27,000 students attend ECU. The university said classes would resume at 3 p.m.

Chancellor Steve Ballard said he was relieved that the reports turned out to be false.

"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," he said in a statement.

The school had an emergency drill to prepare for a lockdown like this back in August.

Three nearby schools also were locked down as a precaution – Elmhurst Elementary School, Wahl-Coates Elementary School and C.M. Eppes Middle School. 

This is the fifth time in recent weeks that a North Carolina college campus has been locked down because of reports of a gunman.

On Nov. 5, police shot a former Elizabeth City State University student who allegedly brought an assault rifle to campus. The school was temporarily locked down after officers on foot patrol ran into students running from the man.

Wake Technical Community College's campus in north Raleigh was locked down on Nov. 7, but authorities couldn't locate a gunman seen in some nearby woods. Campbell University was locked down a week ago during a three-hour standoff with a student suspected of stealing weapons from a Fuquay-Varina gun shop.

Late Monday, a man who robbed a business near the University of North Carolina at Wilmington was seen running toward the campus, prompting another lockdown.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Nov 18, 2011

    I wonder how much he can sue ECU for false accusing and harassment.

  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Nov 18, 2011


  • icmfal Nov 17, 2011

    I still laugh when I see this.

    I feel sorry for the man that was carrying the umbrella. Bunch of paranoid people out there and lots of story tellers on Facebook and Twitter.

    This still cracks me up

  • brentf777 Nov 17, 2011

    This is what you get with the DHS and their East German Stasi inspired "See Something, Say Something" citizen spy program. They want us paranoid and afraid of our family, friends, neighbors, and strangers on the street, chasing imaginary terrorists and extremists when the real extremists work for the government! "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary." H.L. Mencken

  • RTPMedic Nov 17, 2011

    Ok..I thought about it.

    It was still stoopid.

  • 00100111 Nov 17, 2011

    An umbrella. All these panicky little animals in an uproar over an umbrella. Keep crying "wolf", and eventually no one is going to believe you.

  • dmcgrath2 Nov 16, 2011

    To all of you who believe that this is a laughing matter..my younger sister hid under a desk in Rivers in the pitch black for two hours believing that there was a gunman in her building with hostages. She was terrorized by this. THIS IS NOT FUNNY. I am glad ECU took the precautions they did. You should be ashamed of yourselves for thinking that this is something to take lightly. Until you are the one getting the text message from a loved one saying they may be in serious danger, think again before joking about this.

  • Worland Nov 16, 2011

    Similar happened to me once. I was a carpenter back in the 1980's getting a quad of apartments ready to rent. About 3PM the apartment's door came crashing down and half dozen Policemen tackled me. Seems someone called the police claiming I threatened them with a silver pistol from the 2nd floor apartment I was working on.

    What really happened? I was installing curtain rods. The silver pistol? A racheting screw driver. What a day.

  • Slo-talker Nov 16, 2011

    When sociiety (lead by the media) goes on such witch hunts for blame every time there is a tragedy, we can expect these types of responses. It used to be "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure". It might be the opposite now.

  • yankee1 Nov 16, 2011

    Hard to decide who is the most incompetent individual in this story. Surprised they didn't call in the National Guard! Embarrassing! Where are the adults????