After University Police received a call reporting that a man who looked like he was carrying a gun had jumped over a fence onto campus, buildings in the USF Health complex were evacuated Friday afternoon.
Officers from the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Tampa Police Department and UP searched a 350,000-square-foot area for about three hours by foot, with K9s and helicopters for a suspect described as a black man wearing a blue shirt and khaki shorts. Moffitt Cancer Center and Shriners Children’s Hospital were informed about the search, but were not evacuated.
Around 4:50 p.m., law enforcement officials said their sweep was complete and no gunman was found.
UP Public Information Officer Charlotte Domingo said the university followed standard protocol by evacuating the buildings based on the possibility of someone seeing a weapon, as weapons are not permitted on campus.
“Would you rather us not?” she said to a reporter who asked why the university would react based on the possibility of a gun being sighted.
Nayantara Orekondy, a third year medical student, said her class was in the middle of a simulation working with disabled patients in the MDC building, when they received a MoBull text alert around 2:10 p.m., reporting an armed gunman was in the area.
Initially, she said, they ignored it, but eventually they were told they had to evacuate.
“I’m OK, because seeing all the helicopters everywhere and police cars out here, I know they’ll take care of it before (the gunman) gets to us,” she said.
Raymond Peloquin, a patient who had come in for the simulation and waited outside the building with others who had evacuated, said he wasn’t surprised to hear about a gunman on the USF campus.
“I feel like it’s another sign of the times,” he said. “I mean, look at what happened Monday in Washington D.C. People today are mad.”
Chris DeClue and Raymond de Cuba, third year medical students, were also in class when they were asked to evacuate.
de Cuba said aside from the text alert, he hadn’t heard much about what was going on.
“It’s a little disconcerting to just step into the hallway and see officers with their guns drawn,” he said. “We (didn’t) really know what’s going on.”
DeClue said he waited outside for around 40 minutes.
“It’s pretty crazy stepping into the hallway after a Patient Encounter and seeing armed police, but it’s also comforting to know they took those measures and that they’re safe,” he said.