The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

Washington and Lee placed under shelter-in-place order Nov. 1

The university has confirmed there “has been no active violence” after a possible threat Nov. 1
A group of law enforcement officers, including a K-9 unit, patrol Washington and Lee’s campus during an hours-long police search. Photo obtained by the Phi

Update, Nov. 2, 3:09 p.m.: 

Washington and Lee President Will Dudley provided a statement to the campus community giving further context for what happened yesterday, almost a day after the hours-long shelter-in-place order roiled the campus community.

The shelter-in-place was the result of “an anonymous communication alleging a general threat to campus,” Dudley wrote in a statement to students, staff and parents. The threat did not target “a specific individual or location.”

“We have no reason to think that the communication came from a member of the campus community,” Dudley wrote.

At the same as the threat, police responded to a separate incident involving fireworks at Davidson Park, which were initially reported to law enforcement as possible gunfire, according to Dudley’s statement. The two incidents are not connected, Dudley said.

During the lockdown, students sheltered for more than three hours as law enforcement officers holding rifles and flashlights conducted building-by-building checks. Most classes proceeded as usual today, though some professors chose to shift classes online or gave students the option of not attending.

The Ring-tum Phi contacted the Lexington Police Department, Rockbridge County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia State Police and university communications to get more details on the incident. Local law enforcement directed reporters back to Washington and Lee communications.

“It’s their incident. It happened on their campus,” a spokesperson for RCSO said. Law enforcement agencies “decided Washington and Lee was going to handle the public information part of it.”

Executive Director of Communications and Public Affairs, Drewry Sackett, wrote in an email that “we are not aware of any shots fired or drug arrests made.”

Meanwhile, university communications has not responded to other direct questions from the Phi seeking more clarity on law enforcement’s activities and the threat itself. Dudley wrote that the university will not comment further on the situation as a police investigation continues.

The Phi will publish a story today taking readers inside the shelter-in-place order and offering further reporting on the threat that spurred the order.

What happened?

At 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, Washington and Lee University sent out a campus-wide notification telling students and faculty to shelter in place because of a “possible threat of violence on campus.” Law enforcement responded across downtown Lexington and on Washington and Lee’s campus fully armed with rifles and dogs.

Police officers and sheriff’s deputies began searching campus building by building around 5 p.m. A university spokesperson told the Phi that state and local law enforcement were on site and have confirmed there has been no active violence. The shelter-in-place order concluded at 7:23 p.m.

Students have not been informed about the nature of the threat. All local law enforcement agencies have declined to comment and directed the Phi to university spokespeople.

Live Updates

3:45 p.m.: Washington and Lee University have received notice of a possible threat to campus. Students and faculty have been asked to shelter in place until further notice.

4:04 p.m.: Law enforcement is on the scene, according to the General Alerts system. Students and faculty have propped up tables and chairs against the doors. The shelter-in-place order continues.

4:09 p.m.: The Lexington Police Department declined to comment.

4:15 p.m.: Students in the area are reporting police cars have arrived near the fraternity houses at Davidson Park.

4:20 p.m.: A student shared this picture of a law enforcement officer at Davidson Park. The Ring-tum Phi is listening to police scanners for further information.

4:29 p.m.: Virginia Military Institute is also under a shelter-in-place order, according to three cadets.

4:30 p.m.: Law enforcement has confirmed no active violence on campus at this time and an investigation is ongoing. Out of caution, Washington and Lee University ask that students and faculty continue to shelter in place.

4:39 p.m.: Virginia State Police are also posted on East Nelson Street, next to Davidson Park.

4:52 p.m.: Law enforcement is conducting a building-by-building search of campus. Police have said they will notify the campus community when the shelter-in-place order is lifted.

4:52 p.m.: A line of law enforcement vehicles just passed a Ring-tum Phi reporter. The cars were heading west on East Washington Street, away from Davidson Park.

4:59 p.m.: Law enforcement has cleared Davidson Park, according to a reporter on the scene.

5:06 p.m.: Statement from Washington and Lee University: “Washington and Lee University received notice this afternoon of a possible threat of violence on campus. State and local law enforcement are on site and have confirmed there has been no active violence. Out of an abundance of caution, the campus community has been instructed to shelter in place while law enforcement continue to investigate. We will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available.”

5:10 p.m.: A mixture of law enforcement and civilian vehicles are parked at quad. Law enforcement is also near the Center for Global Learning. Law enforcement told a Phi reporter that the sweep could take another hour.

5:20 p.m.: Law enforcement just walked into a CGL classroom carrying a rifle with a flashlight, after a student darted into the room and closed the door after trying to go to the bathroom.

5:23 p.m.: University officials have said law enforcement has confirmed there is no active violence on campus. A law enforcement officer on the scene at the Center for Global Learning building said he does not know if there is or was an active shooter threat on campus.

6:01 p.m.: The Rockbridge County alert system is warning people to stay away from campus until the search is concluded. The shelter-in-place order continues, more than two hours after it was announced.

6:08 p.m.: At least 18 law enforcement officers are standing outside the Science Center.

6:56 p.m.: Campus has grown dark as the shelter-in-place order enters its fourth hour. No alerts have been given to students in 45 minutes.

7:04 p.m.: Law enforcement officers are currently searching on-campus sorority houses, according to a Phi reporter with direct knowledge of the event.

7:26 p.m.: The search is complete and the shelter-in-place order is lifted, nearly four hours after it was announced. The Phi will continue reporting on what happened throughout this week.

Stef Chiguluri, Emma Malinak, Aliya Gibbons and Jenny Hellwig contributed to this report.

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  • Law enforcement continues to clear buildings on campus.

  • A law enforcement officer carrying a rifle leaves a room in the Center for Global Learning, amid an hours-long campus search yesterday.

  • Police searched 220 East Nelson Street, an off-campus Washington and Lee fraternity house, before conducting a building-by-building search of the university’s main campus. (Catherine McKean)

  • A table was propped up against the door of a classroom where students were sheltering in place on Wednesday, Nov. 1. (Luke Fountain)

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About the Contributors
Shauna Muckle, Editor-in-Chief
Emma Malinak, Managing Editor

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