ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – (UPDATED 7:53 p.m.) — Turns out it was all just a misunderstanding.
Officials with St. Louis University issued an all-clear and lifted their shelter-in-place alert around 7:10 pm after it was determined that a student reported to be armed with a handgun inside Spring Hall Wednesday evening was actually carrying a toy weapon.
“It’s been described to me as a rubber band gun,” explained SLU spokesman Jeff Fowler. “There were never any shots fired on campus because there was never a real weapon that was involved here.”
The report of an armed student in Spring Hall was followed a short time later by a report of “shots fired” near the Marchetti Towers East residence hall.
After the initial text message was sent out via the school’s RAVE-Alert system, the potential danger seemed real enough to SLU sophomore Christian May.
“You know, it was very close to us and, like, twenty to thirty yards from where I live,” he said. “So it was pretty shocking and scary.”
Fowler stands by the school’s response and shelter-in-place protocol, which kept some students and faculty from getting to where they needed to be for a couple of hours.
“You can never take incidents like this lightly,” he said. “Thankfully this one turned out not to be what could have been a very, very serious situation.”
And in a new development late Wednesday night, SLU officials announced that the rubber band gun was the product of a class assignment.
Here is the full text of a letter sent out by school officials:
“The University has been informed of additional details concerning tonight’s incident on campus.
We have confirmed that the toy gun seen in Spring Hall was part of an assignment in the Aerospace and Mechanical “Engineering Manufacturing Procedures” class. The assignment, intended to have students build a working device with interchangeable parts, was to make toy rubber band guns.
The instructor gave the students several options for projects, but says the students unanimously chose to make the rubber band guns. The instructor says he warned the students not to display them out of class. However, at least one student created a very realistic toy gun and openly carried it into his residence hall. This led to today’s alerts and understandable concern and fear on campus.
All of the students who made the rubber band guns are being informed tonight to place the toy guns in a closed container and bring them to the Parks College Dean’s Office first thing tomorrow. All of the toy guns will then be destroyed.
This is the first time toy guns have been made in this class, and it will be the last. The University understands how much anxiety this issue created today and will ensure it does not happen again.”
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St. Louis Police say the initial person of interest, the student in the black hoodie, has been released and is no longer a suspect. They’re looking for a second person who they believe is a student — the all clear on campus has still not been given.
(UPDATED 6:44 p.m.) A male student is in custody after Saint Louis University’s official Twitter account tweeted that shots were fired outside a residence hall on campus.
“There is no confirmation of any shots fired on or around campus,” the St. Louis Police Department tweets. The investigation is ongoing.
An alert sent out by Saint Louis University‘s official Twitter account warned those on campus to stay clear of Spring Hall because of a “man wearing a black hoodie and who may have a hand gun” in the building.
The school then tweeted that shots were fired outside Marchetti East, and for those on campus to “shelter in place.”
KMOX’s Brett Blume is on the scene.
This story will be updated as more information becomes available.