Police respond to reports of man with rifle in West Campus Wednesday, UTPD later confirms ‘weapon’ to be plastic toy

Kylee Howard, Senior News Reporter

UTPD officers responded to reports of a suspicious person in the 2800 block of San Gabriel Street in West Campus at approximately 5:10 p.m. Wednesday. UTPD tweeted an alert about the incident 2 1/2 hours later, and an official email notification was not released to students until over four hours after initial reports. 

Austin police officers who led the case determined there to be no ongoing threat, according to Martin Barbosa, a UTPD spokesperson. 

An APD representative said the suspect disappeared shortly after initial reports came in, and  officers from APD and UTPD were unable to locate the suspect at the time. 

“There was a report of what appeared to be a homeless person (who) picked up a rifle by the barrel,” an APD representative said. “Somehow he just disappeared into the wind.”

Reports of the incident and a video of the suspect holding what appeared to be an assault rifle spread across students’ social media, fueling rumors of potential shutdowns at the Perry-Castañeda Library, the Texas Union and other student life centers on sites like YikYak, Reddit and the UT Campus Incidents GroupMe. 

The APD representative confirmed that no lockdowns occurred Wednesday. 

An updated notification Thursday morning said a UTPD patrolling officer was able to identify the suspect in the video and confirmed the weapon was a plastic toy. No arrest was made and UTPD stated there continues to be no threat. 

UTPD’s updated notification advised the community that if any action is required, the most accurate information would come from an emergency text message and be amplified on official UT platforms.