Even though he turned himself in, the suspicion of a gunman interrupted a busy day for campus, last Tuesday afternoon.
At 2:42 p.m., information was forwarded to the students, faculty and staff that a suspect was a “black, 6ft4, 180lbs, 40-50 yrs, bald, maroon shirt, jeans” was last seen heading towards Mesa Court with a firearm.
Campus buildings and classrooms were locked down as police ordered people to secure themselves wherever they were.
Joellen Ambrose, a high school student who went on a housing tour through Mesa Court, saw the alleged gunman. Her tour group on the way to the flagpoles when she noticed a few men walking towards her group.
“One of the men walking around us tripped on the curb,” said the prospective UCI student. “The gun fell out of his pocket and onto the street.”
Initially, some had believed that the fallen object was just a cellphone. After the crowd realized that a gun had fallen out of the man’s pocket, they were in shock.
“Once people realized what it was, everyone gasped,” Ambrose said.
According to Ambrose, the man quickly picked up the weapon, apologized and then walked away.
According to UCI spokesperson Cathy Lawhon, once the man with the gun became aware of the ZotAlerts surrounding his weapon, he called the police and turned himself in. Even though he had a permit to carry the weapon, university policy does not allow firearms on campus.
When the ZotAlert was released at 2:42 p.m., students who opted out of ZotAlert’s or had not yet read the email alert were not notified of the assumed threat by peers and faculty.
In classrooms that couldn’t be locked, classes shoved tables against the doors.
BC Cavern’s doors were locked. People were allowed in, but no one was allowed out. Two student workers stood by the doors, ensuring that no student that had entered could leave.
While some students felt unsafe and were visibly on edge, others remained oblivious to the alert. Others were simply annoyed by the incident.
Julia Meade, a first-year student, was annoyed by the constant ZotAlert texts and emails she was receiving. When she noticed, however, that nobody else around seemed to have received the notifications she was getting, she took it upon herself to alert some of her classmates.
Other students did not respond to the threat as nonchalantly. Noel Shamoon, a senior electrical engineering student, was concerned due to shooting incidents that have happened on other college campuses.
“I don’t feel safe. When guns are out there, no one is safe,” Shamoon said.
The lockdown ended at 3:11 p.m. A ZotAlert told the campus to resume normal activity and that the suspect had been found by police.
Still, some questioned why the man was armed in the first place.
The gunman was questioned by police and was eventually released. The investigation is currently continuing, according to UCI’s spokeswoman, Cathy Lawhon.