Thousands of students received a university alert Monday afternoon warning them of a man with a gun who allegedly was seen walking to Bessey Hall.
Soon after, another alert was sent informing students that the original text was a false alarm and no real threat was evident.
MSU police said on its Facebook page that a Reserve Officer Training Corps cadet in plainclothes had a replica rifle in hand when walking through Bessey Hall’s parking lot. The building is home to a division of MSU ROTC.
The cadet’s identity was not released.
Marketing senior Matthew Martin was on the first floor of Bessey Hall in a general business law class of about 30 students when a girl raised her hand and notified their professor of the alert.
“A police officer came in 20 seconds later and told us to shut the blinds, shut the doors and turn off the lights,” Martin said.
The class was instructed to huddle in a corner until the all-clear call came, Martin said.
“It was dead silent, and dark in there,” he said.
The class remained huddled at the police officer’s instructions for 10 minutes until the authorities determined the threat was negated.
After the first alert, MSU’s student body went into a panic, taking to their phones to communicate to their families and friends.
Martin Tweeted, “You haven’t panicked until a cop with an M-16 tells your class to get on the ground.”
Although the Tweet came long after the second alert, and Martin said he wasn’t entirely sure the officer was wielding an M-16 assault rifle, the fear students inside Bessey felt when the warning was sent out was apparent.
There were at least three officers outside all equipped with assault rifles, which made him and his classmates feel safe, Martin said.
“If there was a gunman, they weren’t going to shoot you with cops all around you,” he said.
But not all students were immediately informed of the situation. Melody Stokosa said she didn’t receive the MSU alert, along with several other students.
“I really like the system they have set up, but I didn’t get an alert, so there’s definitely some flaws in it,” she said.
Stokosa, an advertising sophomore, was watching a movie in class in the Justin S. Morrill Hall of Agriculture when classmates around her received the text alert.
Stokosa’s professor instructed students to leave the classroom and to go home or head to a safe place, she said. Stokosa lives in Shaw Hall and normally walks by Bessey en route to the dorm, so she took a longer but supposedly safer path home.
Agribusiness management senior Megan Birkett said the reaction in her classroom wasn’t very fast. Her professor turned off the light, but seemed just as confused as everybody else.
The situation came not long after MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon addressed destructive behaviors on campus and recent acts of violent crime, including the murders of hospitality business sophomore Domonique Nolff and marketing sophomore Dustyn Frolka.
Although some faculty successfully followed procedure, the incident brought attention to recent concerns following the Cedar Street shooting that MSU faculty might not be adequately prepared to respond to active shooter situations.
Lyman Briggs professor and associate dean Robert LaDuca remained relaxed in his Holmes Hall classroom when he saw the alert. He told students not to leave the class and assured them that the proper authorities would take care of the situation.
Given that the threat was halfway across MSU’s expansive campus, LaDuca chose to focus on teaching chemistry. He said he drew on training he received from MSU’s Department of Police and Public Safety.
“When you’re leading a classroom, the people in the classroom feed off the leader,” he said. “I’m sure if I freaked out and ran out of the classroom it would have elicited that same response (in the students).”