Recently released police records and body camera footage from the Tower 1 incident are painting a more accurate picture of what exactly launched the heavy law enforcement response that sparked fear into the UCF community on Friday night.
The report by UCF police shows that the incident began with a noise complaint from another resident inside of Tower 1.
This account conflicts with UCFPD’s earlier reporting in which they claimed the incident began with a witness tip that someone had entered Tower 1 with a firearm inside of their waistband.
According to the recently released report, a resident knocked on the door of room 217 at roughly 11 p.m. to ask his next-door neighbor to turn down his music so he could study.
A freshman human communications major answered the door. He stepped out into the hallway and turned around to prop open his door, revealing what the resident described as a “black 9mm handgun’ in the backside waistband of his shorts.
“I’m f*cked up, bro”, the freshman told the resident before agreeing to turn down his music and returning his room.
The resident returned to his room and alerted the on-duty resident assistant who called police.
“We need someone here right away,” the RA is heard telling police.
What is now being learned about the incident significantly varies from UCFPD’s original account of the incident, their alerts, as well as the original 911 call police which sent police rushing toward Tower 1.
While speaking with Knight News early Saturday morning after the ‘all clear’, UCF Police Chief Carl Metzger reported that the incident began with a witness tip that someone had entered Tower 1 with a firearm inside of their waist. Metzger continued, sharing that the subject then entered into a room on the second floor inside of Tower 1.
Knight News learned of the conflicting accounts Saturday morning and checked with UCFPD’s Public Information Officer, Courtney Gilmartin.
“I’m told by a reliable source that the incident began with the suspect knocking on the door of another student, asking if music could be turned down,” Knight News Reporter Jason Delgado wrote to UCFPD. “And that it was during this exchange that the suspect brandished the BB gun. Is there merit to that story?”
UCFPD PIO Gilmartin replied to Knight News later that day, “my understanding of the situation does not match what you described.I’ll follow up if I hear that there is any level of accuracy to what you described.”
In the body camera footage from the incident, UCF Police Officers and Orange County Deputies can be seen ordering the freshman and his girlfriend outside of room 217 and then to the ground where they were placed in handcuffs.
“Where’s the gun?” authorities asked the freshman who was cooperating with police orders.
“I’m sorry for all of this,” the freshman is later heard telling a police officer. “Yeah, sorry is a good start,” the officer replied.
Along with the incident report and body camera footage, UCFPD shared a statement from Chief Metzger.
“I’m proud of the way UCFPD, along with our partners at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, responded to Friday night’s call. This is the type of situation we train for, and while there are things we certainly could do better, we’re grateful that this was resolved peacefully and that nobody was hurt. Situations such as these are never easy for law enforcement or for communities, but we’ll take our lessons learned and use them to improve our abilities to keep UCF safe.”
UCF Police later received criticism over what they described in an apology as a ‘poor choice in initial language’ used during their UCF alerts.
“We understand that words matter. In a situation with heightened stress, we made a poor choice in our initial language,” UCFPD tweeted. “We know this caused undue panic and stress by those we serve and protect, and for that we apologize.
Some members of the UCF community took to social media to criticize UCFPD’s emergency alerts. Those members expressed that their frustration stems from the untimeliness and vagueness of the alerts. It was roughly two-hour span between the university’s first alert which told students to “SEEK SHELTER” and the third when police declared that the ‘person with a firearm’ no longer posed a threat. During this time, the university offered little details while false information began to flood onto social media.
Knight News conducted a Twitter poll assessing student’s opinion of the emergency alerts. Of 1,379 participants, slightly over half of the voters viewed UCFPD’s emergency alerts that night as favorable.
UCF Police apologized for a "poor choice in initial language" regarding the alerts the UCF community received late Friday night.
How did you view UCFPD's emergency alerts?https://t.co/UOy4JWPjgY
— UCF Knight News (@UCFKnightNews) July 28, 2019
The freshman in possession of the Bb gun was not arrested but referred to UCF’s Student Conduct Court as possessing a BB gun is a violation of university policy.