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Lockdown at Yale has been lifted after report of gunman on campus

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NEW HAVEN, CT (WFSB) -

Police believe a phone call about a man with a long gun who had intentions of shooting people and was headed to Yale University, which led to a campus-wide lockdown, could have been a "hoax."

An unidentified man called police about 9:30 a.m. and stated "his roommate" was in possession of a long gun and was on his way to Yale University.

The alert, which posted to the Yale University Emergency Management website, told anyone on campus to remain where they were until more information was provided. In total, 35,000 members of the Yale community were alerted about the incident.

"We have a very extensive alert system that goes out to every student," said Yale University spokesman Tom Conroy.

Following the alert being sent out, a witness, who was described as a young person, noted seeing a man with a gun on campus.

"When there is a call, it behooves us to overreact, instead of under react," said New Haven police Chief Dean Esserman.

However, police believe that the "suspect" seen by a witness could in fact be a member of law enforcement.

"They may not recognize that person is law enforcement personnel," New Haven Officer David Hartman said.

Investigators said the caller, who is not believed to be a Yale student, was the one making the threat.

"He used the word 'roommate', but if you listen to the tape as many times as I have, you will walk away saying that sounds like a confused man," Esserman said. "But he did use the word 'roommate'. We do not believe he was a Yale student or was talking about a Yale student."

Police are trying to track down the person who made the initial phone call. The caller, who never stated his name, did not stay on the phone, but called from a pay phone in the 300 block of Columbus Avenue, which is close to campus, police said.

"We are suspicious of any call," said Hartman when asked if police were suspicious of the call being made from a pay phone versus a cell phone.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is listening to the phone call and is using voice recognition equipment to try to determine who the caller is.

Once the man is located, Esserman said he will be arrested and will force several charges.

Police said no shots have been fired, no weapons have been found and no arrests have been made.

No injuries have been reported.

The majority of the Yale University campus was locked down for several hours. Old Campus was the only part of the Yale campus that remained in lockdown until 4:40 p.m., when the lockdown was lifted.

Armed officers continue to surround the perimeter of Old Campus, while detectives follow up on "numerous leads," Esserman said.

"Once we have geared up, we don't gear down," Esserman said.

The search is expected to take hours, Esserman said. He added the "all-clear will not be given until it is certain it is all clear."

"I believe we will be paying our officers dinner tonight," Esserman said.

Esserman said no one has left or entered the Old Campus section of Yale that police do not know about. 

Officers will search every room in every building in the Old Campus section of Yale until authorities are "satisfied" with the search.

"New Haven is safe, the Yale campus is safe," Esserman said. "We're going to finish the job we started."

Even though the school is out of session for the holidays, there were a "number" of students and abundance of employees on campus," said Yale University police Chief Ronnell Higgin.

"If school were in session, this would certainly be a tougher job for law enforcement," Hartman said.

All officers searching are in uniform and are slipping a Yale identification card under the door while they conduct the room-to-room search. People on campus are being advised to cooperate with the investigation. Some officers may open doors with keys, but they will identify themselves.

Gateway Community College, the New Haven Public Library, the Yale Reparatory Theatre and Yale Peabody Museum were also placed on lockdown as a precaution.

Businesses on Chapel Street between College and High streets were affected by the Yale campus lockdown.

The New Haven Police Department, Yale University Police Department, FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well as the Connecticut State Police worked together on the investigation. 

Copyright 2013 WFSB (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

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