UNC locked down after rifle report

UNC and local and state law enforcement officers did not find anyone after responding to an anonymous call Wednesday morning about a person with a rifle near the Navy ROTC building at South Columbia and McCauley streets.

The call came in to 911 around 8:22 a.m., and police think it was made from campus, said UNC Police Chief Jeff McCracken. Officials sounded campus warning sirens and sent alerts at 8:53 a.m.

UNC police locked down the campus and closed roads as they and officers from Chapel Hill and Carrboro police, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the N.C. Highway Patrol searched for a person with a gun. Students stood in large groups along Franklin and South Columbia streets as classes were temporarily suspended, while other students and staff already on campus sought shelter in windowless rooms and hallways.

“At this time, we are following up to see if there is any other information available from the callers,” McCracken said late Wednesday morning. “There does not appear to be a threat to the campus at this time.”

Parade rifles – some of which are functional – are stored in the NROTC building, McCracken said, but the building is locked at all times.

“We have no idea of the circumstances at this point,” he said. “It may very well be that the person felt like they observed somebody with a rifle, and we obviously want people, if they think they see that, to call us.”

UNC officials gave the all-clear signal and sent out a message at 9:25 a.m.

“To everyone who took heed to the emergency notification, we appreciate that, and for those who may not have, please make sure you do that in the future,” McCracken said. “We don’t have any way of knowing exactly what we’re dealing with until we begin the investigation, so when the emergency notification system is activated, I would ask that everybody follow the directions on that system.”

A second, separate incident with a BB gun was reported a short time later at an off-campus home on Battle Lane, Chapel Hill police spokesman Lt. Josh Mecimore said. Police found a homeowner with a BB gun who was trying to get rid of small animals that had been damaging his home, Mecimore said.

“He did not fire the BB gun and was advised that the town has an ordinance that bans shooting BB guns within the town limits,” Mecimore said.

Authorities were still trying to determine who placed the 911 call about a rifle at UNC. UNC Police ask anyone with information about the incident to call the UNC Police Department or to contact the Chapel Hill-Carrboro-UNC Crime Stoppers at 919-942-7515.

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb