Some students, parents question handling of potential gun threat on IUPUI campus

People walking around on campus during lockdown

INDIANAPOLIS - Evening classes went on Tuesday night as usual at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, but Tuesday afternoon was much different as Metro, state and campus police checked out reports of a gunman on campus. 

Adding to the frenzy was confusion among students that had people leaving secure locations at the height of the possible threat.

The original call came in around 12:30 p.m., when a woman told police she saw a case with a shotgun or a rifle in it in the open trunk of a car.

Police got another call a short time later reporting a man with a weapon near the medical center on campus.

Around 12:55 p.m., cellphones around the IUPUI campus delivered an alert of danger, reiterated by a pre-recorded voice message.

"It just said there was a man seen with a long gun inside that garage… and that was pretty much it," said student Aaron Busenbark. "There wasn't any mention of a lockdown until another half an hour after that or so."

Parent Rick Smith says his son was in the nursing building as police with M16 rifles evacuated everyone.

Smith questioned the decision to move the people out of the building.

"They're totally vulnerable, they're outside, they don't have any protection," Smith said. "They're not in a secured area, they're wide out in the open and it just doesn't make sense."

Some claimed that students who left buildings were not allowed back in, but IUPUI Police Captain Bill Abston denied that claim.

"No, we wanted students to seek shelter, so I'm not sure what buildings you were talking about," Abston said.

But Dean of Students Jason Spratt is recorded telling students held-up in the student center telling students that if they left, they would not be able to come back.

"Can I stop you from leaving this building? Right now, no I cannot. But if you leave, you will not get back in," Spratt is heard saying in the recording.

While students took cover, they monitored their electronic devices for updates, but there was a gap in alerts from about 2:01 to 3:29, prompting some to leave cover and take their chances.

"I think it's like no one really knows what's going on," said student Christele Igega. "People just want to kind of go on with their lives."

That's why many people were seen walking around campus during the lockdown, hours before the all clear was given.

"Some people left because they had to pick up their kids from school, others had to leave because they had to go to work," said student Renee Larson.

School leaders say they when they learned people were out and about before the all clear, they sent out more alerts, including one at 4:07 p.m., about an hour before the all clear was issued.

Many students said they were pleased and impressed with the way IUPUI officials handled the situation.

"It was calm, and responsible and serious, but it wasn't frightening. They kept it calm, not much panic," freshman Robert Risteski said.

Junior Morgan Mrotek agreed.

"I received the alerts very promptly. For as scary a situation as it was, in my opinion it was handled well," Mrotek said.

There will be a university review of the response to see if protocols need to be tweaked.

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