Students hid together in rooms until they were told it was safe to leave after a tense two hours on the campus of the small, private liberal arts college. In a tweet, the school initially said a gunman was reportedly on his way to the campus. Raleigh police were called to investigate and the school said they conducted a thorough investigation and found no such threat.
"At no time was campus safety compromised," university president Brian Ralph said in a statement afterward. However, all remaining classes for the day were canceled except for online courses at the university's school for professional studies.
Hours earlier, while authorities investigated, helicopters circled above the school as campus alarms could be heard across the street. Officers could be seen walking around campus. "We were in class and the sirens started going off and we all assumed it was a drill," said Tori Harrell, a 21-year-old senior.
But she said their teacher informed them that it wasn't a drill. "We threw a big cabinet in front of the door and hid behind the desk" at the front of the room where the teacher does lectures, she said.
She said it was a tense two hours of sheltering in place. "We were all really scared. We were calling our parents," she said, adding a lot of people were crying .She said there was little information for the first 20 minutes or so but after that she felt like the school did an adequate job of communicating.
William Peace, which is affiliated with the Presbyterian Church, is located just north of the North Carolina government complex, which includes the Legislature. Shanice Frazier, a junior, said she was arriving for class when she heard the alarms go off and a friend texted her to find a place to hide. She also said she got an alert from the university warning of a possible gunman.
She said she tried to get into several buildings but they were locked so she walked across the street to the outskirts of a shopping center to wait. She said she had done drills before in high school for an active gunman so she was trying to keep calm.
Standing at the edge of campus near where about 12 police cars were parked, student John Everett said he returned from lunch off campus to the alarm. "Everything was fine. Me and my friend, we went to a 30-minute lunch and when we got back, cops are everywhere," the senior said.
He said he never got a campus alert but later heard there was a possible threat. Everett said he talked to a professor who was sheltering in a small office with 20 students. "It's alarming because we've never heard this before. In my four years here, nothing ever happened. Not one fight."