An initial report of a man carrying what was believed to be an assault weapon near the University of Maryland campus on Thursday ended up being an ROTC member with a rubber rifle used for training, according to a police news release.
At about 1:58 p.m., University of Maryland Police received a report from two students who thought they'd seen a "possible armed subject" with an AR-15 rifle near Ritchie Coliseum. Further investigation resulted in an all-clear at 2:48 p.m. when police determined the supposed weapon was a rubber replica of a long rifle, and was incapable of being fired, Maj. Marc Limansky said.
The man seen with the rubber replica was identified as a non-commissioned officer with the Marine Corps who is assigned to the Naval ROTC program, which is a joint venture between this university and George Washington University, Limansky said. He was wearing plain clothes at the time of the report, according to the news release.
"We were able to contact the individual through the ROTC and have them return back to campus so we could verify what they were doing," Limansky said.
An initial UMD Alert reporting a "person armed with an AR-15 rifle" was sent to the campus community at 2:25 p.m. because police had not located and identified the man at that time, according to the news release. The man had, however, been seen earlier on police Security Operation Center cameras entering a vehicle and heading away from the campus, eliminating a notion of imminent danger, Limansky said.
The Department of Fraternity & Sorority Life "sent something out to chapter leadership immediately" as soon as it heard about the report at about 2:15 p.m., director Matt Supple said.
"If we had any indication that lives were at stake, we would have issued the alert earlier," Limansky said, noting the DFSL's decision to send the alert beforehand was its own. "Once we realized the individual left campus, and we were reasonably certain that this was a member of the ROTC, we were just seeking to verify the information at that point."
Limansky noted that there was no campus lockdown, and that any classes or buildings that went into lockdown were likely "individual decisions."
Following the incident, Police Chief David Mitchell met with ROTC command staff members to ensure this scenario does not happen in the future, the release stated.
"They're going to talk to … the people that report to them, and ensure that when they're carrying these replica weapons, these rubber rifles, that they handle them carefully and keep them concealed within some kind of bag or case, following their own procedures," Limansky said.
The Navy ROTC declined to comment.
Even though the report turned out to be a false alarm, Limansky said he is "very proud" of the two students who called 911 when they saw something suspicious.
"That's exactly what we want our students to do," he said.
In a case of a real emergency, police send an alert informing students of appropriate action, such as seeking shelter or evacuating, Limansky said. Students wishing to report things that seem suspicious can text 911 on UMD Guardian app, he said.
Staff writers Alex Carolan and Naomi Grant contributed to this report.