Fireworks could be to blame in Highline College panic

No evidence of shooter at Highline College after reports of gunfire caused massive response

Highline College students barricaded doors with chairs and desks as SWAT crews sifted through buildings room by room in search of a shooter on Friday.

Shortly after the campus locked down, students were evacuated, but not because of a gunman.

>> Timeline: No evidence of shooter at Highline College

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“It’s a false alarm," student Bogdan Chmil told KIRO 7. "Cops, when they evacuated us, they said it was just fireworks, just a false alarm. [They said], 'It's scary, sorry to scare you guys.' It's never good to see cops with guns, big guns ... but it's just fireworks."

Des Moines Police Department officials said late Friday morning, nearly three hours after the reports of a firearm on campus, that someone may have set off firework. It took the entire morning for ATF and SWAT teams to scour the campus as a precaution. No one was injured, and a gunman wasn't found.

"We have multiple reports of what could have happened, for instance fireworks, or other things like that," DPD Chief George Delgado said in a news conference. "If this is something that somebody thought was funny in light of Florida and wanted to create some hysteria, well, it's not appreciated."

The panic comes not even a full two days after the Florida massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, where 17 people were killed in a shooting rampage. As the nation remembers the young victims and heroic teachers lost, schools across the United States have been on edge.

"Why would anyone explode a firework right after the Florida shooting? It's a terrible idea," Chmil said. "Why would someone do that? Whoever did that ... it's not very good. Scaring a lot of students at possibly the worst timing. [The fireworks] scared an entire school full of 15,000 people."

Chmil told KIRO 7 that he heard small gunshots while on campus Friday mid-morning. It appears someone set them off on the southern side of campus by the college's library.

On KIRO 7 live at 5 p.m., we're talking to students evacuated in the false alarm. Watch on-air or here.

Police gave the all clear on campus around noon on Friday, but Highline still canceled class for the rest of the day. A reunification center was set up at a nearby Lowe's store parking lot, where families could meet students after the emotional morning.

Highline College is about 17 minutes south of Seattle in Des Moines, Wash. It has about 17,000 students and was founded in 1961 as the first community college in King County.

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