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URI gunman scare was false alarm, authorities say

The University of Rhode Island campus in South Kingstown went into lockdown after a report of a student with a gun.

Stew Milne/Associated Press

The University of Rhode Island campus in South Kingstown went into lockdown after a report of a student with a gun.

The University of Rhode Island and law enforcement authorities said a report of a shooter on its South Kingstown campus was a false alarm. An investigation revealed that “at no time was there a gun or an active shooter on the campus,” Rhode Island State Police Captain Frank B. Castallone said.

The campus was placed in lockdown shortly before noon, and university alert systems advised students and staff to remain indoors for over two hours while police searched the Chafee Social Science Center, where the gunman was reported to be located. State Police Superintendent Colonel Steven O’Donnell said authorities received the first report of a possible gunman at 11:22 a.m.

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Ahnise Kassab, a student at the school, said in a telephone interview that he was in a physiology class in the Chafee center when a student several rows in front of him stood and yelled, “I’m done being a nice guy!”

Kassab said he did not see the student with a gun but heard another person scream that the student had one, prompting a rush for the classroom’s doors.

“What made it a big deal was the way everyone reacted,” he said. “There was some pushing and shoving, but I didn’t see anyone get trampled.”

At a press conference on campus, Castallone said the professor in the classroom told them that a male student had yelled, “I’m a good guy and I have a gun.”

Castallone said officers found several Nerf guns in a backpack that was left in the auditorium, but authorities have not determined whether or not the fake guns or their owner were involved in the incident.

David M. Dooley, the university’s president, said URI would examine whether a student group called the Humans vs. Zombies Organization was involved in the incident.

The group’s website said students in the organization play a modified game of tag, in which “human” students must defend themselves with socks or toy dart guns from “zombie” students who are trying to tag them.

“We have the group on campus, they’re a recognized group and we’ve never had any problems in the past,” Dooley said.

After locking the campus down and advising everyone to stay indoors unless they were in Chafee, police went through the Chafee Social Science Center building, the largest building on campus, room by room. Shortly before 2:30 p.m., the university posted a statement saying that the campus was safe.

URI, South Kingstown police, and State Police were dispatched to respond to the situation, O’Donnell said. Ultimately, they determined there was no threat, the university said.

Todd Feathers can be reached at todd.feathers@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @ToddFeathers.
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