South Hall was locked down for over an hour yesterday after police received inaccurate reports of a gunman poised for action on the sixth floor balcony.
No one was apprehended after police conducted a floor-by-floor search of the building, which was shutdown sometime after 3:20 p.m. Following a short investigation, law enforcement officials determined the suspect was unarmed and had fled the building. Initial reports suggest the incident could have been a practical joke.
As of press time, no arrests had been made.
According to Ron Cortez, associate vice chancellor of Administrative Services, the UCSB Police Dept. is examining all angles of yesterday’s scare, including the possibility of a prank.
“The police are investigating that as one option they are looking at, though they will look at all options,” Cortez said.
The lockdown came after conflicting reports from witnesses near South Hall. Several people saw a man with alcohol apparently threatening to commit suicide from the ledge of the building, while others said the man had a gun.
UCSB Police Sgt. Matt Bowman said a witness on the sixth floor had seen the suspect flee.
“[A reliable witness] said they saw somebody matching the description we had received,” Bowman said. “That person was in possession of alcohol and an unlit cigarette who fled down the stairwell prior to police arriving.”
Phil LeVasseur, a KCSB volunteer, said he heard the man threatening to kill himself.
“He was up on the floor, sitting on a ledge,” LeVasseur said. “It looked like he was drinking a beer, he was yelling at the top of his lungs, ‘Do you want me to jump?'”
Roman Stahl, a fourth-year financial math and statistics major, said the man yelled about having a gun from the ledge.
“I heard him yelling outside. He said ‘gun’ at some point and also something about jumping off the building, but I couldn’t see him,” Stahl said.
The UCSB police dispatcher who took the first report around 3:20 pm quickly notified the campus by sending a text message and e-mail alert to the student body via UCSB’s emergency alert system. With that, UCSB police also immediately responded to the threat by shutting down and searching the building for an hour.
Police evacuated people from South Hall as they conducted their search, while students in crowded buildings such as Davidson Library and the Student Resource Building were placed on lockdown or cautioned by staff not to venture outside.
The entire incident lasted a little more than an hour, concluding around 4:20 pm. Responding to the scene were UCSB Police, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept. and Santa Barbara County Fire Dept. personnel.
Paul Desruisseaux, UCSB’s associate vice chancellor of Public Affairs, said campus administrators quickly mobilized to handle the situation.
“We had an emergency operations center on campus,” Desruisseaux said. “Information was gathered and the police department was in constant contact.”
As the situation progressed, administrators considered shutting down all traffic into campus. Plans to close roads were quickly scrapped, however, after police completed their search of South Hall.
-Allison Bailey contributed to this article.