Police have arrested a suspected gunman who made verbal threats in connection with reports that surfaced of an armed person near the Community College of Philadelphia. Calm has returned to the area surrounding the campus on Spring Garden Street after street closures and a campus lockdown threw the area into confusion.
The suspect, a teen boy who may have attended the college, reportedly pulled a gun out during a confrontation with a student in the courtyard of the school’s Bonnell Building near Spring Garden and 17th Streets, authorities say.
Police did not identify the suspect, who has not yet been formally charged. The weapon that was allegedly brandished has not been recovered, but authorities say they are continuing to search for it.
The encounter was not random but rather arose between “two individuals who have a history” who were “screaming and hollering” at each other, according to Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey. Arguments escalating to gun threats is “not uncommon in Philadelphia, unfortunately,” Ramsey added.
The 17-year-old suspect did not fire any shots, and there were no reported injuries. Investigators say they are still looking into how the teen entered the building and what he might have done with the weapon.
It all started around 10:13 a.m., when authorities were notified of a gunman near the community college, triggering a massive emergency response that closed nearby streets and locked down the college and another nearby school.
Chief Inspector Joseph Sullivan, who leads the Philadelphia Police Department’s Homeland Security Bureau, said SWAT team members moved through multiple buildings searching for the suspect.
The response had everything to do with the location, Sullivan said.
“Listen, we hear school, obviously, we’re coming hard. Especially in light of recent events. We all have children, we’re all concerned about that,” he said.
Several colleges and universities in the Philadelphia-area were on high-alert on Monday, stationing federal agents on campus for protection, after the FBI warned of an online posting suggesting a possible gun attack.
Student Antowan, who didn’t give his last name, said when the lockdown was announced, the classroom he was in became tense.
“It’s kind of awkward, when you’re sitting in a room full of 20 people and everybody’s phone rings at the same time, and everybody was scared to answer,” he said.
Student Nigel Mitchell, who was in a separate classroom when members of the SWAT team were sent through the school, said his teacher tried to maintain calm.
“We were trying to exit, but police wouldn’t let us leave,” Mitchell said, adding that when SWAT team members came in, students were quick to document it.
“Everybody pulled out their cameras to take photos and video and stuff like that, and we were all like, ‘Whoa, what’s going on in here?'”
Ramsey said prosecutors have not figured out what the 17-year-old suspect will be charged with, but assault and making terroristic threats are among some possibilities, he said.