Humans vs. Zombies player sparks gun scare on campus

<p>University police officers speak with a man who had a Nerf gun during the shelter in place alert on campus. <em>Tim Underhill //&nbsp;</em><em>Photo provided</em></p>

University police officers speak with a man who had a Nerf gun during the shelter in place alert on campus. Tim Underhill // Photo provided


  • UPD determined that the situation was a young man involved in a game of Humans vs. Zombies. 
  • Because of the man's gaming equipment, body armor and a toy gun, multiple calls were made to police reporting the sighting.
  • Police determined the situation was nonthreatening after speaking with the man.

Information provided by Ball State Student Affairs.

Video by NewsLink Indiana

The Humans vs. Zombies game has been suspended from campus following a gun scare on Wednesday.

A woman witnessed a player carrying a painted Nerf rifle around campus, and because she couldn't tell it was fake, she worriedly called the police, according to a 911 call obtained by the Daily News.

"I'm sitting at Ball State and I see a young man, it looks like he's carrying a gun, walking toward the library," the woman said. "I couldn't see the gun from the front, I saw him after he passed me."

RELATED: 911 call for gun scare shows woman only saw man from behind

Junior Chinese major Brady Fisher, the organizer for Humans vs. Zombies at Ball State, said the group had an alumnus — not a Ball State student — come to campus in combat gear to play. The man had a painted black Nerf blaster with an orange tip and was also wearing a skull mask — a guise Fisher said is typical for players.

“I realized it was one of my players by seeing the suspect with a green bandana on. Humans have green bandanas on their arms and zombies have it on their heads," Fisher said. "I immediately knew it was one of our players, so I called the Ball State Police Department."

Students, faculty and staff were told to shelter in place for 20 minutes following the report of an armed person. The first alert from the university was issued at 2:09 p.m.: "A male suspect wearing all black with a green bandana has been sighted carrying a long rifle near Bracken Library and Woodworth Complex."

Authorities at one point converged on a man in the lobby of the David Letterman Communication and Media Building. The man left with officers but was not in handcuffs and did not appear to be arrested. Other details were not immediately available, though in the confusion, police rushed to check the scene at two residence halls.

Police radio traffic indicated alarms had been set off in Woodworth Complex and Botsford/Swinford residence halls, indicating an armed person at each of those locations. Officers who went to the halls radioed back that the alarms were sent not because of any sighting of armed people, but because the emergency alert had been issued campus-wide.

An all clear was issued at 2:29 p.m. Fisher said University Police Department officers spoke with the visiting player who "was able to explain the situation." Shortly following, the Urban Games League — which hosts Humans vs. Zombies around Ball State's campus — agreed to suspend games for the rest of the academic year while they discuss future options with university police.

On behalf of Humans vs. Zombies, Fisher said members of the club "[are] deeply sorry that this happened."

“We hope to stress that in the future we are going to make sure that this is an isolated incident," Fisher said. "We understand that first and foremost our club’s responsibility is to Ball State and our community players. We are deeply troubled by this and will do everything we can in the future to make sure it never happens.”

The Urban Games League hopes to continue its "very cooperative relationship with UPD" as the group moves forward, Fisher said.

UPD Chief Jim Duckham agreed and said he appreciated the helpful responses from those around the university regarding the incident. 

"We work with the campus community to speak up if they see something. They did in this instance, and that was exactly the correct thing to do," Duckham said in a press release. "We quickly responded to various witness reports and were able to bring this incident to a safe ending."

Duckham added that UPD "regularly practice[s] emergency drills" to ensure quick responses and maintain campus safety.

Also in a press release after the incident, Alan Hargrave, director of housing and residence life, urged people participating in live-action games to "exercise discretion about any items that may be perceived as a weapon" and be aware that such games could "cause alarm."

Humans vs. Zombies is a game of tag that is played at schools and campuses around the world, according to the organization's website.

The game starts out with all players acting as “humans,” and one person is chosen to be the “original zombie.” This zombie must tag and "eat" a human every 48 hours or they will "starve" and be out of the game.

According to the website, certain areas of a campus are considered “no play zones” where the game is considered suspended. The banned areas include academic buildings and libraries, and “blasters” — which are typically Nerf guns — must be concealed.


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