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App State Student: When 'I Saw That Gun, I Just Ran'

Appalachian State University students returned to class today. Officials put the campus on lockdown Monday after students reported seeing a gunman.

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BOONE, N.C. — Appalachian State University students returned to class Tuesday. Officials put the campus on lockdown Monday after students reported seeing a gunman.

It began when a student from Durham reported an attempted break-in at his off-campus apartment. Matthew Haney said he saw a man with a gun trying to steal his TV.

“All I did was as soon as I saw that gun, I just ran,” Haney said. “I wasn’t really thinking about anything else except, ‘I’m glad I’m safe.’”

Haney said the man then ran through the woods towards campus. Soon after, a student reported seeing the masked gunman at the dining hall, so school officials decided to put everyone on lockdown.

“The police were scurrying around campus looking in different places. They weren’t sure where he had gone at the time,” said student Ashley Spalding.

About an hour and a half later, police lifted the lockdown. They determined the gunman was no longer a threat.

In an emergency alert posted at 4:47 p.m. Monday on the university's Web site, officials said the man – described as Caucasian, 6 feet tall, wearing a black Pink Floyd T-shirt with a rainbow prism on it – was seen in the area of Appalachian South Apartments and the Hill Street area.

He was said to be carrying a small black handgun and wearing a black or blue ski mask and red-and-green tennis shoes, according the Web site.

No shots were fired and no injuries were reported during the incident.

"For the most part, things seem to be orderly and we actually have a pretty good emergency plan in place after Northern Illinois," Appalachian State student Paul Reichelt said.

On Valentine's Day, a gunman killed five students before committing suicide at Northern Illinois University. Since then, many area colleges have tested audible warning and text-message-alert systems designed to notify students of emergencies.

Such systems gained popularity after an April 2007 Virginia Tech shooting spree, where a student gunman killed 32 people and himself.

Reichelt said there were a lot of police on campus and that a professor told him about the gunman sighting shortly before 5 p.m.

"Things (here) are definitely as good as they could be, considering there is a gunman nearby," Reichelt said during a phone interview with WRAL shortly after the lockdown was issued.