Campus lockdown ends with no sign of gunfire

October 22, 2008 5:06:29 PM PDT
Western Kentucky University was locked down for several hours Wednesday after reports of gunmen on campus, but officials said they could find no evidence that shots had been fired or that anyone had a weapon. Someone reported seeing people with weapons in a building on a satellite campus and police later received reports that shots had been fired on the main campus, a mile away.

University officials said they received three 911 calls from students. The last caller reported hearing shots.

But Howard Bailey, vice president for student affairs, said at a news conference that there was no gunfire and no witnesses reported seeing weapons.

Bailey said five male students were being questioned in connection with two fights, one on the satellite campus and the other near Pearce Ford Tower residence hall on the main campus, about an hour north of Nashville, Tenn.

He said the fights were related to an altercation Saturday at a school-sponsored dance organized by a group called Black Men at Western. Bailey said no one from the group, which mentors black students, was involved in the fights.

"That student organization has a good reputation," he said.

Shortly before 2 p.m. EDT, the university sent a text message warning students to seek shelter after the reports of shots in or near Pearce Ford Tower. The campus emergency warning system was activated and students and employees were told to remain indoors. An "all clear" was issued about two hours later after police searched buildings and didn't find any gunmen. Classes were canceled for the rest of Wednesday.

Bailey said one student suffered minor injuries trying to break up a fight on the satellite campus. The student, who wasn't identified, was treated and released Wednesday.

Bailey said campus officials didn't regret sending a message that shots had been fired.

"We would rather be telling you we didn't have near the problem we thought we did," he said.

Jake Oakley, an 18-year-old freshman from Princeton, Ky., said he believes he heard gunshots but later acknowledged it could have been the sound of people slamming doors as they ran away. He was leaving English class at the satellite campus, known as South Campus, when he saw 10 people beating up another person. As he was walking away, he thought he heard shots and ran into a building.

"I was scared as hell so I took off running," Oakley said. "I was just thinking, I can't get shot."

He called his mother to say he was safe and stayed in the building until the all clear was given.

The university, which has about 16,500 undergraduates, is on a hill in Bowling Green. Its students and sports teams are known as Hilltoppers.

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