Joke led to false report of active shooter at University of Iowa

'It was kind of scary'

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IOWA CITY — A joke about an active shooter on the University of Iowa campus led to UI police officers entering Burge Residence Hall with weapons drawn and evacuating students Saturday evening.

According to a statement from the university, police received a call from a student at 5:08 p.m. The student reported a friend texted him, told him there was an active shooter in Burge and to call the police.

UI police quickly responded to the east side dorm to find residents were in the process of evacuating. Eight minutes after the initial call, at 5:16 p.m., the original student called back to say his friend told him he was joking about the active shooter.

The University of Iowa tweeted at 5:32 p.m. that reports of an active shooter were a false alarm.

In the immediate aftermath of the incident, Burge residents said they had little information about what was happening.

Freshman Isaac Jolcover, 18, said he was taking a nap in his second floor room in Burge when his roommate came in and said they needed to get out.

“There’s cops here with guns. They’re telling us to leave,” his roommate said, according to Jolcover.

As he left, Jolcover said he saw two officers, each carrying rifles. They told him to “get out fast. Keep your hands out of your pockets,” he said.

UI freshman and Burge resident Abigail Schuchard, 18, said she was out with friends and on her way back to the dorm when she heard about the situation.

“I got a text from a friend that there was an active shooter in Burge,” she said. “We didn’t get a Hawk Alert. We were really confused about what was happening.”

The only she information she received from the university was a tweet confirming it was a false alarm.

“It was kind of scary,” Schuchard said. “I feel like we should have known something sooner.”

In explaining why no Hawk Alert was issued, the university said authorities worked quickly to determine whether the text message was legitimate and quickly determined the threat wasn’t credible.

Both the student who called police and his friend have been bought in for questioning, the university said. No arrests have been made and the incident remains under investigation.

The university was the site of an active shooter almost exactly 25 years ago. On Nov. 1, 1991, former UI graduate student Gang Lu shot and killed four faculty members and one student and seriously injured another student before killing himself.

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