SAN MARCOS, CA — A SWAT team was deployed and a university campus was locked down when someone suspected that a man carrying his umbrella was actually carrying a firearm.
The breathtaking overreaction occurred at California State University San Marcos (CSUSM) on the rainy Wednesday morning of August 20th, 2014. Staff member Bill Craig, who has worked for the university for 17 years, was walking across campus to his office with his folded-up umbrella.
A paranoid campus busybody spotted Mr. Craig and assumed that his black umbrella was a rifle. The ignorant individual called the police to report a non-police officer bearing arms.
At 9:00 a.m., an order to “shelter in place” was issued, and students and staff members hunkered down as heavily armed police officers descended upon the campus.
“Immediately… the doors [were] locked and then they took all the chairs and all the tables and barricaded the doors,” said student James Collins to ABC 10 News. “People were kind of freaked out and you could tell that there was a nervous tension.”
San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies — toting rifles of their own — spotted Mr. Craig, who matched the description of the “gunman,” and quickly “disarmed” him of his umbrella.
Photos showed Mr. Craig holding his arms straight in the air as a helmet-wearing officer aimed a rifle at him. Luckily the misinformed paranoia did not result in the staff member or a bystander getting shot by police.
The embarrassing mistake was acknowledged and the lockdown was lifted, but not before a dose of fear was instilled in the entire campus — fear that reinforces dependence on the government for security.
“Earlier this morning there was a report to University Police of a possible gunman at CSUSM,” read a statement released by the college later that afternoon. “The campus was immediately placed on lock down. Police performed a security sweep and determined that the suspect was not armed, but was a staff member carrying a large umbrella and carry bag. We are grateful for the quick response by our police officers to the perceived threat and to our campus community for their cooperation during the brief state of emergency.”
The folly of the situation — besides the comical misidentification — is that a society which values freedom wouldn’t have any reason to hassle a man with a real rifle. It is a non sequitor to assume that an armed man inherently represents an imminent threat to anyone else.
“The right to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed,” states the U.S. constitution, yet even a rumor of an openly carried firearm in some hoplophobic regions results in an enormous effort to suppress that rightful behavior. In a practical sense, these regions exist under a condition where only government agents may be armed — a hallmark of police states throughout history.
Mr. Craig maintained a sense of humor after the incident, writing online: “I don’t always bring an umbrella to work, but when I do, I get cuffed.”