BRTC officials grateful for quick response from law enforcement

BRTC officials grateful for quick response from law enforcement

POCAHONTAS, AR (KAIT) - Things became tense on the campus of Black River Technical College in Pocahontas Friday afternoon after calls came into dispatch that there was an active shooter on campus.

Students reported hearing gunshots and screaming.

"All we could hear from our room was bloody murder; somebody screaming bloody murder" Alexandria Lopez said. "We didn't know. We didn't want to hesitate so we pulled down the curtains, shut down the lights."

Lopez said another student in the class called 911.

Within minutes, police from multiple different agencies swarmed campus.

"The Black River Technical College Police and Pocahontas police were our first responders," BRTC President Eric Turner said. "Those two teams cleared the building first."

It was quickly determined that what sounded like gunshots were actually balloons.

An educational activity was taking place with a nursing class. They were popping balloons in the activity and people were screaming in response to having fun.

No one is being admonished for calling 911.

"We always ask them to do that," VP of Institutional Advancement at BRTC Karen Liebhaber said. "We tell them don't call the president's office, don't call anyone else. Call 911. They did exactly what we needed them to do."

Staff with the BRTC Law Enforcement Training Academy and the Independence County SWAT Team, which was on hand training for active shooter situations, cleared the Health Science Complex a second time to give the campus the all clear.

Even though this turned out to be a misunderstanding, Pocahontas Police Chief Cecil Tackett said it's the job of law enforcement to respond as if it's real every time. "It was a false alarm basically but we're gonna show up the same way. We're gonna show up ready to go," Tackett said.

Many campus staff went home after the scare.

In a message from President Turner on BRTC's website Friday afternoon he stated, "take care, be safe, go home, and hug your loved ones—I know that's what I plan to do."

Spring classes began at BRTC on Monday, Jan. 11.

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