ROTC replica rifle prompted lockdown at SC State, school says

The president of South Carolina State University praised an employee for following the school's policy of "See something, say something."
Published: Dec. 8, 2022 at 11:37 AM EST|Updated: Dec. 8, 2022 at 4:19 PM EST
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - South Carolina State University’s president praised a college employee and newly-installed security cameras after a report of a weapon spotted on campus led to a lockdown.

Alexander Conyers said a school employee called campus police after spotting someone who appeared to be carrying a weapon.

“She did exactly what we’ve asked all of our employees and students to do: If you see something say something,” Conyers said.

The school was placed on lockdown at approximately 10:45 a.m. and students and employees were instructed to shelter in place.

The Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Department and the Orangeburg Department of Public Safety responded to the campus.

“We were able to ascertain that the weapon was a fake wooden weapon used by our ROTC department here, so it was a dummy weapon,” Conyers said.

He said the school made use of a network of 200 recently-installed cameras on campus to help them triangulate on the person who had been spotted carrying the rifle.

“We sent that picture to the ROTC department. The ROTC department was able to determine it was one of their cadets with a weapon he was authorized to have, a fake weapon he was authorized to have,” he said. “No rules were broken.”

The replica is the type every ROTC department in the country uses for drill teams, costing about $50, he said, adding that if the weapon had been spotted in the immediate ROTC area, it probably would not have looked out of place.

“But to that employee, it was certainly out of the norm, which is why the employee made the phone call to campus police,” Conyers said, adding that to a non-military person, it would have looked like a real weapon.

The school came out of lockdown shortly after 1 p.m., he said, when they were sure there was no threat to the university, its faculty or students.

“Absolutely [I’m] very proud of our employee this morning, very proud of our students and our leaders who understand the nature of the environment that we live in today, given all of the gun violence throughout the country, given the deaths of the four students at the University of Idaho this past month, so certainly, we had great cause to be concerned,” he said. “I would encourage all employees and students, if they see something that appears to be out of the norm, to call and allow law enforcement to determine whether or not it’s a real threat. I don’t want any employee or students trying to make that determination.”