Students report fear, anger after false reports of active shooters at Northside

Photo by Madeline Ambrose | Mercury Staff.

Following an incident involving what appeared to be gunmen at Northside, Richardson PD confirmed no armed individuals were found, but the situation sparked concern among students, who expressed fear for themselves and their loved ones.

Political science senior Vrinda Sharma was working on a paper when a friend texted her in a sorority-fraternity group chat about the situation at 12:14 p.m. She immediately began warning her friends currently living at Northside to be safe and stay indoors. 

“When I first heard the message that they were shooters on campus, I was like, ‘there’s no (expletive) way.’ I guess it’s crazy to imagine that if something like that was actually happening, it would happen at UTD,” Sharma said. “Everyone roasted UTD for like being boring or whatever. And I was like, ‘Please don’t let this be the thing that makes people know what UTD is or where it is.’” 

Business analytics graduate student Revanth Chintala said he initially found out about the situation the morning after the incident occurred when a roommate told him and he viewed a video of the incident on a GroupMe chat. 

“I was like, ‘what? No way. I would have heard about it’. But then I opened Reddit and scrolled down, and then I saw the video, the GroupMe, everything,” Chintala said. “When I saw the video, it kind of freaked me out.” 

He said later his roommate showed him a photo of multiple cops surveying the area the day after the incident occurred, and he thought the situation had been sorted out. 

Sharma said she felt anger at the gunmen for apparently trying to protest for the Second Amendment given recent mass shootings such as those in Odessa and El Paso, which claimed the lives of 30 people in August. A state law passed in 2015 allows concealed carry of handguns on university campuses.

“I just think in this political climate with so many shootings happening these days,  you are literally the most selfish and inconsiderate being to bring that (expletive) to campus,” Sharma said. “You incited fear where people live. People go live in those apartments as their home and you brought something that resembles a gun.”

Sharma said that residents and students were traumatized at the prospect of a shooting happening, even if no evidence of a shooting was found. She said getting sent updates about the situation from the university or Northside at the time would’ve decreased the hysteria felt at the time and helped students feel safer. 

“The minute we hear that there’s a gun on campus or we see a rifle or anything, we’re (on) high alert and the fact that they didn’t even like to make an announcement considering it’s an open-carry campus, I just think it’s very irresponsible and inconsiderate,” Sharma said. “I just don’t feel as safe as a UTD student because they didn’t say anything. They didn’t even give an alert like, ‘Hey, there’s something that resembles a gun in Northside, please stay indoors…we will disclose information as it comes.’ You know, like if (they) had done that it would have been handled properly. But nothing was said.”

UTD PD Chief Larry Zacharias said the department followed Clery Act guidelines regarding emergency notifications. Zacharias said that per Clery guidelines, emergency notifications can’t be sent out until the situation is verified. The call reporting the incident occurred at 11:33 p.m., but the Richardson police officers didn’t arrive until 11:46 p.m, where they confirmed no active shooter was present. By the time UTD PD officers arrived, Richardson officers had confirmed that there was no imminent threat.

“By that time the activity had ceased, and they couldn’t verify exactly what had happened…and we didn’t get over there until about 10 ‘till midnight because they didn’t call us initially,” Zacharias said. “Because there was no ongoing threat, there was no need to at that point to send out … an emergency notification.”

Richardson PD Sergeant Kevin Perlick said investigators canvassed the area the day after the incident to find further details about the situation. He said the officers found no damage or evidence of guns being used at the location. 

“There was no damage or anything like that that had been done. No obvious signs that you know, something had been shot or anything like that or someone who (was) hurt, property damage — anything along those lines. No shell casings or anything like that either,” Perlick said. 

Zacharias said despite the area not being on campus, its proximity would have warranted an emergency alert if an active shooter or ongoing situation were to occur. He said after talking to witnesses and being unable to locate the subjects, there was no need to send an alert. 

“We have to be real. A lot of people don’t realize that when we do an emergency notification that goes to at least 35, if not 37,000 people,” Zacharias said. “You have to really be cautious when you send out that type of notification that you have a verified event that is an ongoing threat. Cause that’s what (the Clery Act) says, an imminent threat.”

Northside sent an email statement after the incident encouraging residents to use preventative safety practices, lock doors and call 911 immediately if they see suspicious activity. 

“Resident safety is our top priority and we want to bring to your attention an incident that took place in our community this morning. The local police were notified and responded immediately,” The email statement said. “Details regarding the incident are pending, as the police continue their investigation. We strongly advise residents to be cautious, alert and aware of your surroundings at all times.”

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