Behind the tape

Ball State students share experiences of being locked down in Student Recreation and Wellness Center

Police secure the Student Recreation and Wellness Center after a report of an armed assailant in the building. DN PHOTO COREY OHLENKAMP
Police secure the Student Recreation and Wellness Center after a report of an armed assailant in the building. DN PHOTO COREY OHLENKAMP

Sitting underneath his desk in the darkness, Dan Tracy listened to every noise outside of his office in the Health and Physical Activity Building.

“Every step or shuffle of feet, it could be a guy out there with a gun,” he said.

His worry began at about 4:30 p.m. Friday when the graduate assistant in sports administration heard a male voice yell “Gun!” The shouts echoed from what he thinks was a stairwell more than 100 feet away.

Tracy turned off the lights, locked the door and went back to his desk, scouring for more information on what was happening on his computer. He scrolled across a tweet that said police were gathered in front of the Student Recreation and Wellness Center. Tracy then knew, “this is probably going down here.”

Within 15 minutes after the first shout came another, bearing the same alarming call: “Gun.”

Tracy thought to himself, “The person yelling must be in plain sight of the gun.”

Suddenly, he realized if someone stood in front of the office door with a gun and fired, he would be in the bullet’s path. So, he ducked under the desk and waited.

“I had no idea whether there was a gun or not — whether the building is safe or not,” he said.

Though the sounds of walkie-talkies echoed into the office, Tracy didn’t feel secure to leave. He prepared himself for someone to knock on the door. He decided he would ask them the Muncie police phone number to test if they were a killer or an officer.

Tracy texted his dad that he was safe and tried to make as little movement as possible.

“If it was a crazed killer, if he heard even slight movement, you never know,” he said. “Honestly, I was prepared for the worst, if this was a Virginia Tech situation.”

Meanwhile, a few floors down from his office, flashing lights and officers toting firearms met students. Kurtis Castrodale, a senior sales major, was working at the rec center when people were evacuated into the equipment room.

“I was wondering what was going on at the start because they said ‘lockdown,’ but I really didn’t know what it was,” Castrodale said. “Once I realized that everyone was locked in here and they brought like 30 people in here, we saw these police with M16s. I felt safe, I never felt hesitant about the whole situation while we were in the room.”

Jordan VanWinkle, a junior exercise major, was warming up at swim practice when the students were told they were on lockdown and needed to evacuate to the locker room. She said no one really knew what was going on and relied on Twitter and emergency text messages from the university.

She said the swim coach was trying to keep them calm, saying it was “probably just a drill, no big deal.”

“Then we saw the Twitter updates and everything and I had no idea what to think,” VanWinkle said. “My first thought was, ‘I need to call my mom, and I need to call my dad and my sister.’ And that’s what I did. I just kind of kept them updated through it, and they were freaking out, so I probably shouldn’t have called them until it was all over. But I wanted to tell them I loved them before, if anything happened.”

The group VanWinkle was in was one of the last groups to be escorted from the building.

Layne Fulk, a sophomore marketing major, was on the basketball courts playing with her friends, as they usually do each Friday.

“One of the staff members runs out onto the court, and she’s just screaming her head off, and we could tell she is freaked out,” Fulk said. “She says, ‘Everyone, we need to get into a safe place right now. Grab your stuff and follow me.’ And we all just look at each other and take off and get all of our stuff. We all went into the equipment room, and they locked it up. They told us just to sit tight, they don’t know what’s going on right now, but they just told us it would be a few minutes, nothing big. But apparently that changed.”

From there, Fulk said the situation got more and more intense. At first, students were relaxed and joking. Then tweets and texts flooded phones with photos of police cars lining the rec center.

The lights were turned off, and they sat in the dark. They put their phones on silent. The stories about what could be happening around them grew. There were talks of a hostage situation and an armed assailant right above where the group sat.

“Then we saw the picture of the guy in the red sweatshirt with his hands up and that was directly above where we were, because we were in the equipment room downstairs, and so that kind of freaked us out, too,” Fulk said. “We could see figures running — we had two small window slits that we could just see light. We kept seeing figures run past, but we really did not know much about what was going on — just stories that people were telling.”

Eventually, police officers came into the room and everyone was divided up and quickly searched. Then an officer led them out of the building.

“He said, ‘OK, everyone, follow me,’” Fulk said. “We were going pretty fast, almost running speed, out of the building [and] across the street. The last time we had been outside, it was light out like mid-afternoon. So we got out there, and it’s just completely dark — cop lights are everywhere, helicopters were circling around, and we were just like ‘Oh my God.’”

Tracy returned to the office Saturday afternoon, more aware of his surroundings than he was before the incident.

Looking back, Tracy realized he didn’t have anything to defend himself except for pens and scissors. As a coach, Tracy had CPR training, but he wasn’t trained for anything like this. Eventually, police escorted him and a group of coworkers to safety.

“I was praying no one would get hurt,” Tracy said. “I don’t know if it will happen again. I’m sure it will because that’s just the way the world works.”

Daily News staff contributed to this story.

How it unfolded

6 police departments search for reported armed assailant at Ball State

Behind the tape

Ball State students share experiences of being locked down in Student Recreation and Wellness Center

From miles away

Off campus community, parents watched police chase from a distance

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