Shots falsely reported at WKU, campus locked down

Western Kentucky University was locked down for several hours Oct. 22 after reports of gunmen on campus, but officials said they could find no evidence of firearms or their discharge.

Someone reported seeing people with weapons on a satellite campus and police later received reports of shots fired on the main campus.

University officials said they received four 911 calls from students, with the last reporting gunshots.

But Howard Bailey, vice president for student affairs, said at a news conference that there was no gunfire and no witnesses reported seeing weapons.

Five male students were released after questioning.

Bailey said the fights were related to an dispute at a school-sponsored dance Oct. 18 by the group Black Men at Western. Bailey said no one from the group, which mentors black students. None of them were involved.

“That student organization has a good reputation,” he said.

Shortly before 2 p.m., the university texted students to seek shelter after the reports of shots in or near Pearce Ford Tower. The campus emergency warning system was activated and students and employees were told to remain indoors. They received an all clear about two hours later, after police searched buildings and didn’t find any gunmen.

Bailey said one student, who suffered minor injuries trying to break up a fight on the satellite campus.

Bailey said campus officials didn’t regret sending a message that shots had been fired.

“We would rather be telling you we didn’t have near the problem we thought we did,” he said.

Jake Oakley, an 18-year-old freshman, said he believes he heard gunshots but later acknowledged it could have been the sound of people slamming doors as they ran away. He was leaving English class at the satellite campus when he saw 10 people beating up another person. As he was walking away, he thought he heard shots and ran into a building.

“I was scared as hell so I took off running,” Oakley said. “I was just thinking, I can’t get shot.”

He called his mother to say he was safe and stayed in the building until the all clear.