Rochester, N.Y. – An umbrella with a handle made to look like a samurai sword was mistaken for a possible gun on the Rochester Institute of Technology campus Friday morning, according to the Monroe County Sheriff's Office.
A bus driver spotted someone with an object that looked like a rifle and reported it to authorities.
The school sent out a campus alert to RIT students and staff around 8:30 a.m. to warn them about a possible gunman near Kate Gleason Hall.
"It woke me up," says RIT freshman Brendan Ceccolini. "I was sleeping and I heard the phone rumbling."
Throughout the hour, the school continuously updated the RIT community with texts, e-mails and phone calls.
"I got seven calls from them," Ceccolini says. "They kept repeating and repeating, 'Stay inside. Lock the doors.'."
Freshman Cindy Widergren says she wasn't afraid, just a little concerned.
"I was a little worried because [Gleason] is a dorm only a couple doors down from mine," she says.
But her mother was a different story. The school also sent out alerts to RIT parents.
"My mom called," Widergren says. "She was really worried. [The alerts] woke her up at 5 a.m. because I'm from California. She was freaking out."
Campus security and Sheriff's deputies used surveillance video to identify the student seen walking into the dorms.
Authorities found the student, a freshman photography major, in his dorm room. They also found the "rifle", saw it was an umbrella and determined there was no threat to public safety.
The Sheriff's Office interviewed the man and let him go.
His umbrella is in police possession and will be returned to the student at the end of the year.
The school sent out alerts lifting the lockdown at 9:23 a.m.
Once word spread around campus, students had a good laugh about the whole situation.
"Everyone is joking about the umbrella thing in every class I went to," says Ceccolini. "It's kind of funny."
However, school officials say they have no regrets about sending out the alerts.
"There is always concern that a situation could escalate," says RIT spokesperson Paul Stella. "Getting information out is key."
Just the day before, two families of the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting victims won a lawsuit claiming that the school did not do enough to notify the campus a gunman was on the loose.
Stella says the tragedy at Virginia Tech is in the back of every college's mind and he would rather be safe than sorry.
"The bus driver did everything he was supposed to do by alerting public safety," says Stella. "His actions really helped to make sure that a bad situation didn't get worse, so his actions were right on target."
Students agree. False alarm or not, they say they appreciated the alerts.
"I just thought that the public safety alert system worked as it should," says freshman Max Weinstein. "They got all the info out all really quick. If it was an actual shooter, I think everyone would have been safe."
"With everything that has happened on college campuses, I think that [RIT] did the right thing," says freshman Nick Cocca.
In addition to the texts, e-mails and calls, the school continuously updated its Twitter and Facebook accounts. Also, the school just had a drill last week, preparing for a possible emergency scenario.