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Gunman Sighting Now Likely “Innocent Mistake”

by Thomas MacMillan & Cora Lewis | Nov 25, 2013 1:14 pm

(49) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: The Hill

Thomas MacMillan Photo (Updated 6:11 p.m.: Lockdown lifted.) New Haven’s police chief said late Monday afternoon that it seems likely that an eyewitness may have mistaken a cop for a roaming gunman Monday—sending New Haven into a daylong panic.

Chief Dean Esserman made the remarks at a press conference at the Shubert Theater on College Street.

Police had set up an emergency media command post at the theater as local, state and federal law-enforcement agents searched downtown buildings all day looking for a rifle-toting man allegedly bent on shooting up Yale’s campus.

Yale officially lifted its “lockdown” of Old Campus shortly after 5 p.m. No gunman was found.

Esserman confirmed that someone did call 911 Monday morning to report that a roommate was on his way to shoot up the Yale campus. The call lasted between five and 30 seconds, he said. He said the caller sounded like a “confused person.”

After that, Yale sent out a campus-wide alert. Police subsequently reported that “several” witnesses saw a gunman at large carrying a long gun. Later, Yale Vice-President Linda Lorimer said that only one person reported seeing a man with a gun on campus. That man was probably a cop, looking for a gunman, police said.

But by late afternoon, police concluded that people may have been confused.

“It is starting to tilt in the direction of an innocent mistake,” Esserman said of the eyewitness testimony. “It started with a purposeful and malicious call.”

“We are beginning to think that may have been a police officer,” not a civilian gunman, who was seen, he said.

State police, FBI agents, as well as members of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives streamed into New Haven. Police closed off streets; the university advised people remaining on campus (those not already home for Thanksgiving break) to remain in their rooms while agents combed through buildings.

“In this day and age, when there is a call, it behooves us to overreact and not underreact,” Esserman said. He said four different SWAT teams were activated.

“Nobody has been hurt. Nobody has been found. But the day is hardly over.”

The commotion started with the original call from a pay phone on the low-300 block of Columbus Avenue at 9:48 a.m. The caller said his roommate had a long gun, according to police spokesman Officer David Hartman. The caller did not identify himself as a Yale student. He stayed on the phone only a few seconds.

All of the purported eyewitness sightings occurred after a campus-wide alert went out about the report of an alleged gunman, according to Hartman.

“It’s possible that the original witnesses saw law enforcement with long guns and were confused,” Hartman said from a temporary press command at the Shubert Theater.

Yale originally sent out a campus-wide email alert at 10:17 a.m. It read: “New Haven Police have received an anonymous call from a phone booth in the 300 block of Columbus Avenue (between Howard Avenue and Hallock Street) reporting a person on the Yale Campus with a gun. There have been NOT confirmations or sightings of this person. Yale and New Haven police are in the area. If you have information, please call 911 immediately. Yale Police advises those on campus to remain in their current location and shelter in place until there is additional information.”

At 11:20 a broadcast rung out from a loudspeaker on the Old Campus: “Confirmed report of a person with a gun on Old Campus. Shelter in place at once. This is not a test.” The report was audible from the Green.

Around 2 p.m. an armored vehicle pulled up to the corner of College and Elm streets, and SWAT team members filed into Yale’s Calhoun College. A yellow police labrador retriever was brought in around 2:10.

Yale’s downtown Old Campus, where much of the action has taken place Monday, is bordered by Elm, College, Chapel and High streets. Many students had left campus for the Thanksgiving holiday.

“If Yale were fully in session, this would be a much harder investigation,” Hartman said.

Hartman said police consider the Old Campus the “hot zone” in the search for the reported gunman. They are prohibiting pedestrian and vehicular traffic in the vicinity. Hartman told people to expect the streets to be closed into the afternoon. Also expect traffic tie-ups nearby. Police have asked some businesses to close.

Gateway Community College went into a “precautionary lockdown” at 11:55 a.m.

Meanwhile, at 12:45 p.m. SWAT officers, FBI agents, and other law-enforcement personnel in fatigues and helmets, with riot shields, massed on High Street near the corner of Crown. One pulled out a dry-erase board. (Soon before that, a report came over the police radio about a gunman standing at the top of a building a block away.)

New Haven’s Cooperative Arts & Humanities High School, less than a block away, was on lockdown as of 1 p.m.

At 1:13 p.m., state police in green fatigues escorted an armored vehicle onto High Street 50 yards north of the intersection of Crown. The vehicle parked in front of a fraternity house.

Lots of reports turned out to be false alarms. For instance, a man was spotting smoking a cigarette on the roof of a George Street building and possibly having a gun. Only the first part apparently turned out to be true. At 1:39 police sent out an alert that a “white male” in “camouflage” was spotted at Washington and Cedar streets back in the Hill neighborhood carrying a gun, which he was trying to conceal in a green blanket. Moments later it was reported that the man had a toy gun, and was with a baby. False alarm again.

Police responded to calls from numerous students who reported hearing noises in the buildings where they remained locked inside.

For instance, a freshman living in Lanman-Wright hall, a freshman hall on Old Campus, said she called the police after she heard noises in her hallway after Yale had sent out an email about the lockdown.

“We heard suspicious noises in our entryway and they were people walking around. We thought it was abnormal because there was no one supposed to be walking around so I called 911. They sent someone to check the building but they didn’t find anything and so far there’s nothing,” said the freshman, who asked to remain unnamed.

By 3:10, Calhoun College and the Old Campus were the only parts of campus still in lockdown.

The nature of the searches varied.

One Calhoun student and the student’s suitemates were asked to leave when the police got to their door while their rooms were searched.

Another Calhoun College student said that the police simply poked their heads in to check that everything was okay. If individual rooms were locked
and those present said the inhabitants had left for break, police did not open the locked rooms.

Another Calhoun student said the police did not even enter the room. They simply advised students to lock their doors.

Thomas MacMillan Photo

Diana Li contributed reporting to this story.

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Comments

posted by: WestvilleAdvocate on November 25, 2013  12:26pm

I truly hope this turns out to be nothing but I had to laugh at the report of a gunman in New Haven.  I mean, come on, I would have to shelter in place permanently living in New Haven.

posted by: westville man on November 25, 2013  12:35pm

Odd that it came from a pay phone -not to be traceable?

posted by: KrishnaRSampath on November 25, 2013  12:41pm

Thanks for the thorough article, New Haven Independent staff. Please continue to keep us informed as you gather more details.

posted by: RHeerema on November 25, 2013  12:54pm

Thank you for the updates!  I work downtown and I’m relying on your news right now.

posted by: jayfairhaven on November 25, 2013  1:34pm

yes, please keep us updated on what happens next with these loud doors.

posted by: Charl on November 25, 2013  1:35pm

NO sightings of gunman.
Payphone which 911 call came from is nowhere near eyeshot of Yale U campus.  300 block of Columbus Ave isnt even within sight of YNHH.

Suspicious the Sandy Hook Report Summary happens to be due today…

posted by: jchall on November 25, 2013  1:38pm

Imagine that? A reported gunman on the campus of Yale on the day that the partial Sandy Hook report is to be released.

posted by: Charl on November 25, 2013  2:53pm

OK so wait a minute.  The roommate was a balding white male?  Who wanted to shoot up campus? 

I hope the NHI exposes this hoax.

The story can NOT keep changing, and people just accept it.  Please stay on this, Independent.  Please represent us.

posted by: jayfairhaven on November 25, 2013  2:54pm

in all seriousness, since when are the state police a paramilitary force? did they have to stop and change on the way to new haven or do they keep their martial law outfits in the back of their cars and then change at the nearest starbucks?

posted by: Charl on November 25, 2013  3:09pm

All these local and state police, Special Weapons and Tactics (aka SWAT) have been militarized for at least the past three-four years.  Did you just happen to miss all the Boston Manhunt video and photos???

All these peace officers will be getting a nice boost in this week’s paycheck (overtime), just in time for the holiday gift shopping rush.  Black Friday, specifically.

posted by: Yaakov on November 25, 2013  3:09pm

They’re doing room-to-room searches of every single dorm room on old campus. One alleged gunman within the vicinity of Yale kids and there’s an all-out military operation.

Anyone care to recall the last time the New Haven police (of whom I am usually a great supporter, and by whom I have been helped on a number of occasions) showed the same “abundance of caution” with regular old tax-paying New Haven residents?

posted by: smackfu on November 25, 2013  3:11pm

I appreciated this bit from the WTNH story:

“There was no description of the person because the clothing descriptions from witnesses did not match, police said.”

posted by: jayfairhaven on November 25, 2013  3:58pm

so the police have ordered everyone to lock themselves in place for the day and have closed businesses downtown because there may or may not be an armed person somewhere in town? if being “safe” means total reliance and obedience to the orders of LEO authorities i’d rather take my chances with the old bald guy in the overcoat.

posted by: Sabir Abdussabur on November 25, 2013  4:42pm

I had a meeting at city hall that was almost canceled, I’m surprised they didn’t close city hall; they closed both Starbucks shops. However, honestly, these gunman lockdowns need to stop, especially at schools, and people need to get some sense into their heads that guns are not the answer to everything.

posted by: Noteworthy on November 25, 2013  6:05pm

Overreaction. Day long comedy where cops got to play Batman and Robin with their shields and riot gear. Did they have their new million dollar boat patrolling the harbor too? Where’s the joker? This episode trumps the baby powder in the parking lot of Ikea.

posted by: Charl on November 25, 2013  6:11pm

NO!!!  NO “innocent mistake!!!!”

WHO ordered the military-like response??!!

WHO authorized the hundreds of peace officers to descend upon the downtown area and CLOSE OFF public streets???!!!!

WHO will pay for the exorbitant overtime and manhours spent on this wild-goose chase?  (hint:  you and all the New Haven and CT taxpayers.)

WHO will lose their job, be reprimanded, and/or demoted for the overboard response?  (hint:  nobody, in fact, look for high praise from various politicians and Yale higher-ups, that the response was appropriate, timely, safe, and the “right thing to do.”)


This should be a wake-up call to everyone.  There were literally ZERO corroborating reports, and the likely excuse (I mean, explanation) is that the witnesses who reported seeing people with guns were actually seeing peace officers in highly militarized gear.  So, who exactly were the people who terrorized downtown New Haven and relatives and friends all over the world, who were concerned for a student’s safety during this debacle?


Will the businesses who lost sales due to inaccessible roads and areas be compensated?

Will the individuals who had their free travel unduly impeded be compensated?


This is an outrage, and I frankly hope the NHI will investigate and demand answers.

Note:  The New Haven Independent deserves much praise and accolade for the reporting of this incident.  It was the best reporting of any media outfit in the entire world.  In fact, many other news outfits (yes, the MAJOR ones with three letters in their name, and international reach) quoted the NHI as a primary source, multiple times.)
Great work, NHI!  Now, please follow-up and don’t let this story become memory-holed.  Please be *our* bulldog!!!

posted by: smackfu on November 25, 2013  6:29pm

Let’s all be very thankful this week that no one was accidentally shot when the armed SWAT team was going around campus with barrels leveled.  All it would have taken was one person slamming a door or dropping something or trying to escape from the “lockdown” because they had something to do, and it would have been a very sad day.

Because even if this turns out to be a hoax, there actually were a lot of men with loaded guns on campus today.

posted by: William Kurtz on November 25, 2013  6:52pm

I don’t think it’s fair to excoriate the police for what is now clearly an overreaction to non-existent threat. If the worst had happened and the news broke later that there were multiple warnings (phone calls, sightings) and they did nothing, what would be the reaction from the public?

At the same time, this incident does need a little more investigation. Is a single phone call from a ‘confused’ person enough to get this entire apparatus up and moving? Did the sightings occur concurrently with, or before the broadcast warnings from Yale administration? Or were they a jumpy reaction to sketchy reports?

posted by: ELMCITYPROF on November 25, 2013  7:40pm

I love the self righteousness of people complaining that law enforcement overreacted or that shut downs are unnecessary.  Talk to a student who survived Virginia Tech , Newtown or any other tragedy and ask if they thought it was an overreaction. Talk to neighbors in Boston who were locked down in fear while officers searched for the marathon bombing suspect. Talk to the parents of New Haven school children who worry every day about whether their children will be caught in the crossfire of rivals fighting in the Hill. But most of all ask yourselves whether you’d prefer they err on the side of caution if it were a campus where your child was. Compensating businesses is laugjable. That’s the price you pay for having a business in a busy urban area. We constantly tell people to say something if they see something. Should we now add the caveat “if and only if you’re certain there’s imminent danger?” Smh. My only wish is that we could respond as swiftly to the every day acts of violence that plague our city.

posted by: Bill Saunders on November 25, 2013  8:39pm

Yaakov,

I think the last time something like this happened was the Black Panther ‘riots’.

posted by: Brian Tang on November 25, 2013  8:44pm

On the one hand, this was probably a really expensive operation. On the other hand, I bet it was valuable as a drill. Hopefully there were lessons learned today that will improve future responses to potential threats. NHI, perhaps this would be a good angle for follow-up coverage in the next couple of days? Especially in the context of Sandy Hook report.

posted by: Bill Saunders on November 25, 2013  9:11pm

ELMCITYPROF,

The examples you cite are all reasonable reactions to credible circumstances

This was a reaction to the Invisible Man.

The next prosecutable action will be Thought Crime .....
Just give it a few years….

posted by: ramonesfan on November 25, 2013  9:16pm

@ ELMCITYPROF

I’m not self-righteous about the police, but I am laughing at how lots of people are quick to push the panic button in this post 9/11 world.  People have been so easily trained to cry wolf that it’s easy to be cynical.  At least Boston, Newtown and Virginia Tech were in response to real threats.  Today’s sorry ass episode is akin to all those phony orange alerts issued during the Bush/Cheney years.

posted by: Bill Saunders on November 25, 2013  10:10pm

I would even go so far as to proffer that the intense police ‘action’  had more to do a a ‘threat’ to the ‘precious ones’ at Yale.

If the purported gunman was headed to Church Street South, this would be a whole other story….or maybe just a footnote.

posted by: Brian Hughes on November 25, 2013  10:17pm

How many **actual, confirmed shootings** have there been in New Haven this year? How much energy is dedicated to their investigation?

Today an uncorroborated anonymous tip led to a multimillion dollar operation involving dozens of armed men with itchy trigger fingers in downtown New Haven. I’m not sure that this was a smart allocation of resources, and I’m certain it didn’t make the city safer. Quite the reverse.

posted by: TravisTribble on November 25, 2013  11:13pm

Im the man with the bay and his toy they talked about and im furious that i was frisked and treated like and animal in front of my wife and child and that the police officers laughed at me in front of my family when i told them i felt violated while they were searching my record for warrants. This is NOT OK in any world and this needs to be accounted for.

posted by: Charl on November 25, 2013  11:41pm

Glad to see a lot of skepticism and critical thought in the comments.  Of course, there are some others that are so diametrically opposite, it could make one wonder if they are astroturf posted by someone with police ties.

At 8:30pm, there were still NHPD cruisers with red/blue lights illuminated at every single corner surrounding Yale’s old campus, as well as dozens of NHPD peace officers on bike, and NHPD peace officers on foot.  Of course, Yale Security were everywhere as well.  There was at least one NHPD cruiser which slowly went up and down the walkways INSIDE The Green as well, when I went downtown to check around and see what was going on.

Any excuses for that?  Any one want to defend that misappropriation of resources and argue that will not add on the OT hours?  (Gotta let the 2nd and 3rd shifts get what the 1st shift got, to be fair, right?)

posted by: jayfairhaven on November 26, 2013  9:41am

elmcityprof

i don’t think the examples you cited help your cause. by what measure could you call the manhunt in boston a success? only one of the brothers was armed and the police fired hundreds of rounds at them, shooting their own officer in the process. it wasn’t until after the lockdown order was lifted that a homeowner out for a smoke discovered the suspect in his backyard. the shelter in place order delayed the apprehension of the suspect.

in newtown, the police were involved after the suspect killed himself. 

in los angeles, while pursuing rogue cop chris dorner the police shot at everything that moved and still it was civilians that found him. the police rewarded them by burning down their cabin.

the nhi has run many stories of new haven cops getting actual real-live armed suspects off the streets, bravely and sanely, without shutting down the city for a day.

in this case i can only imagine this was a planned, coordinated, training exercise that was waiting for an opportunity to go into motion, at the expense of the citizens of our city.

otherwise it’s evidence of an enormous glut of affiliated LEO offices that need their budgets cut.

posted by: flyingace15 on November 26, 2013  9:57am

I can’t stand the cynicism in these comments. Old Campus is right in the heart of downtown New Haven. Heaven forbid this threat happened to be true and a gunman did open fire around that area, there would be more than just Yale students at risk. Yale doesn’t just compromise students, but many New Haven residents who work as staff in many different capacities at the University. With an empty campus, they were the ones at risk. In the wake of all the tragedies that have happened, the police have to take serious precautions. I say job well done by NHPD, FBI, and all others involved. Better to be safe than sorry.

On a separate note, it is Johnny D who needs to get his act together. The City didn’t send anything out to their employees until 3:00. I’m sure most had heard by then, but still talk about a lack of communication!

posted by: Aaron Booke on November 26, 2013  10:03am

And just because we’re all not terrified enough, let’s not forget that the line between police and military is almost nonexistent anymore.

http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/06/15/details_emerge_on_distribution_of_military_weapons_in_mass/

posted by: cunningham on November 26, 2013  10:31am

War is peace.

posted by: A Contrarian on November 26, 2013  12:09pm

To Yaakov & other doubters:  I think the response would be similar if any elementary or high school, theater or shopping center, government building or house of worship were the site.  Yale has its own police force as a first response, just like a corporate office complex has a trained security force to deal with threats until the police arrive.  I’m with those who say “overreaction” is the correct response.

posted by: Charl on November 26, 2013  1:53pm

Does anyone remember when there was the shooting on Crown Street (right at the Temple block) on a weekend night where there were hundreds of people walking about, leaving bars and restaurants and nightclubs?  It was in 2011, I believe.
The NHPD returned fire at a perp, and hit Pacifico and at least one bystander. 
Where was the massive turnout then?  If I recall correctly, the shooter (not the one with the badge) was able to escape capture for days.  Why no manhunt like we had on Monday 11/25/2013?
Why?  Because this was a drill.


New Haven Independent:  Would you please consider filing FOI requests for the 911 calls, and the witness descriptions of the man with the gun, and also for who requested all the various state, local, and federal agencies. 


The photographs above are VERY disturbing.  Scenes from Afghanistan, or from The Elm City?  Fully automatic jetblack assault rifles?  Body armor, tactical kneepads, and fatigue green jumpsuits? 

WHY do these agencies need this gear at the taxpayer dime?  If the public can not buy bulletproof armor, or fully automatic rifles, or armored MRAPs, etc., then why do these agencies need them??!!  Think about that for a minute…

[Editor: We’ll need to wait on the 911 call; police have a good reason to keep it private at this stage in the investigation.]

posted by: Bill Saunders on November 26, 2013  2:03pm

A. Contrarian,

In the wake of the chaos, this is looking more and more to me like a planned ‘drill’.

The initial report of the caller using a ‘phone booth’ is a little telling, as we don’t have any ‘booths’ in town any more.  Just phones on poles.  Sounds like a prepared statement from someone out of the loop.

Secondly,  what a great day storm the ‘bastille’, so to speak, since most of the students were away.

Lastly, wouldn’t that explain why City Hall didn’t feel the need to inform employees until the late afternoon?

Not buying the cover story here.
Call me Contrary.

posted by: Bill Saunders on November 26, 2013  2:10pm

Add the release of the Sandy Hook report to the mix, and this gunman may just as well have been Lee Harvey Oswalds’s Ghost.

Who benefits?

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on November 26, 2013  2:21pm

Bill,

You can go check the phone booth for yourself to see if it works.

https://maps.google.com/?ll=41.297799,-72.934805&spn=0.000011,0.002757&t=h&z=18&layer=c&cbll=41.297885,-72.935792&panoid=jJDfpx-6fvH2Qqk2vzxOzw&cbp=12,121.98,,0,16.03


It seems plausible that this could have been an orchestrated “drill”.
-Thanksgiving break so many students aren’t on campus
-Call from a phone booth
-Major over-reaction based on weak evidence from unreliable sources

It also seems plausible that the over-reaction was based on a desire to avoid a possible school-shooting and was an earnest effort by law enforcement to prevent a potential shooting.

We’ll have to wait and see what really happened.

posted by: Charl on November 26, 2013  2:53pm

Jonathan, I can not speak for Mr. Saunders, but that is not a phone booth.  A phone booth is what Superman used to get dressed in, and it is also what Dr. Who used to travel through time. 

The phone is simply a payphone.  There is no phone booth.  Proper nomenclature is important, especially when coming from authorities who know the importance of specific and exact details, wouldn’t you agree?


Also, I am in agreement with your assessment of this potentially being a drill.  I believe it is paramount to also include to your bulletpoint list, the fact that the very day the Sandy Hook Official Report *SUMMARY* (too many people referring to that as THE Final Report) was due to be released.  Could you name a more high-profile, internationally known school at any level, in the state of Connecticut, than Yale University?  This fact should not be discounted, in my opinion.

I am hoping this story does not become memory-holed like so many major scandals and perplexing events (mostly at the federal level) in the past two years…


And, Editors of the NHI:  Thank you for your response.  Are the NHPD and various other authorities now investigating the original 911 caller as a criminal, and that is the reason for not pursuing the 911 calls via FOI?

[Editor: We are pursuing it. They don’t have to turn it over under law in the early stages of an investigation when it is material evidence.]

posted by: William Kurtz on November 26, 2013  2:55pm

Is this the rise of the ‘Yale Gunman Truthers’ movement we’re watching right now?

The phone booth thing is a pretty thin straw (“Sounds like a prepared statement from someone out of the loop”). Either someone’s out of the loop, or in it far enough to have the time to ‘prepare’ a statement.

“It seems plausible that this could have been an orchestrated “drill”.”

It actually doesn’t. Emergency services aren’t shy about it when they want to run disaster drills; it seems like every year there’s an article in the news about them practicing for plane crashes or toxic gas leaks or bomb attacks by gathering crowds of extras to get made-up and play the ‘wounded’. There’s no reason to keep such a thing secret.

There’s a lot of questions to ask about yesterday’s events; let’s try not to obscure the very real issues raised with shaky conspiracy theories.

posted by: Walt on November 26, 2013  3:04pm

Yaakov makes a good and most -likely true point as to this probably being an overreaction because Yalies were threatened as compared to what the cops would do when gun-threats exist daily it seems in the taxpayers’  neighborhoods of New Haven

I’d rather see better reaction re gun-threats and use all over Town, not reduction of vigilance in Yale areas

I hope the   cops catch the jerk who made the original call,  and really punish as much as they can,

Anyway —Thanks, Cops.

As I see it,  Abdussabur on the other hand,  for a guy with his experience,  seems asinine in calling for lockdowns,  especially at schools,  to stop,thus leaving all our kids and us unprotected.

What we really need , as in New Haven yesterday and at last week’s similar event at CCSU , is catching and punishment of the culprits who started the threats which may lessen the number of similar problems in the future.

Good luck cops!

posted by: JMS on November 26, 2013  3:05pm

To everyone griping about “over reaction” I would ask is this not exactly the reaction you would hope for if a shooting threat was called into any institution in our city (academic, business or otherwise)? Your child’s school? Your spouses office? There was a specific phone threat and so law enforcement responded accordingly. Imagine the criticism and Monday morning quarterbacking that would be going on if the threat was not a hoax, multiple people were shot and law enforcement responded with anything less then what we saw yesterday. Huge thanks to every single law enforcement officer who responded from the city, state and Yale University yesterday. I have never seen a more clear case of “better safe then sorry” as we just witnessed yesterday. I for one am very happy to endure a little traffic and scheduling inconvenience if it means a potential mass shooting could have been averted. And on the very day that the Sandy Hook report was released who knows what kind of crazy plots were brewing in the twisted minds of over zealous 2nd amendment wing nuts. Better safe then sorry indeed.

posted by: Bill Saunders on November 26, 2013  3:32pm

Indeed, Jonathan.

Thankfully we still live in a country where we are ‘allowed’ to question things, and are entitled to our ‘opinions’.

posted by: Jonathan Hopkins on November 26, 2013  4:10pm

Bill,

I posted that before the NHI published their article revealing that the phone does in fact work, so my suggestion was a sincere one to find out if the phone actually worked.

Bill #2 (William),

I think its plausible that it could have been an elaborate drill, perhaps with many people in the dark, but ultimately I think that is unlikely.

What appears to be the official report also seems plausible and furthermore it seems more likely to be the reality ie a person - possibly a psychotic one - called 911 from the phone booth to report something they made-up, imagined or misinterpreted about a gunman headed to Yale’s Campus and law enforcement (over?)-reacted by shutting down downtown and running around with assault rifles playing occupying army for several hours on what turned out to be self-imposed eye witness accounts of understandably confused civilians.

posted by: cunningham on November 26, 2013  5:00pm

Near as I can figure here are the possibilities:

1) Phone call was a deliberate hoax.
2) The caller genuinely thought his roommate intended to commit a shooting, but was mistaken.
3) The caller correctly thought his roommate intended to commit a shooting, but the would-be shooter changed his mind at the last minute due to a crisis of conscience, failure of courage, and/or the sight of armed police early on.
4) It was a drill.

Whatever the case, we have a dense urban area swarming with armed military-grade troopers, fully expecting to have to shoot to kill at the first sign of their nebulously-described target. To everyone who says, “better we overreact than underreact,” I don’t necessarily disagree, but what happened to the appropriate level of reaction in the middle? Would a heavy presence of regular boys in blue with normal sidearms have been wholly powerless against a single shooter? Are we to expect literal martial law any time anything remotely threatening happens, or might happen?

posted by: JMS on November 26, 2013  5:14pm

cunninghamn,

Martial law may be just a little too strong of a label to slap on yesterdays events. Being told to stay put in offices, classrooms and businesses for a few hours (and for our own safety) in the face of what at the time was perceived to be a legitimate threat of a mass shooting does not exactly qualify as martial law in my book. Or more precisely how exactly would you suggest law enforcement respond to what they thought at the time was a legitimate threat? Let everyone walk around? And just how do you think city officers would fare against a potential shooter with an assault rifle? Just curious.

posted by: TheNewZero on November 26, 2013  5:37pm

Charl, I’m sorry but your statement is completely ridiculous and unfounded. Dr. Who traveled in a TARDIS that took the form of a police call box whose phone is located on the outside, rather than the inside of an actual public use telephone booth. Bill S. Preston Esq and Ted Theodore Logan traveled through time in a phone booth between winning the battle of the bands at San Dimas High and partying with their friends, Death and Station. CHECK YOUR FACTS.

posted by: cunningham on November 26, 2013  7:03pm

@ JMS,

I’ll concede that “martial law” is needlessly hyperbolic a phrase to describe what happened, but I maintain that this smacks of the larger trend toward militarization of local police departments we’ve seen in America in recent years. Why can’t regular police officers be relied upon in these situations?

posted by: Bill Saunders on November 26, 2013  7:26pm

Cunningham,

If either scenario (2) OR (3) happened,  NHPD should be expecting a call for a heated roommate dispute.

posted by: JMS on November 26, 2013  10:05pm

cunningham,

I don’t know that it’s a fair assessment to suggest that the NHPD did not handle the situation adequately yesterday. From everything I read during the coverage there was nearly constant feedback coming from NHPD and communication with the public and other law enforcement divisions, NHPD SWAT, state police and Yale police. There were regular press releases and the rest of the city did not descend into chaos while all this was going on.

And while I understand your assessment of the militarization of police departments I don’t see how this is any surprise in a post 9/11, post Sandy Hook world. Even well before these events local and state police have always coordinated on significant events and with the advent of the Homeland Security Deptartment I don’t see how any of this is a surprise. Is it unreasonable to expect that local PD’s will ask for state assistance (or beyond) in a crisis that might otherwise occupy the majority of on-duty officers leaving the rest of the city unattended? You can call this “militarization” if it suits you but I look at it more as a simple totem pole of responsibility as may be warranted in any crisis. Those images above depicting military like figures in riot gear with assault rifles may be off putting to some but I would remind you that these are exactly the well trained well equipped guys who we would all want protecting us if a crisis like this were not just a hoax. Peoples lives depend on these guys and I find great comfort knowing they are available when needed. Thankfully yesterday did essentially turn into an exercise, no threat presented itself and no one was hurt or worse.

posted by: cunningham on November 27, 2013  12:51pm

@ JMS

We’ll have to agree to disagree. “Not surprising” doesn’t have to mean “acceptable,” and personally, paramilitary SWAT troops are not who I’d want protecting me in a lone-gunman situation. Time and time again, these types of responses prove ineffective and often do more harm than good (refer to jayfairhaven’s response above). I have faith in local police and state troopers to apprehend a single man with a gun, as they often do in less news-worthy contexts. An armored tank wouldn’t have stopped Sandy Hook, and it’s time to stop pretending that it would have.

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