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UCF police find no threat after social media reports of gunwoman in library

By Monivette Cordeiro, For Orlando Weekly, On 27 April 2016, Read Original
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The University of Central Florida's police department says it found "no threat" after people on social media reported there was a woman with a gun in the John C. Hitt Library.

An earlier alert from UCF said that a "possible Middle Eastern gun man/woman" was in the library and warned students to avoid the area. The library was subsequently evacuated. UCF spokeswoman Courtney Gilmartin says during the incident one officer's rifle accidentally discharged while he was putting his gun back in his car, but there were no injuries. Gilmartin adds after police searched the library, no one was taken into custody. 

UCF student Faith Culhane was outside the library as police were investigating and says students on Facebook were saying the report of a gunwoman was false. 

"Some people were saying, 'No, we know her, she works at the library and she just prays with a Quran there every day. Someone was just mistaken,'" Culhane says. 

She says a UCF employee sent out a mass text, saying: 

"Apparently the woman was praying with book (the Quran) in the stairwell and people started calling the cops saying she had a gun. … My coworkers said she was literally praying." 

Gilmartin says she had not heard that the alleged armed civilian was just a woman praying. 

"I think the next few days we'll spend reviewing the information and trying to get some answers," she says. 

Precious Williams, another UCF student says she was in the library when her friend texted her about the alert. She didn't see anything while she was escorted out and adds at least 25 police and rescue vehicles showed up the library. Williams says she and her friends discussed the incident as a lose-lose scenario. 

"Either someone could have a gun and that's very dangerous for an environment of college students or it's another case where it's a racial stereotype sort of thing," she says. 

UPDATE: Rasha Mubarak from the Council of American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in Florida says the organization is calling on UCF to investigate the origin of the alert and review their procedures for posting emergency alerts. 

"While we recognize that a prompt alert is necessary to keep the student body and the rest of the community safe, it is extremely important that they investigate how is it that they came with a 'Middle Eastern origin' as part of the alleged suspect description," she says. "Racial and ethnic profiling should never happen as it may cause unnecessary prejudices among the student body or what is worse, put have ethnic minorities in danger. Students shouldn't bare the responsibility of creating a climate of tolerance and inclusion on campus— but UCF Muslim students have made it a priority on their campus through outreach projects not only for their fellow Knights, moreover for faculty and staff. We (CAIR-Florida) were just with MSA for a workshop on Islamophobia at UCF. An insensitive alert leads to backlash and unravels the positive efforts these students are attempting to implement."

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