ORLANDO, Fla. - Police on Wednesday discussed a gun scare at the University of Central Florida main campus library, which was cleared Tuesday afternoon after a report of an armed woman was posted on social media.
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UCF Police Department released the 911 calls in the case and started off their news conference with discussing the social media post that prompted the response.
"I was with ... in the stairwell and we saw the girl," UCF Police Chief Richard Beary said as he described the post.
The response increased when 911 callers reported they had seen the witnesses, according to police.
"Timeliness is important in our game of saving lives," Beary said in regards to the alert text that came out, adding that emergency dispatchers put out the information quickly as best as they could.
The alert posted on UCF's website and sent out to students just before 4 p.m. Tuesday read, "*UCF ALERT**UCF ALERT* POSSIBLE MIDDLE EASTERN GUN MAN/WOMAN IN UCF MAIN CAMPUS LIBRARY. AVOID THE AREA!"
"Although it may have been offensive, it was not intended that way," Beary said.
The threat prompted a UCF alert sent out to students, a SWAT team response and evacuations. Police swarmed the UCF campus with assault rifles and told students to get back.
"Somebody was saying that somebody was in the stairwell with a gun, so we saw that, got up and ran out," said student Brittany Fletcher.
"They pulled up right on the front lawn of the library, right here," said student Derek Lowe. "They went in. They evacuated everybody out.
UCF police first said in a tweet that officers were responding to the library in reference to a person with a gun. Police later said they received an unconfirmed social media report of a woman carrying a gun at the library.
The John C. Hitt Library was evacuated for nearly an hour. Police urged students to avoid the area and sent armed officers in to go room to room looking for suspicious activity before the library was cleared at around 5 p.m.
"This is what we train for. Our officers train for thousands and thousands of hours every year from crisis de-escalation to active shooters, and that training kicked into high gear today," Courtney Gilmartin, public information officer for the UCF Police Department, told News 6.
One shot fired on campus
Just as the library was cleared, News 6 was on the scene when a police officer accidentally discharged his rifle, firing a single gunshot.
"One of the officers was getting ready to leave the scene and he went to secure his gun in the rack in his car -- it's a security measure we all take here -- and something happened. The gun accidentally discharged," Gilmartin said. "Nobody was hurt and we're going to look into the source, whether it was malfunction of the weapon or a problem with the rack."
Beary said that the bullet hit the roof of the officer's vehicle. The officer has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience.
Video and pictures from the scene showed students gathered outside of the library around the reflecting pond with officer cruisers parked near it. Officers were seen going into the library armed with rifles.
The library soon reopened, but the initial warning lingered. Some say it targets people from the Middle East, and it quickly received backlash from the Islamic community.
"I thought it was problematic that they were able to detact ethnicity but not necessarily the gender. I think there needs to be a thorough investigation before sending out an alert to 60,000 members of the UCF community," said Rasha Mubarak, with the Counsel on American-Islamic Relations.
Now, CAIR wants answers.
"We do call on them to create a proper investigation on who's posting maybe possible discriminatory micro-aggressive comments against Muslim students -- Middle Eastern students, for that matter," Mubarak said.
News 6 asked police if they found the person whom students were talking about on social media but they told us when they searched they didn't find anything or anyone suspicious.
Other campus operations remained normal as the investigation continued. UCF tweeted that the library will be open until 3 a.m. Wednesday for students to study in preparation for final exams, which start on Thursday.
Check back for more on this story.
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