News, Trinity

Campus locks down for false shooter alert

Trinity Washington University students, from left, Ramata Sesay, Indya Fleet, Kiara Accad and Niylah Collins check their phones for updated alerts April 13, 2023, after a false active shooter call was reported at the Washington campus. (Trinity Times photo/Miriam Barcenas)

By Miriam Barcenas
Trinity Times Correspondent

As Trinity Washington University junior Niylah Collins was driving to school April 13, 2023, she received an alert on her phone telling her there was a report of an active shooter on campus.

“I pulled over,” Collins said after getting the initial alert. “I called my mom. I was going back and forth with her. ‘Should I come home, should I continue to class?'”

It was a frightening moment for the nursing student, who did continue driving in the direction of campus and soon after received an “all-clear” message that the shooter report was false and likely a prank.

Trinity Washington University went into lockdown after receiving a report of an active shooter on campus and though the notice turned out to be false and campus activities resumed, the experience rattled the school community.

“When I first heard the news, I was in the shower, so, it was really scary,” said Ramata Sesay, a Trinity junior in the nursing program. “I checked my phone. I could hear doors (closing), like everyone was moving in and out. I just needed to get out of the shower and go to my room and close the door. It was really scary.”

Shortly before 10 a.m. April 13 Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department received a call from its emergency 911 system reporting an active shooter in a computer lab, giving Trinity’s address, 125 Michigan Ave., according to a campus-wide email sent by Trinity President Patricia McGuire.

“The police alerted Trinity and told us to lockdown, and we sent out the immediate emergency alert,” McGuire said. “The police arrived and swept through our buildings. However, the police found nothing. They gave the ‘all clear’ at 10:10 a.m.”

The reports of active shooter hoax calls are on the rise at schools across the U.S.

These fake calls are often called “swatting” – in reference to the “SWAT teams” of armed police that respond to active shooter incidents.

The Educator’s School Safety Network has recorded more than 380 fake active shooter reports at U.S. schools since the start of the 2022-2023 school year through March 30, which is dramatically up from the 69 reported during the 2018-2019 school year.

Tracking where these hoax calls are coming from is also difficult, considering technology has made it easier to conceal the origins of the communications.

Reports of an active shooter is an unnerving experience for most people, given recent news of the carnage that has occurred in the U.S. because of mass shootings. 

There have been nearly 150 mass shootings in the U.S. so far in 2023 as of April 10, with many of them happening on school campuses, such as a Christian elementary school in Nashville in March and Michigan State University in East Lansing in February.

Shizuka Hsieh, an associate professor of chemistry at Trinity, was working with a student in her office when she received the emergency alert. 

Trinity Washington University Professor Shizuka Hsieh checks email for updated alerts April 13, 2023, after a false active shooter call was reported at the Washington campus. (Trinity Times photo/Miriam Barcenas)

After making sure her student felt safe, Hsieh then made sure the other professors nearby knew about the lockdown order and then corralled students in the hallway to shelter in a safe conference room. 

“Having that (alert) on their text or on their email” made it easier to help the students understand why it was necessary for them to move quickly into a safe space, Hsieh said.

Law enforcement officials warn that “swatting” hoax calls are not only stressful, but they can also put campus communities at risk as armed police sweep through school grounds and buildings anticipating danger.

Four students at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, had guns pointed at them by police as they were ordered out of their campus housing suite during a false report of an armed gunman at the college April 4, according to an article in the Harvard Crimson, the university’s student news organization.

About an hour after the “all clear” was sent out to Trinity students, faculty and staff on campus, McGuire delivered a follow-up message excusing students from classes if they were feeling stressed out about the incident, even though all university activities continued.

The university president also urged anyone in the Trinity community who had not already signed up for “trinitydcalerts” – an emergency text alert system used by the school – to do so.

“Our emergency system worked as it is supposed to, and the police cleared the campus quickly,” McGuire assured students, staff, and faculty. “There never was a real threat. However, we are heightening surveillance. We ask everyone to be alert to any suspicious persons and to report anything you see immediately.”

Nursing student Indya Fleet was relieved when the “all clear” was sent out, but the experience was upsetting.”I was pacing around in my room, like, what do I do?” Fleet said. “The first thing I did was call my mom. She was telling me to just stay put. Stay there. If you want to come home, come home, after they clear it. I was scared.”


  1. Pingback: Seeking Safety in Perilous Times - President's Office

  2. Greetings! Very helpful advice within this post! It is the little changes that will make the biggest changes. Thanks for sharing!