Content warning: Gun violence, shootings
On Feb. 18, students at Doe Library looked up from their studying, glancing around anxiously as they heard a series of gunshots-esque sounds, followed by screams. The noises echoed off of the library’s high ceilings — and panic ensued.
Students ducked for cover under tables and broke glass windows to escape what seemed to be an active shooter situation, climbing through shattered glass and texting “I love you” messages to loved ones as they hid.
“We had no way of knowing what exactly was going on,” said a campus junior, who wished to remain anonymous, in an email. “In the current political environment, especially at a school like UC Berkeley and on a Friday, with many people out and about, we assumed the worst.”
While the sounds were later found to be a club popping balloons right outside of the library for a team-building exercise, it felt like an active shooter threat for the dozens of students in Doe that Friday.
The Berkeley Police Department and UCPD together received more than 75 calls that evening reporting popping noises and sounds of windows shattering, according to UCPD spokesperson Lt. Sabrina Reich. Officers arrived on the scene approximately three minutes later and, after a thorough search, determined there was no active shooter.
The incident was quickly cleared as a false alarm. For the anonymous student, however, the traumatic experience resulted in anxiety and difficulties returning to Doe for about a week after the event.
“I thought I would die young, and I wasn’t ready to go,” the student said in the email. “I was actually too shocked to even cry about it. … It really was the scariest thing I’ve ever experienced.”
For campus sophomore Stefanie Iojica, who had her headphones on in the room adjacent to the North Reading Room where most of the panic occurred, she wasn’t aware of the commotion until she saw 15 police officers with assault rifles around the corner, mere feet away from her.
After hearing someone yell about gunshots, Iojica quickly packed up her belongings and left the scene. However, she noted that even though the room was nearly full, only a few other students also evacuated upon hearing the perceived threat.
“I was pretty rattled,” Iojica said. “Even after finding out it was a false alarm, I thought over what could’ve actually happened and the ramifications.”
UCPD’s rapid response and deployment policy for mass shootings such as the Doe incident includes guidelines around first-response actions, critical incident planning and preparing officers and first responders for different scenarios. Campus spokesperson Adam Ratliff noted the LEAD Center is working directly with the student organization involved.
For students affected by the incident, Ratliff recommends making use of campus Counseling and Psychological Services for support.
“In the present atmosphere of American schools, people are already a little nervous about this kind of thing happening, but I don’t think a lot of people think about it happening in their day-to-day,” Iojica said.