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Clayton State locked down during gun scare

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Life at Clayton State University was temporarily interrupted Wednesday when three students and a faculty member reported seeing a man with a gun on the university's Morrow campus.

The university was put on lockdown about 4:30 p.m. after the school's public safety office was contacted about the man, who witnesses said appeared to be carrying a silver handgun, said university Police Chief Bobby Hamil.

Students told police the man was walking away from the James M. Baker University Center, heading toward Clayton State Boulevard. Hamil said officials were concerned the man may have been heading toward Laker Hall, the dorms for first-year students.

Hamil lifted the lockdown after about an hour, when authorities determined the man was no longer on campus. Police were still searching for him and reviewing security tapes Wednesday night.

"We don't know if he was an angry ex-boyfriend or a student upset about a grade or if he was going after someone at Laker Hall and he just changed his mind, but for whatever reason, he left the campus," said Hamil.

The university's public safety office first received a call from a faculty member about the man. Shortly thereafter, two female students came to the office to notify police. One of the students told police the man "appeared angry," said Hamil. Another student reported the man about 30 minutes later, after the lockdown had begun, the chief added.

"All of our [university police] officers were on campus for a staff meeting, and they immediately headed toward the university center and fanned out from there," Hamil said. "We were mainly concerned about the dorm because he was headed in that area."

After university police interviewed the students, and determined a lockdown was necessary, officials contacted university spokesman John Shiffert and began the process of securing the campus. "I sent out an e-mail to staff, to faculty and to students telling them 'Go to your office, lock your doors and don't come out until you receive the all clear,'" said Shiffert.

University officials then used the campus' emergency loudspeakers to further spread the message about the lockdown.

The lockdown prompted university officials to contact the University System of Georgia's Board of Regents office, as well as the Lake City and Morrow police departments, to alert them to the situation. Lake City and Morrow police assisted university officers in a search of the campus.

The chief said he was pleased with the way police responded to the reports about the man. He said the university community complying with the instructions given out over the loudspeakers helped officers secure the campus.

"We controlled the campus fairly quickly," Hamil said. "It helps our investigation when you don't have people running around while you're trying to find an unidentified individual."