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CWU looking for source of call that triggered campus lockdown

UPDATED: Fri., Feb. 8, 2019

By Donald W. Meyers Yakima Herald-Republic

Central Washington University police are continuing to investigate a false report of an active shooter Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, the university is offering counseling to any staff or students who were affected by the incident.

“In general, the campus responded well,” said Robert Moreno, director of content development with CWU’s Department of Public Affairs. “Of course, we’re all relieved that there was nothing to it.”

A call came in to KittCom – Kittitas County’s regional 911 center — at 5:23 p.m., saying that shots were fired at Lind Hall, which houses the university’s ROTC program and its Department of Communications. He said the departments did not appear to be targets for the call.

Two minutes later, staff and students received messages through the university’s alert system telling them to shelter in place and avoid the area around Lind Hall.

Police from four area law enforcement agencies responded to the university, and officers were sent in small teams onto the campus to search buildings for the possible shooter, Ellensburg police Capt. Dan Hansberry said.

Hansberry said the agencies have practiced responding to active shooters on campus, and the response went according to their training.

“It sounded like it was a legitimate call,” Hansberry said. “It did not have the feel of a false alarm.”

He said the strategy is to have arriving officers form groups and move quickly into the buildings rather than waiting for a SWAT team to arrive.

Moreno believed there were several hundred people in the Student Union and Recreation Center when the campus went into lockdown, with students in other buildings on campus.

Authorities gave the all-clear at 7:30 p.m., determining that there was no shooter on campus and it was a false alarm.

There was a report about a bullet found on campus, but university officials say it was discovered in the area where police were loading and unloading their guns and was consistent with the ammunition officers were using.

In a statement issued Thursday, CWU President James L. Gaudino praised the response of not just first responders, but students and staff who followed instructions to stay in place or avoid campus during the episode.

“While this was a false alarm, and for that I am most grateful, it reminds us that we live in times when such outside threats can be real and deadly,” Gaudino wrote in the statement. “This was a traumatic experience for our entire campus, especially for those who spent time in a secured building, (waiting) for the all-clear.”

CWU offered counseling on campus for any staff or students traumatized by the incident. No classes were canceled Thursday, but Moreno said teachers were instructed to be understanding if a student did not come to class.

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