Education

Lockdown lifted, no threat found, evening classes canceled for WPU

Posted December 3, 2018 1:38 p.m. EST
Updated December 3, 2018 5:29 p.m. EST

— Leaders at William Peace University lifted a campus lockdown late Monday afternoon after Raleigh police searched the campus and found no evidence of a gunman.

"At no time was campus safety compromised," university president Brian Ralph said in a statement afterward.

"The university is resuming normal business operations; however, all classes are cancelled through the remainder of the day."

The campus used its internal alert system, PACER, at about 1:30 p.m. to ask students, faculty and staff to shelter in place. "A possible gunman is on his way to campus," the alert read.

Minutes later, the university asked Raleigh police for help to investigate reports of a gunman.

Students hid together in rooms until they were told it was safe to leave after a tense two hours on the campus of the small, private liberal arts college.
 
Helicopters circled above the school as campus alarms could be heard across the street. Officers could be seen walking around campus.
 
"We were in class and the sirens started going off and we all assumed it was a drill," said Tori Harrell, a 21-year-old senior.
 
But she said their teacher informed them that it wasn't a drill.
 
"We threw a big cabinet in front of the door and hid behind the desk" at the front of the room where the teacher does lectures, Harrell said.

"We were all really scared. We were calling our parents," she said, adding a lot of people were crying .She said there was little information for the first 20 minutes or so but after that she felt like the school did an adequate job of communicating.

William Peace is in the final week of the fall semester, with finals scheduled for next week. Many students shared on social media that they were hiding in dorm rooms, in bathrooms and in classrooms.

Freshman Bailey Ellison, from New Bern, said she had been out Christmas shopping and heard the news on her return to campus. She called her roommate from across the street from the locked down campus to learn that she was locked in a suite bathroom waiting for the all-clear.

Shanice Frazier, a junior, said she was arriving for class when she heard the alarms go off and a friend texted her to find a place to hide. She also said she got an alert from the university warning of a possible gunman.
 
She said she tried to get into several buildings but they were locked so she walked across the street to Seaboard Station shopping center to wait. She said she had done drills before in high school for an active gunman so she was trying to keep calm.
 
Standing at the edge of campus near where about 12 police cars were parked, student John Everett said he returned from lunch off campus to the alarm.
 
"Everything was fine. Me and my friend, we went to a 30-minute lunch and when we got back, cops are everywhere," the senior said.

"Raleigh Police responded quickly and conducted a full investigation and determined there to be no threat," university president Ralph said in a statement. "The safety of our faculty, staff, students and visitors remains our top priority. We will continue to have heightened security measures in place throughout the day to ensure the full safety of our campus."

Lockdowns common as schools battle threats both real and manufactured

The lockdown has become as much a part of the school year as final exams and spring break. Few weeks have gone by this school year without some report of a threat – real, imagined or manufactured on social media – against a school somewhere in North Carolina.

Most lockdowns are resolved without injury or arrest, although a beef between students at Butler High School in Matthews, N.C., left a 10th grader dead and a 9th grader facing murder charges.

The school, about 12 miles southeast of Charlotte, was locked down for about two hours on Oct. 29.

In that incident, Jatwan Cuffie, 16, surrendered to a teacher and admitted to shooting Bobby McKeithen, 16, in a crowded school hallway as students were headed into class. The rest of the 2,200-pupil student body was kept inside the school while police investigated the shooting.

In just the past month, schools in Carrboro and in Nash County were locked down for hours after phoned-in threats that proved to be unfounded.

Barbara Fedders, a parent of a child at Carrboro Elementary School, was struggling with explaining her fears and her relief to her child.

"Nothing bad happened and school is a safe place, but at the same time, is it?," Fedders said after that incident. "Can we protect our kids? We do our best, but there are forces beyond our control."

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