All clear given following incident at A&M-Commerce
By Scott Harvey
Commerce – An alleged threat on the campus of Texas A&M University-Commerce Tuesday afternoon forced the deployment of officers with assault rifles into the Sam Rayburn Student Center.
The incident occurred at around 3:46 p.m.
Lt. Jason Bone with the University Police Department says upon arrival officers found a male with an Airsoft pistol, a plastic gun that shoots rubber or plastic pellets. Authorities were alerted to the situation after a student noticed the suspect's weapon and feared it was an actual gun.
"At some point, someone playfully took the suspect's phone," Bone said. "The suspect at that point made some sort of general statement of 'well you better give it back or else' and kind of lifted up his shirttail displaying the butt of this Airsoft pistol."
Three witnesses and the suspect were taken in for questioning. Police later arrested and charged 18-year-old Sravan Vemuri with disorderly conduct, a Class C Misdemeanor. Vemuri is an international student at A&M-Commerce in the U.S. on a Canadian Visa. The disorderly conduct charge carries a punishment of up to 30 days in jail and up to a $500 fine.
Kanisha Hawkins, a witness to the incident, tells KETR, "We were supposed to get ready to go in and eat at the cafeteria and then we saw the police officers with the big rifles telling us don't enter because somebody had a gun. There was about five of them [officers] with big guns... two guns apiece."
Another witness stated, "I was inside eating my sandwich and two policemen rolled in with some guns behind their back. I'm sitting in there trying to figure out what's going on. Next thing I know some guy sitting next to me says 'there he is he's got a white sweater on!' So they grab this dude, toss his backpack, tell everybody to get out, pull out the guns and I'm out."
A University statement reads that the Student Center was temporarily locked down, and the all clear was given at 4:30 p.m. to reopen the building. Classes were to resume as scheduled.
Lt. Bone continued, "We took it very seriously, as we do any report of someone with a firearm. You just never know what you're walking into. So we did respond as if it were a very serious threat. Of course it was very quickly downgraded once they realized what was going on."