Following a two-and-a-half hour shutdown as a result of unfounded reports of gunshots inside Nassau Hall on Tuesday night, the University’s main administrative building resumed normal operations Wednesday morning.
The police search that took place, which included local Princeton Police Department officers armed with rifles, did not damage the building or items within it, University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua said Wednesday evening.
The initial 7:55 p.m. call on Tuesday night went to the University’s Department of Public Safety, Mbugua said. He explained that the caller, a female, was within the building at the time although she left before the search was concluded, aided by police officers.
“DPS takes every such call very seriously,” Mbugua explained, adding that the department then informed the local police.
Regular occupants of Nassau Hall were made aware of the situation through the University’s emergency messaging system at 8:05 p.m., Mbugua said, a full half an hour before the rest of the University community. The message instructed individuals still at the building to “shelter in place,” although it was unclear if any other individuals besides the caller were inside the building.
“I don’t have information of any other occupants who may have been in the building at the time,” Mbugua explained. “However, being an administrative building, it was mostly unoccupied at that time.”
All emergency messaging was channeled through the Princeton Telephone and Email Notification System, which is able to deliver pre-recorded emails, text messages and phone calls en masse.
Princeton Police took charge of the situation upon their arrival. No DPS officers went inside Nassau Hall. Instead, Mbugua said, DPS “provided a variety of support services” during the incident.
Princeton Police Captain and acting chief of the department Nick Sutter did not return multiple phone calls seeking comment on the incident on Wednesday.
An unarmed force that employs sworn police officers, DPS was tasked with forming a perimeter around Nassau Hall according to standard protocol for incidents involving armed individuals on campus.
Since 2008, the union that represents DPS sworn officers, the Fraternal Order of Police Princeton Lodge No. 75, has been calling for the University to reconsider its position and arm its officers.
“If we do set up an outer perimeter and somebody with a gun comes out, we are unarmed,” current union vice president and DPS officer Paul Proctor said in an interview earlier this year that covered the issue of arming the force. “Our perimeter will just keep moving back away from wherever someone armed is going.”
Proctor was at the scene Tuesday night, covering part of the perimeter set up around Nassau Hall.
DPS officer and union president Mike Michalski declined to comment on this particular incident, but said the union’s stance on arming remained unchanged.
Meanwhile, Mbugua said that DPS cooperated closely with other agencies and described the handling of the situation as an “excellent demonstration of […] cooperation in action.”
Outside of the perimeter surrounding Nassau Hall, events continued as scheduled on Tuesday night and the blue-light towers that include speakers for broadcasting emergency messages were not used.
Mbugua explained that the speakers were not used because the incident was confined to one building. “After the officers responded and assessed the situation, out of an abundance of caution, a message was sent to the entire University community, asking people to stay out of the area,” he added.
The last time the University faced a situation potentially involving a firearm was in March 2009, when a student walked across campus with a replica AK-47 in his hand.