Florida police locked down a university for a false alarm of a shooter on campus, and were quick to identify the threat as “Middle Eastern” — before they even knew the person’s gender.
The alert went out at 3:52 p.m. on Tuesday to the University of Central Florida Campus. “POSSIBLE MIDDLE EASTERN GUN MAN/WOMAN IN UCF MAIN CAMPUS LIBRARY. AVOID THE AREA,” it said
Armed officers rushed to the University of Central Florida campus after hearing of a threat on social media.
Students at the school were confused how the alert was able to identify the shooter’s ethnicity, but not the gender.
This was the message that students received on Tuesday’s lockdown, noting a “Middle Eastern” person, but unclear on the gender.
Mohamed Mohamed, the president of UCF’s Muslim Student Association said he felt the ethnicity was inappropriate for the school police to send out to the campus, as did almost every member of the organization.
Police said they were responding to a social media post that raised alarm about the Middle Eastern shooter.
The tipster posted on a closed Facebook group that she saw someone “who appeared to be holding a gun in their hands and praying.” Witnesses said the “threat” was just a woman praying with a Koran.
“Unfortunately, this is the problem with social media, but we have to take it like it’s the real deal,” UCF police chief Richard Beary said. “No one was injured, and all our buildings are back open.”
The only shot that went off during the lockdown that lasted over an hour was from a UCF officer, when a gun accidentally discharged.
When Mohamed heard a Muslim woman praying led to the lockdown, he was worried about his friends and his family’s safety on campus in the future.
“It’s just really disappointing the fact that something as peaceful as praying in the library can be misunderstood as an active shooter,” he told the Daily News.
He said he and his sister, who also attends UCF, pray on campus on a daily basis, and was scared that fervent Islamophobia could lead to a dangerous situation in the future.
The university in Orlando, which has a population of about 60,000 students, has about 1,000 Muslims on campus, the MSA president told the News.
Representatives from UCF did not respond to requests for comments from the Daily News.