Reports of gunmen lead to college lockdowns

March 3, 2008 5:33:31 PM PST
Appalachian State University locked down the campus briefly Monday after a man was reported carrying a gun nearby. No shots were fired, and no injuries were reported, the school said.

An alert on the university's Web site said a man wearing a ski mask was seen with a small black handgun. No other reports of the man were made, and school officials said authorities no longer believed there was a threat to the campus.

Students were alerted over public address systems and by e-mail, said Forrest Gilliam, president of the student government association.

The lockdown came hours after school officials sent an e-mail to students updating them about plans for an emergency messaging service. Many universities are deploying such systems after last year's shootings at Virginia Tech, where a student gunman killed 32 people and himself last April.

Earlier Monday, police questioned a man who carried a gun into Middle Georgia College in Cochran, about 120 miles south of Atlanta. The college was placed on lockdown as authorities searched the campus. It was lifted around noon, and classes resumed, said college President Mary Ellen Wilson.

The man realized he had a handgun in his vehicle when he went to exchange cars with his brother, a cafeteria worker at the school, and stuck it in his waistband, Cochran Police Chief Jon Thrower said. A student then reported seeing a man with a gun.

During the lockdown, a separate call to a Veterans Affairs center in Dublin touched off another alert when the caller said a student was being held hostage in a dormitory. That call was believed to have been either a hoax or a misunderstanding by a parent about what a student had told them, Thrower said.

At any rate, it led to the dorms being emptied a second time, he said. Meanwhile, authorities learned of the car exchange between the cafeteria worker and his brother, Thrower said.