False Alarm Panics Students

By: Autria Godfrey
By: Autria Godfrey

April 24, 2007

The scene was similar to one witnessed just over one week ago. Police officers with guns drawn searched through an engineering building for a man reportedly carrying a gun.

But this time, it was an apparent case of poor judgment.

Several students say they were filming a movie for a drama class project. The scene included a robbery, and the students chose Wilsdorf Hall to film it.

"They hadn't told their professor that they were going to use this particular prop in the filming, so folks weren't aware they were even going to be there," UVa Police Department Captain Michael Coleman said.

When students inside saw a man walking the halls with a gun, they called 911 and locked themselves in classrooms.

"There were three of my friends in there that I go to classes with and they were stuck in our study room that has a padlock on it so they were hiding in there," said Michael Bruce, an engineering student.

After searching the building, police arrested 19-year-old Christopher Smith and charged him with brandishing a firearm, but not before sending students into a panic.

"These girls were absolutely in hysterics," Bruce said.

As the news spread across grounds Tuesday, students were shocked by how someone could pull such a stunt with the tragedy at Virginia Tech still so fresh on their minds.

"I think it was kind of ridiculous that after such a thing that happened at Tech, that some stupid kids would be in there with a play gun filming a movie," Bruce said.

One student was taken to the hospital Monday night after having what police described was a panic attack, but no one was injured.

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