A “shelter in place” alert for students and faculty at UMass Amherst has been lifted after reports of a “hostile armed” man on campus, the school says.
Two men, one armed with a handgun, assaulted a student on the college campus at about 5:15 p.m., the university’s police department said.
The university issued the alert at about 6:10 p.m. Thursday, telling those on campus there is a “Hostile armed person reported in Pierpont Hall,” and adding that the University of Massachusetts Police Department was on scene and had secured a perimeter.
In a second alert at about 6:30 p.m., police said the lockdown was for the entire UMass Amherst campus, not just the area around Pierpont Hall. The shelter in place was lifted at about 7:15 p.m.
“This was not a random act,” UMass Police Chief Tyrone Parham said. The victim was targeted, according to police.
“Our officers responded promptly and our community responded well to the emergency communications that we shared in a timely manner throughout the incident,” Parham said. “I want to thank everyone involved for their assistance and cooperation.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. There Were No Shots Fired & the Victim Suffered a Cut to the Head
The university said there have been no reports of shots fired. But police said the student who was assaulted suffered a “minor” laceration to the head and was hospitalized.
The assault occurred inside the Pierpont Hall dormitory.
Ambulances and police were called to the scene.
Pierpont Hall is a four-story dorm that is home to first-year students, according to the UMass website.
2. The Shelter in Place Order Was Broadcast Throughout the Campus
Students recorded videos, including one you can watch above, of the announcement of an armed intruder on campus, telling people to shelter in place.
A second video recorded the all-clear alert:
James Villalobos, a UMass journalism student, told WCVB-TV, “When I first heard about the situation I went down to Southwest where the Pierpont building is, and I arrived and there were to fire trucks and an ambulance and a police officer. … It didn’t look like anything too major. I’m really not seeing much going on … Outside of Pierpont there isn’t really much happening.”
Police Chief Tyrone Parham said they “err on the side of caution,” in deciding to put out a shelter in place alert.
Parham said officers swept each floor of the building in their search for the suspects.
He said the university emergency alert system was “very helpful.”
3. Police Are Working to Determine if a Drug Deal Led to the Assault
There have been rumors that the assault occurred during a drug deal gone wrong and police said they are looking into that.
“We’re still looking into that potential option, as well as many others,” Chief Tyrone Parham said.
On Twitter, the university said the armed suspect is a white male wearing a dark colored shirt and a gold chain. The second suspect was described as a white male wearing a gray sweatshirt.
Police said a handgun was shown by the suspect and the victim may have been hit in the head with the weapon.
4. The Suspects Fled in a Vehicle & Are Still At Large
Police say the two suspects fled from the scene in a vehicle, but police said they do not have an exact description of it. It may have been a silver 4-door vehicle.
Officers have interviewed witnesses and are looking for the two men, who police say are believed to be about college-aged, but not UMass students.
“We searched for them but we could not find them,” Police Chief Tyrone Parham.
He said there will be additional security in the Southwest area of campus, where the assault occurred, but he does not believe there is any threat to the students there because the victim was likely targeted.
“We have no reason to believe other students in Southwest or elsewhere on campus are in danger,” Parham said.
5. There Are 22,000 Undergraduate Students on the 1,400-Acre Campus
The University of Massachusetts Amherst campus is the flagship of the states public university system. There are about 22,000 undergraduates studying on the 1,400 acre campus. About 1,300 full-time faculty work at the school.
“UMass Amherst is one of the major public research universities in America. Nestled in idyllic Amherst, Massachusetts, the campus is consistently ranked among the top public research universities in the nation, and offers a rich cultural environment in a rural setting close to major urban centers,” UMass says on its website.
A new campus police chief was sworn in last week.
Chief Tyrone Parham, formerly the police chief at Penn State, was sworn in on February 12.