Washington state's college lockdown lifted 'zero evidence' of shooting'
DES MOINES, Wash. - Highline College went into lockdown and police swarmed to the campus Friday morning after reports of gunfire, but police later said they found no evidence of a shooter or gunshot victims.
The incident added to an already tense atmosphere sparked by the recent mass shooting at a Florida high school that left 17 victims dead.
As officials wound down their investigation at Highline College without finding any confirmation of gunfire, the college said all classes would be canceled for the remainder of the day.
According to Renton police, officials have searched the entire campus with "zero evidence" of a shooting. They are investigating reports of possible fireworks.
The drama began about 9 a.m. when there were multiple unconfirmed reports of gunfire on the campus.
An alert on the college's Facebook page said "Lockdown - This is not a drill. We have reports of gunfire on campus. Please lock down all offices and classrooms until further notice." A later post said "Close doors, close windows. ... Do not come to campus if you are on your way."
Freshman Kanani Kremers told KOMO News that she is convinced what she heard was gunfire.
"I heard pop-pop-pop-pop-pop, then I heard screams, and then people running," she said. "It made my heart sink."
Armed police from multiple agencies converged on the campus and took up strategic positions.
Kyle Ohashi of Puget Sound Fire Authority said police took special precautions because of "ramped-up fears and sensibilities" over the recent mass shooting at a Florida high school.
He said SWAT teams went through campus buildings one at a time to clear them.
"There is no indication there is an active shooter but we're taking all the precautions necessary," Ohashi said.
He said two people were treated for anxiety, but no injured victims were found.
Police from Renton, Des Moines and Kent responded to the scene, along with the Washington State Patrol and several fire agencies.
Laura Webber told KOMO News she had just dropped her son off at the college when she saw police cars swarming to the campus with their lights flashing. An officer told her to lock herself inside her car.
"My first thought was for my son," she said. "He's sitting in class. He's a target. I just want to see him walk out of that door alive. ... It's very scary."
Buildings were evacuated one-by-one and students were sent home as the investigation wound down.
Anxious family members were reunited with their loved ones at a nearby parking lot.
As of 11:20 a.m. Friday, there was no explanation of what had caused the popping sounds that led to the reports of gunfire.