Prof. on MSU false alarm: We were a unit

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — An alert warning that there may be a gunman on Michigan State University’s campus Monday afternoon turned out to be a false alarm, but it was a scare for those on campus at the time.

At 12:56 p.m., campus police received reports that there was a man with a gun in the parking lot of Bessey Hall, off Farm Lane south of Grand River, according to MSU. Officers arrived at the classroom building two minutes later.

Police sent alert notifications to students at 1 p.m. warning there was a potential threat at Bessey Hall.

Bessey Hall on Michigan State University campus. (Feb. 24, 2014)
Bessey Hall on Michigan State University campus. (Feb. 24, 2014)

“MSU ALERT,” the text read. “Man with a gun seen heading into Bessey Hall secure-in-place immediately. Please advise others if you can. (sic)”

Lori Jackson was teaching an accounting class when the alert went out.

“Basically what happened is we decided that if we did nothing that we would be sitting ducks so we decided to try to protect ourselves. I instructed the students to basically maintain a line. I said, ‘This really is like in a movie and we stick together and hold this line if he comes in, because if we lay down, he’ll get all of us. But if we stand together, we’re going to get him first,'” said Jackson.

Jackson tried to lock the doors, but couldn’t figure out how to properly lock them at the time.

“The problem that I know happened today is, for example, I’m in multiple classrooms all the time and I didn’t know how to lock those doors within five seconds. That’s the thing that I’m disappointed with. I will never let that happen again,” said Jackson.

Instead, the students began pushing desks against the doors and hovered in a section that they felt would be safe from an intruder.

“Everyone kind of pushed the desks. At least half the desks were pushed toward the door and there were at least 10 in front of each one so it would have been tough for anyone to push through the door,” said Christopher Winter, a student in Jackson’s class at the time.

Winter said Jackson instructed all of the students quickly and he was impressed that she had a plan in place.

“Our teacher was doing a great job of telling everyone what to do. She seemed like she rehearsed it a few times. She’s like, ‘All right, everybody, let’s push the desk against the doors. Let’s get away from the view of windows.’ She was very organized and loud enough for everyone to hear,” said Winter.

Jackson said there was no time to show emotions, but many thoughts were running through her mind.

“Every emotion, every thought, every human that you’ve ever loved is flashing through your eyes and you’re wondering if you’re ever going to see them again or if the people in rows in front of you and behind you are ever going to see the people that they love again,” Jackson said.

Jackson insists that there was no hero in the situation and everyone acted as a team.

“There is no hero and if there is a hero, it was us together, period,” said Jackson.

Both Jackson and Winter said they will never forget what happened today.

“There wasn’t mayhem. There wasn’t panic. There was a group of 30-some-odd individuals in a classroom working to protect each other today and that’s what I’ll remember for the rest of my life,” said Jackson.

That alert was canceled at 1:06 p.m. after officers discovered the man was a member of the ROTC who was not in uniform and that the gun was a replica rifle.

“At 1:00pm we had a report of a person with a gun at Bessey Hall. MSUPD found a person using a training weapon and there is no threat,” the followup text read.

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