A lack of information provided as Ball State UPD responded to a report of a gun discharge led to spread of confusion and rumors on campus

Ball State University resident hall Studebaker West shown in the photo on Sept. 20. Mya Cataline, DN
Ball State University resident hall Studebaker West shown in the photo on Sept. 20. Mya Cataline, DN

This story has been updated.

Confusion and uncertainty were common refrains from some students who said they didn’t know what to do when a report of a gunshot on campus Saturday sent questions circulating online, especially after videos showing university police officers with visible weapons standing outside one residence hall were shared. 

UPD officers stand holding weapons near a police vehicle outside of Studebaker West around 8:45 p.m. Sept. 16. Video provided by Angel Wellwerts.

Isabella Muncie and Melody Miller, first-year students living in the DeHority Complex, were dropped off at the roundabout behind the complex after a worship night event. The pair said they saw a traffic back-up and a police car with flashing lights that was unable to get around the traffic, so the students said the police vehicle went onto the sidewalk to get around the stopped cars.

“It was kind of terrifying because we jumped out of the way. We were shaken up by that,” Muncie said. 

Muncie and Miller said students in their hall’s group chat claimed they were under lockdown.

No official communication about the incident came from the university until a public safety advisory was sent at approximately 10:10 p.m., about an hour after the videos and social media posts began to circulate.

That alert said, “Earlier this evening the University Police Department responded to a report of a discharged firearm in a residence hall room in Studebaker West housing complex on campus. UPD has concluded there is no immediate threat to campus community. UPD continues to investigate the incident. The campus community will be notified via regular emergency alert systems if additional action becomes necessary.”

In their Sept. 27 meeting, Student Government Association responded to the events of that night.

"This statement concerns the lack of information surrounding these evenets which has thereby created a general feeling of unease amongst our student body," the SGA response said. "This is not consistent with the mission of the university to build and foster a vibrant and safe campus community."

Immediately following the incident that night, Angel Wellwerts and Aubrey Wilmoth, first-year residents of Studebaker West, were trying to get into their dorm.

“There [were] just cop cars everywhere and everyone was, not gonna say frantic, but there was some chaos,” Wilmoth said. “And then [UPD] screamed at us through the megaphone, ‘Okay, either get out or go inside.’”

Greg Fallon, university spokesman, said, immediately after the incident via email, information about whether a shot had been fired or a gun had been found and other details of the case would not be provided, citing an ongoing police investigation.

In a recent update, Fallon said via email it has been confirmed a shot was fired.

"UPD’s investigation indicates a single round, which was an accidental discharge, was fired," Fallon said via email. "There were no injuries."

Fallon said a single suspect has been identified.

"That person is not a Ball State student," Fallon said via email. "Discussions between University Police Department and the Delaware County Prosecutor’s office regarding criminal charges are ongoing.

The investigation remains open and is ongoing.

UPD officer checks a car outside of Studebaker West around 8:45 p.m. Sept. 16. Video provided by Angel Wellwerts.

Additionally, he said  emergency alerts are only sent if “there is an imminent threat or action is needed by students to ensure safety. UPD quickly assessed the incident on Saturday and determined it did not meet either of those measures. The University (sic) issued a BSUInform email to notify students that an investigation was ongoing but that there was no threat to campus.”

On the Health and Safety portion of  Ball State’s website, examples are given by the university about when BSUinform alerts can be sent. According to the website, a BSUInform may be sent “to alleviate concerns and dispel rumors.” 

The Daily News called Ro-Anne Royer Engle, vice president of student affairs, to get clarification on the policy. Royer Engle is listed as one member of the university’s Risk Management team, but the Daily News was told any calls about the incident were to be directed to the university’s public relations office. 

When the Ball State Daily News requested information about student reports that halls were under lockdown, Fallon responded by saying “What three dorms are you under the impression were put on lockdown?”

When students Muncie and Miller entered DeHority Complex, Miller said the resident assistants were checking ID cards.

“We all had to check in individually,” Miller said. “They were checking guests' cards and saying who couldn't come in.”

The two said the situation was unsettling.

“We went up to our room. Sat there for a while. Prayed. Cried. Listened to worship music,” Muncie said.

Muncie said she began to think about what she would do if she had to act in, what she believed was at the time, an active shooter incident.

“When you're in the moment [and] you hear something's actually happening, it's a lot different,” Muncie said. “I was thinking [that] if something happened to [Miller], what would I do? Do I stop and help you? Do I just move on? I have family, do I risk my life?”

Fallon said of the incident, “officers were able to ascertain within minutes of the initial call to 911 there was not an active shooter and there was no threat to campus.”

Contact Abigail Denault with comments at abigail.denault@bsu.edu and Mya Cataline with comments at mbcataline@bsu.edu.


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