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Man arrested after gun report puts ISU on alert

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013 9:56 a.m. CDT

(MCT) — NORMAL — An incorrect report of a man with a gun Tuesday led to a search across the Illinois State University campus, lockdowns at the ISU laboratory schools and the arrest of the suspect at the Amtrak station.

“The Illinois State University police have the suspect in custody. The emergency situation has ended,” ISU officials posted at 4:22 p.m. on the university website. “Residence hall and dining center restrictions have been lifted. All campus operations will continue as scheduled.”

ISU Chief of Staff Jay Groves said the incident began about 2:30 p.m. when authorities received a report that a man from Chicago allegedly “displayed a handgun of some type” to a woman at Wright Hall. The man and woman walked from Wright Hall to Watterson Towers, and then he continued walking to Fell Avenue, Groves said.

The woman’s boyfriend called ISU police sometime later to report the incident and a campuswide alert was issued, Groves said. She was not injured, authorities said.

A physical description of the man was issued and ISU and Normal police began a search. As a precaution, Thomas Metcalf School and University High School were locked down during the incident, said lab school superintendent Jeff Hill.

A Normal police officer spotted the suspect at the uptown Normal train station as the southbound Texas Eagle pulled in about 4 p.m., authorities said. He was taken into custody without incident, Groves added.

Police had been told by the woman the suspect had a ticket for a Chicago-bound train expected to arrive about 6 p.m.

Police continued to search for a gun after the man’s arrest. Later Tuesday night, ISU authorities determined the report was false.

“After interviewing the student and suspect, we determined the student’s original statement was based on the fear he might have access to a weapon, but she later admitted having never seen a weapon,” said ISU Police Chief Aaron Woodruff in a prepared statement.

No official charges were filed Tuesday.

During the incident, the residence halls and dining areas were restricted to residents, and people made their own decision whether to leave, Groves said.

“Illinois State is required by law to issue immediate notification regarding reports of weapons on or near campus,” Groves said in a statement issued Tuesday night. “While we know these types of communications can be disruptive, we are glad the incident ended in a safe manner.”

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