Crime & Courts

KU dorm locked down as police seek possible gunman

LAWRENCE — Students were allowed to re-enter a University of Kansas residence hall Friday after more than three hours of waiting for police to conduct a room-by-room search for a possible gunman.

No shots or injuries were reported at the 10-story McCollum Hall, university officials said.

Police began searching the dorm, the largest on the Lawrence campus with about 900 students, after a student reported hearing a man in a neighboring room ask about his gun. Another student later reported seeing a man with a handgun.

The search started around 2 p.m. Friday, with students already inside McCollum being told to stay in their rooms. Students were allowed to leave individual floors as officers from the university and Lawrence police departments and Kansas State Highway Patrol checked the premises.

The university as a whole was not under lockdown. University officials used e-mail, text messages and its public address system to warn students to say away from McCollum.

By 5:30 p.m., the university said police had completed the search without finding any gunman.

University spokeswoman Jill Jess said the search began when a student living at the dorm reported hearing an argument in an adjacent room and a man saying, "Where's my gun?" That student reported the remark to the front desk, which called campus security.

The person who made the comment about the gun was described as a man in his late teens or early 20s with tattooed arms.

Jess said another student reported later that he had seen a person matching the description carrying a gun, and it was also reported that the person had left the building.

Freshman Elizabeth Najim, 20, of Wichita, barricaded herself in her third-floor room during the police search. She placed a bed, mattress, chairs and dirty laundry in front of her door.

She spent her time talking to her parents and boyfriend on the phone and sending text messages to friends. She said officers stopped in her room at one point and told her they thought the danger had passed, but urged her to stay barricaded to be safe.

Najim said the situation was tense at the time and her parents were panicked.

"I'm pretty relaxed now," she said after the search. "Most of the security is gone."

Zech Harjo, 19, a freshman from Norman, Okla., who lives on the sixth floor, was part of a growing crowd of more than 100 students who ignored warnings to steer clear of the building as police searched. They gathered on the street outside McCollum. Some congregated out of curiosity; others were frustrated and waiting to get back to their rooms.

Harjo said two armed officers came to his dorm room, knocked on his door with a gun drawn and asked to search his room. Afterward, he was told he could leave.

"It's not my nature to worry about too much stuff," Harjo said. "But I've been talking to people on Facebook and some of them are freaking out. I told them it would be OK."

Related stories from Wichita Eagle

  Comments