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Hammer, Chisel Blamed For False Reports Of Gunshots At Princeton

Nassau Hall Was Cordoned Off During Investigation
Nassau Hall At Princeton University

Nassau Hall at Princeton University was evacuated following reports of gunshots. (Credit: CBS 2)

PRINCETON, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Princeton University says the sound of a hammer hitting a chisel while a campus building’s door was being fixed likely is what was reported as gunshots this week.

Tuesday night’s report caused police to cordon off the Ivy League university’s Nassau Hall, an administrative center. University officials said hours later the report was unfounded.

Princeton’s Department of Public Safety said Thursday it learned during a follow-up investigation a maintenance worker had been using the hammer and chisel 20 minutes before another worker at the building reported hearing gunshots.

Public Safety boss Paul Ominsky says the university takes all reports seriously and people on campus are encouraged to report concerns following the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s advice: If you see something, say something.

As CBS 2’s Lou Young reported, the report of shots fired came in around 8:30 p.m., and a reverse 911 call was issued to all of the 7,600 students at Princeton — most of whom live on campus — about 20 minutes later.

Armed police officers went on to search the building for two hours.

The all-clear was issued around 10:30 p.m. In a tweet, the university said police searched the building and found nothing.

Students returned to their dormitories, and they seemed very relieved.

“Definitely, it’s good that we can get back to our dorms,” one woman said, adding that she was holed up for “about a couple hours, but we were working on math anyway, so it’s just what we would have been doing.”

“I just got the call and everyone started going crazy down there,” another woman said. “I mean, it’s scary to just not know, because you only get the one alert, and then you’re sitting there for, like, two hours, waiting to know what’s happening.”

Nassau Hall was constructed in 1756, and was the site of the first meeting of the New Jersey Legislature in 1776.

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