An armed intruder was reported near American University’s campus Wednesday, prompting a three-hour lockdown and a search of campus buildings by AU police and the Metropolitan Police Department. AU said the U.S. Secret Service was also part of the search.
AU Alert: Reports of armed intruder near campus. Lock doors & stay away from windows-If outside, leave campus immediately-Police responding. More info to follow
— American University Police (@AmericanUPolice) July 18, 2018
Mark Story, a university spokesperson, said at approximately 1 p.m., a white male was spotted in the 3300 block of New Mexico Avenue Northwest, near the School of International Service and East Campus residence halls. The individual was reported to have an exposed handgun, Story said in a statement.
D.C. police relayed that information to AU police at approximately 1:11 p.m., Story added. The two police departments conducted a “building-by-building search to ensure public safety,” he said. Through a tweet, AU police said the investigation was focused on the main campus, East Campus and 3201 New Mexico Ave., a building near AU that contains restaurants like Chef Geoff’s and Wagshal’s.
“While the initial report indicated that this person was not on the AU campus, out of an abundance of caution, the American University Police Department issued an AU Alert and directed that the campus be put on lockdown,” Story said.
The lockdown ended at 4:38 p.m. when AU police issued an all-clear. In an updated statement sent at 5:15 p.m., the University said "AUPD and campus administrators will conduct a comprehensive after-action review of today's incident" and continue to work with D.C. police to identify the subject.
Several students reported that they did not receive text or email alerts from the University regarding the armed intruder and subsequent investigation. Kenya Roy, a senior who is working on AU’s campus this summer, said she found out about the alert from a friend and later checked AU’s social media pages for information.
“It’s irresponsible for the notification system to not send out these messages faster or at all,” Roy said by phone. “I’m not necessarily going to be checking AU’s alerts and checking their Twitter page every single day to make sure my life isn’t threatened.”
Roy, who was not on campus during the lockdown, said that she and other students she knows have been on a list to receive alerts in the past but have not received them recently.
Jeremy McLane, a sophomore who is in California for the summer, said he last received an AU alert via text message on March 20 despite alerts being issued since then.
“The only way I found out [about AU alerts] was via social media,” McLane said. “I ended up turning on Twitter notifications for the AU alerts accounts because I don’t know if I’ll get them when I return to campus.”
In a tweet this afternoon, AU attributed the delay in alerts to a “technical issue” that has now been resolved. But some students and staff still reported not receiving text alerts following the University’s announcement.
It still isn’t resolved. I still have not received any texts or emails.
— Scott Boxer (@ScottBoxer) July 18, 2018
Also some staff reports not receiving alerts https://t.co/ASRd5BSD3A
— AU Museum at Katzen (@AUMuseum_Katzen) July 18, 2018
This is not the first time the University has faced criticism for its emergency alert system. In 2013, AU went under lockdown after an off-duty police officer brought a gun onto campus. An AU alert was not issued until after the gunman had left campus, The Eagle reported at the time. The incident raised questions about the effectiveness of AU alerts and how administrators decided when to issue them.
This story has been and will be updated as we learn more information. Follow us on Twitter for updates.