Reports of gunfire at Fertitta Hall triggered a police response and sent students fleeing the campus Monday afternoon. Following an hour-long, campus-wide lockdown, no evidence of a shooting was found and an adjunct professor was detained for a mental health evaluation after reportedly falsely telling students there was an active shooter, according to the Los Angeles Police Department and the Department of Public Safety.
“It was reported a faculty member during class falsely told her students there was an active shooter in the building. The faculty member has been detained by the LAPD,” DPS Chief John Thomas said in an email to the Daily Trojan.
Christopher Rawlings, an undecided sophomore, said his instructor, Amy Granados, falsely reported gunshots while teaching a business class in Fertitta Hall. Rawlings said that Granados fled from the room, saying she was going to get help, leaving the students alone in the room for an hour before the police released them from the room.
“A lot of us were very hesitant about whether it was a drill or not,” Rawlings said. “I, for one, just thought it was a drill and that she was acting the whole time. But as time went on and I was getting messages from everyone asking if I was OK … it became more and more real to the people in the room.”
Rawlings said Granados, an adjunct professor of management and organization, had seemed agitated from the beginning of class.
“She was for some reason worried that people were in [Las] Vegas and may have been injured and whenever someone would come in she would be relieved that they were okay because they had come to class,” Rawlings said.
Brandon Kaufman, a freshman majoring in business administration, was in the same class as Rawlings. He said when he arrived to class, his instructor seemed distraught and upset over Sunday’s mass shooting in Las Vegas.
About five minutes into class, according to Kaufman, the instructor said she heard gunshots and ordered the students in the class to barricade the door.
“Eventually she ran out of the room and there was a police officer that came at one point and she was like, ‘Don’t shoot, don’t shoot,’” Kaufman said. “She eventually left the room running out, [saying] ‘help, help, help.’”
LAPD said that a call of a possible active shooter came out at 12:17 p.m., but later confirmed that no shots were fired and no injuries were reported.
Thomas said that the University issued a ‘police activity/shelter in place’ alert at 12:23 p.m. on its Trojans Alert emergency notification system.
“Thanks to the rapid response of the USC Department of Public Safety and LAPD, we were able to quickly verify that there was no active shooter,” Thomas said in the email. “LAPD and DPS continue to investigate what events led to the initial reports.”
LAPD officers went room by room in Fertitta Hall until about 1 p.m., working to clear the building as students and employees who had not evacuated locked themselves inside classrooms.
Remy Porsella, a junior majoring in economics and mathematics, says he was in Fertitta Hall when he heard screaming and saw hundreds of people running out the doors.
“It was full panic,” Porsella said.
Umar Farooq, a senior majoring in business administration, was also in Fertitta Hall at the time of the evacuation and livestreamed on Periscope as he evacuated.
“I wanted to help, but I couldn’t so the only thing I could do was livestream,” Farooq said. “This was probably the first time ever in class where I truly felt scared especially with what happened last night [in Las Vegas].”
Helicopters circled around the building, while SWAT was on scene to investigate.
Provost Michael Quick addressed the incident in a statement emailed to the student body on Monday afternoon.
“As members of the Trojan Family, we also should be mindful of the needs of others,” Quick said. “If you observe a fellow student, faculty, or staff member who may be in need of support, you can reach out confidentially through Trojans Care for Trojans, an initiative within the Office of Campus Wellness and Crisis Intervention.”
Shauli Bar-On, Sarah Chan, Terry Nguyen and Emma Peplow contributed to this report.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this post incorrectly stated that Amy Granados is an adjunct professor of management communication. She is actually an adjunct professor of management and organization.