SOUTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. (WPRI) -- A lockdown at the University of Rhode Island's Kingston campus was lifted at 2:15 p.m. Thursday afternoon, about three hours after police first received a report of a gunman inside the school's Chafee Hall.
R.I. State Police Col. Steven O'Donnell told WPRI.com investigators believe there was never a gun or an active shooter at URI, but he said they did recover a Nerf gun during a room-by-room search of Chafee Hall. It wasn't clear whether the Nerf gun was related.
"There is no evidence at all to indicate there was a firearm on campus at any time, and there is no evidence to support that there was an active shooter at anytime," O'Donnell said shortly before the lockdown was lifted. "We want to make sure that's clear."
URI canceled classes on the Kingston campus for the remainder of the day and said classes will resume Friday. All campus shuttles were temporarily stopped and RIPTA buses were diverted away from campus until further notice. Students, faculty and staff were told to remain inside during the lockdown.
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Two people were treated at the scene after suffering "very minor injuries" during the evacuation of Chafee Hall, and one other person went to the campus health center, police said.
The incident is still being investigated. O'Donnell said state police are not calling the incident a hoax, but he suggested one person's initial concern that there was a shooter may have spread quickly, leading to the evacuation.
In a statement, Gov. Lincoln Chafee thanked law-enforcement officers for their work and said he was "relieved and grateful that no one was seriously injured today at the University of Rhode Island."
Chafee also said "incidents such as this offer an important opportunity to review our emergency operations, and that will certainly be the case here. We will take a close look at how this serious and potentially dangerous situation was handled."
O'Donnell said the state police received a 9-1-1 call at 11:22 a.m. reporting that someone knocked on the door of a classroom in Chafee Hall and said: "I'm a good guy and I have a gun." Officers from the state police, campus police and South Kingstown Police Departments responded to the school.
Barbara van Sciver, the lecturer whose class was disrupted, told WPRI.com she screamed for her students to leave the building after hearing the comment, and they did so in an orderly manner. She said she heard lots of yelling but didn't see a gun.
URI activated its Emergency Operations Center in response to the incident. National news crews quickly zeroed in on the suburban campus in South County amid nationwide alarm over gun violence in the wake of the school shooting in Newtown, Conn., last December.
Joshua Caulkins, a URI employee, told WPRI.com he arrived at URI's campus around noon Thursday and found roughly 150 students and staff members around Chafee Hall along with two police cars and about six security personnel.
"Everyone's just standing around," he said.
Caulkins later said he and other staff members continued to work inside with the doors to their offices closed. "It's calm - the area where I am is deserted," he said during the lockdown. "Everyone's pretty much left."
The father of a URI student told WPRI.com a female student in a classroom yelled out, "He has a gun!" The student told her father that the teacher then told the students to leave, leading to "a stampede."
Ryan Cabral, president of URI's Human vs. Zombies club, told WPRI.com Nerf guns are used in the game, which is well-known game at the school. He described it as an "extreme version of tag." He said he hoped his club had nothing to do with Thursday's gun scare, and police investigators said it may not have been related.
The Human vs. Zombies club's Facebook page shows the game, also known as Zombie Tag, was scheduled to be played throughout this week at URI.
URI President David Dooley said the campus website received more than 1 million visits a minute at the height of Thursday's incident. The school posted updates on its @URINews Twitter feed and its Facebook page.
Dooley also reiterated that he thinks URI's campus police should begin carrying firearms to be "fully capable of responding in the shortest possible time," and said Thursday's incident may restart that debate.
The incident comes as Governor Chafee and legislative leaders prepare to introduce new legislation on Tuesday that would change Rhode Island's gun laws.
"Keeping students safe and secure is the most important responsibility of schools at all levels, and today's events are a reminder that we must be vigilant of the potential for dangerous situations to arise in our places of learning," Chafee said Thursday.
Dan McGowan, Steve Nielsen and Nicole Estaphan contributed to this report.
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