Active shooter threat made to Rider’s campus determined to be hoax

BREAKING NEWS: Will be updated as more information becomes available.

By Amethyst Martinez and Kaitlyn McCormick

The alert of an active shooter threat sent to Rider faculty, students, and staff on Monday afternoon was determined to be a “swatting event,” according to the Lawrence Police Department. 

Swatting is defined as a prank call to emergency services in an attempt to draw a large armed police presence to a specific location.

The campus community was alerted of a potential active shooter after Rider Public Safety received an anonymous phone call threatening gun violence on campus, according to multiple university-wide notifications. The campus was later declared safe after a shelter-in-place order that lasted 52 minutes. 

“Lawrence Police officers conducted a thorough investigation on the campus of Rider University and determined the threat was not credible,” according to a press release from Lawrence Township Police Capt. Joseph Lech IV. 

No arrests were made, according to the same press release.

According to John Bochanski, department chair of Rider’s Department of Computer Science and Physics, a police scanner mentioned Hill Hall during the shelter-in-place. Multiple student reports said that there was a high police presence at Hill Hall.

The first alert, sent at 1:16 p.m., initiated a shelter-in-place across the university due to a threat made to campus. The alert cautioned faculty, staff and students to stay or move inside and stay away from windows and doors. 

The next alert was sent two minutes later, stating that Public Safety and Lawrence Police Department were investigating a threat made to campus. 

Freshman data analytics major Wesley Henri, who lives in Hill Hall, was in Bierenbaum Fisher Hall during the shelter-in-place. He said, “We heard noise coming from the second floor and then we heard screaming, like, ‘Get on the floor,’ and that sort of stuff.”

At 1:21 p.m. the university disclosed that they had received a threat of a potential active shooter: “This is not a drill.” 

Multiple students reported taking precautions in their classrooms, including closing blinds, locking doors and barricading doorways with tables and chairs. Overall the reactions were mixed.

Rider students barricade the door with tables during the shelter-in-place order on Monday afternoon.

“I was in a classroom at the time, and everybody was sort of calm, but there was still a little bit of tension,” said sophomore sports media major Joe Garino, who lives in Hill Hall. “Thankfully, there was nothing that happened at all, and we’ll continue our day.”

Brianna Ortega, the sister of a Rider student, called the university to try and get more information about the threat after hearing that her sister, junior elementary education major Megan Ortega, was sheltering in place in the Fine Arts building. 

“I was getting ready to drive over there,” Ortega said, recalling that she was trying to find updates online. She said that the person who answered the phone was also under shelter-in-place orders and instructed her that the Rider alert system would give her and her sister the most updated information.

Another update came at 1:31 p.m. informing the community that the Lawrence Police Department and Rider Public Safety were investigating the threat.

The next alert came seven minutes later at 1:38 p.m. stating that the Main and South Entrance of campus were closed to entering and exiting traffic, the shelter-in-place still ongoing.

At 1:53 p.m. the Rider alert system informed that there was no confirmed active shooter at that time, but classes were instructed to stay in session and the campus to continue to shelter in place. 

The shelter-in-place was formally canceled at 2:08 p.m. with no active threat to the campus.

The university published a follow-up to the shelter-in-place order: “We are currently gathering more information to share with our community as soon as possible,” it read. 

At 4:21 p.m. Rider Provost DonnaJean Fredeen sent a message to faculty via email, thanking them for protecting and keeping students calm during the shelter-in-place. 

While Fredeen said classes will meet for the remainder of the evening, she urged faculty to “be as flexible as possible in regards to [their] attendance policy” in the case that students may have opted to not attend.

According to a university-wide email from the Office of the President following the shelter-in-place, “Even though it was determined that there was no credible threat to campus, we understand the need to shelter in place can cause feelings of anxiety and stress. Please know that assistance is available for our students, faculty and staff.”

Shaun Chornobroff and Jake Tiger contributed to the reporting of the story.

The Rider News will be providing updates as we receive them.

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