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Yale lockdown lifted;
no gunman found

Reports of a gunman on the Yale campus today led to a daylong lockdown and intensive search—apparently the result of a hoax call and mistaken witnesses—which finally ended just before 5 pm.

Even after essentially declaring the crisis over, police continued searching the Old Campus room by room for much of the afternoon.

"New Haven is safe, the Yale campus is safe, but we're going to finish the job we started," New Haven police chief Dean Esserman said at 4 pm.

Undergraduates are on Thanksgiving break. Still, the lockdown affected thousands of employees and others in downtown New Haven, where Yale, New Haven, and state poice—joined by federal agents—closed numerous streets. The nearby Gateway Community College and downtown public schools also went into lockdown.

The first Yale Alert alarm went out by phone, text, and email at 10:17 am. "New Haven Police have received an anonymous call from a phone booth in the 300 block of Columbus Avenue (between Howard Avenue and Hallock Street) reporting a person on the Yale campus with a gun," the message said. "There have been NO confirmations or sightings of this person. Yale and New Haven Police are in the area. . . . The Yale Police Department advises those on campus to remain in their current location until there is additional information."

Updates came around 11 am, citing first "reports" and then a "confirmed report" of a person with a gun on or near the Old Campus. Everyone on the central campus was instructed to "shelter in place," and others were warned to stay away from campus. Just before noon, Yale again "confirmed reports of a person with a gun on campus on the Old Campus."

At one point the action moved to High Street near Crown, near several Yale fraternities and cultural centers, with rumors of a gunman on a roof. Then a New Haven police spokesman suggested that witnesses might have spotted a law enforcement officer, not an intruder, carrying a long gun.

Nonetheless, police announced that "out of an abundance of caution," they would search the campus room to room, starting with the residential colleges. An armored vehicle pulled up to Calhoun College, where the search began.

Yale lifted the lockdown for all but Calhoun and the Old Campus at 3:10 pm, then released Calhoun 20 minutes later.

“It’s starting to tilt in the direction of an innocent mistake,” Chief Esserman said. But "in this day and age, when there is a call, it behooves us to overreact and not underreact.”

Full coverage is at the New Haven Independent, WTNH, and other local news sites.

UPDATE 5:45 pm: In a message to the Yale community, university vice president Linda Lorimer ’77JD adds a few details to the still-emerging story:

"A few minutes after the [original] Yale Alert was sent to the campus community, a Yale employee called police to report that she saw a man walking on Old Campus with a rifle," she writes. "It now appears that the man she saw may have been one of the early responding police officers carrying a rifle. Besides this caller, no one reported seeing a shooter or a person with a gun on campus. 

"The combined police forces combed the area and have found no suspicious person." Lorimer continues. "However, the police are taking nothing for granted. They are working to track down who made the first (anonymous) phone call and to interview thoroughly everyone involved. As the Chief of New Haven Police made clear in the news conference this afternoon, if it was a prank call that started this chain of events, the authorities intend to prosecute the individual to the fullest extent of the law." 

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