The call, placed anonymously at 8:22 a.m. on Dec. 2, described a person with a rifle at the corner of McCauley and South Columbia streets. An emergency update was published on the Alert Carolina website at 8:53 a.m. Since the incident, the Department of Public Safety has identified the caller and talked with her.
UNC spokesperson Jim Gregory said UNC has to find a balance between updating the community as fast as possible and ensuring the information is completely correct.
“I think a lot of it had to do with that we were trying to figure out what was happening on campus. And one of the most important things is that we’re accurate about what’s going on, and it was uncertain for a little while,” he said.
The incident prompted the University to review the Alert Carolina protocols regarding the use of sirens, DPS Chief Jeff McCracken said.
“The protocols as they were written on that day indicate that the sirens would not be sounded unless there was a verified threat,” he said.
“So we had a working group meeting a couple days after that incident occurred to look at the protocols ... in rare occasions there might be a time when we would want to activate the sirens before a threat has been verified.”
McCracken said although there were no other confirmed reports of any weapon-carrying individuals as the call described, DPS believes the caller perceived a legitimate threat to campus safety.
“We did eventually talk to the individual involved, and we think that she absolutely felt like she saw something that was a weapon. We don’t think it was a hoax or anything like that,” he said. “It was just she thought she saw something that we don’t think existed. The evidence would support the fact that it didn’t exist either.”
“We didn’t receive any additional calls. There were no shots fired. Nobody else saw anything. So we think there’s a good possibility — it was kind of a rainy day — it might have been an umbrella or something like that. That is a situation that has occurred on other campuses before.”
Military science chairperson Lt. Col. Dan Knott said ROTC members have specialized training for situations just like the one that happened in December.
“We had done some training with (the police), and it worked out perfectly. Our building is secured with card readers and everything else now anyways — cameras and all kinds of other stuff,” he said.
Gregory said there’s an ongoing discussion about how UNC responds to public safety issues.
“Every time that happens is a learning opportunity. I think the Department of Public Safety and (Associate) Vice Chancellor (for Campus Safety and Risk Management Derek) Kemp, who oversees that, are looking at currently what we need to do to improve our responses.”