GREENVILLE, NC - The man at the center of a lockdown at East Carolina University yesterday says he didn't even realize he was the man police were looking for. Jimmy Callaway, whose umbrella was mistaken for an assault rifle, talked exclusively with WITN's Chris Jones Thursday.
Callaway says he was scared like everyone else when he heard police were looking for an armed man on campus. He didn't realize until later it was a photo of him, and his umbrella that was seen on a Greenville street camera which caused police to lockdown his school.
The umbrella handle is shaped to look like a sword and he carries it over his shoulder. Callaway is a senior at ECU and was sitting in class during the lockdown. "I was in a German class and I was the one that told my class there was an armed man on 5th. I had no idea it was me."
Both campuses of the 27,500 student university and three nearby public schools were locked down because of the sighting.
Callaway says a friend showed him the surveillance photo and asked if it was him. Callaway says he was embarrassed when he realized it was. He says police called shortly after that and told him he didn't do anything wrong, but that they needed to talk to him. Police say Callaway will not face any charges for the three-hour ordeal.
The student feels police did the right thing by locking down the university. He says it's better they erred on the side of caution.
An ECU student says he has used a "samurai umbrella" for months without a problem, until yesterday. That's when several people called 911 about a man with an assault rifle walking toward the campus. It prompted a lockdown at the university and three public schools nearby.
ECU student Jimmy Callaway says he's the man seen in the surveillance video in downtown Greenville Thursday morning carrying an umbrella.
Several people saw Callaway carrying a backpack and a large black umbrella on his back, wearing a white hat downtown and mistakenly reported he had a rifle.
A picture of Callaway with his white hat, black umbrella, and black backpack today in a cafeteria is now posted on a newly created Facebook page for ECU Gunbrella Man.
Callaway told WITN News this morning that he purchased the umbrella back in March and yesterday was the first time there's been a problem.
GREENVILLE, NC -- Police say a suspected gunman who prompted a nearly three hour lockdown at East Carolina University turned out to be carrying an umbrella.
The lockdown was lifted around 12:50 p.m. after police determined that the man did not have a gun. Classes for the 27,500 students resumed at 3:00 p.m.
Three nearby public schools were also placed on lockdown, and Pitt County Schools say those schools also returned to normal operations.
It marked the fifth time in less than two weeks that a college campus in North Carolina had been placed on lockdown because of a gun threat. Other scares happened at Elizabeth City State, Wake Tech, Campbell and UNC-Wilmington.
The lockdown was issued after what was believed to be an armed man was spotted near the corner of 5th and Reade Street around 10:00 a.m. Greenville police Sgt. Carlton Williams tells WITN News that video from a security camera showed the man wearing a cowboy hat, with a backpack and what appeared to be an assault rifle in his right hand.
But hours later it was determined there was no threat. A reserve Pitt County deputy identified the man, police questioned him and it was learned the man only had an umbrella sticking out of his backpack.
Police say the man was not breaking any laws and faces no charges. Some 60 police officers were involved in the university lockdown.
ECU police are sweeping the campus, and the university says all residence halls have been locked down and are secure.
In addition to ECU, three nearby Pitt County schools have also been placed on lockdown. Those are Wahl Coat Elementary, Elmhurst Elementary and C.M. Eppes Middle schools. The school system says those facilities are under a modified lockdown, meaning classes are continuing but no one is allow to come inside.
ECU has set up a call center for parents of students to get the latest information. That number is 252-737-5100.
The university has 27,500 students.
The alert was issued after an armed man was spotted near the corner of 5th and Reade Street around 10:00 a.m. Greenville police Sgt. Carlton Williams tells WITN News that video from a surveillance camera showed the man wearing a cowboy hat, with a backpack and what appeared to be an assault rifle in his right hand.
There was also a large-scale police action at 4th & Reade Street. Greenville police surrounded a Greenville transit bus, but nothing was found.
Greenville police say they got a report around 10:00 a.m. of an armed man on East Fifth Street and confirmed the man then crossed onto campus. Greenville police are coordinating the search with ECU police.
Alert sirens on campus were telling people to seek a safe place. Greenville police say there are no confirmed reports of anyone being held hostage.
WITN News has multiple crews on campus and will have updates on this developing story as they become available.