The UW–Platteville campus was closed Monday afternoon after a report of a person with a gun in UWP’s Ullsvik Hall.
Afternoon classes were canceled, Ullsvik Hall was evacuated, and Platteville Public Schools were on lockdown for about the last two hours of the school day.
A two-hour search of campus by Platteville and UW–Platteville police and Grant County sheriff’s deputies found no gun and no one with a gun.
The suspect was reported to be a white male wearing a gray shirt, black pants and black-soled shoes. No suspect has been arrested as of Tuesday morning.
UW–Platteville Chancellor Dennis Shields said a student went into an Ullsvik Hall men’s bathroom around 12:50 p.m. and heard a “clicking noise,” then saw a “gun barrel.” The student then pulled a fire alarm, which evacuated the building.
“The witness heard what sounded like the racking of a gun in one of the stalls of the restroom,” said Shields.
“He said that he saw somebody in a stall next to him; he was at a different area of the bathroom,” said UW–Platteville acting police chief Jason Williams. “He heard what he thought was the clicking sound of a gun, and he thought what he saw was the barrel of a rifle — AK-47 is what he had” said he had seen.
No shots were fired, and no injuries were reported.
“We plan for these type of situations,” said Williams. “Officers were on the scene very quickly. We had multiple agencies here within 45 minutes.”
The Dubuque Telegraph Herald interviewed UW–Platteville student David Kalenga, who said “because I go to the shooting range, I recognized the sound of a gun, like when you load the bullets in it, so I turned around and I saw the barrel, and I was like, ‘damn,’ so I ran outside.”
Kalenga said the gun had a “regular barrel or long barrel, like an AK-47. I’m pretty sure it was an AK-47 barrel.”
Ullsvik Hall was closed at 1:15 p.m., and the rest of campus was closed at 1:30 p.m., with the rest of Monday’s classes and campus activities canceled. The performance of Third Coast Percussion in the UWP Center for the Arts Monday night was canceled. Ticket-holders should call 1-877-727-1232 for a refund.
“The campus is governed by state law, and right now no one is permitted to have a weapon inside a building,” said Shields. “We didn’t have an active shooter, and we didn’t know where he was, so the best thing was to clear the campus because there was no active shooter, and allow law enforcement to search.
“We closed the campus down so we could take appropriate steps to make sure that the suspect wasn’t on campus.”
Platteville Public Schools locked down its buildings around 1:20 p.m. That included first-grade students at Neal Wilkins Early Learning Center, who were at Platteville Middle School to see a play.
“When the police department calls us and tells us to go on exterior lockdown we go on exterior lockdown,” said PPS superintendent Connie Valenza Monday night. “Our goal is student safety. When the police say go on lockdown, we go on lockdown.”
Streets around campus were blocked off by Platteville firefighters for about two hours. West Main Street was blocked off from Elm Street to College Avenue, and Hickory Street was blocked off from Market Street to Southwest Road.
The Ullsvik Hall search was completed around 2:50 p.m., and the search of other buildings with public access was finished an hour later, when the campus was reopened.
The campus reopened and classes resumed Tuesday morning. Platteville and UW–Madison police and Grant County sheriff's deputies have been patrolling on campus since Tuesday.
An AK-47 is a semiautomatic rifle, which fires one shot each time its trigger is pulled. According to Dimensionsinfo.com, the AK-47 is 34.3 inches long with a fixed wooden stock and 25.4 inches long with a folded stock. It weighs 9.5 pounds with an empty cartridge. It fires a 7.62-mm cartridge, with a 30-round magazine.