What to Know
- Pace University was briefly evacuated Thursday after a group called 911 to report a man with a gun after seeing a decorative ammo belt.
- While clearing the school, police saw a man wearing the belt and determined that he was the person the group saw in the bathroom.
- Pace tweeted there was no threat to the campus. "It was a false alarm. There were no injuries and everyone is safe."
A decorative ammunition belt spurred a brief evacuation at Pace University in lower Manhattan Thursday afternoon after someone saw the item and called 911 to report a man with a machine gun.
John Miller, the NYPD's deputy commissioner of intelligence and counter-terrorism, said that the evacuation was ordered out of an abundance of caution after several people saw the ammunition belt on the floor of a sixth-floor bathroom stall and called the authorities. But while clearing out the building, officers found a man wearing the belt and quickly determined that there was no threat.
"His belt was just a belt that he wore as part of his wardrobe," Miller said. "A fashion statement -- but probably not a very good fashion statement."
Miller said several people saw the belt on the floor in a stall in a sixth-floor men's room at about 2:20 p.m.; a Snapchat video obtained by NBC News even shows the item in the stall.
He said the group peeped into the stall and thought they saw a man loading a gun magazine. When the man looked back at them, Miller said the witnesses ran off and called 911 to report a man with a machine gun.
Miller said that while officers cleared out the building, they saw a man wearing a belt that had what looked like rifle rounds on it. When they talked to him, they found out that he was in the a stall at the same bathroom as the group that reported the shooter.
Police had the group that reported the shooter identify the man, and the school was cleared.
Miller said that investigators took the belt and will try to determine if it had any live rounds in it; the man wearing the item told police they were decorative.
"In the great law of unintended consequences, what we had was well meaning complainants who made and observation and did the right thing and called the police," Miller said.
He added that it "turns out to be a happy, if slightly awkward, ending for the individual that wears the belt."
Still, the evacuation made for a tense few minutes at the university near City Hall. Video posted to social media showed a huge law enforcement presence descending on the campus. Others described a mass evacuation.
Pace posted a red banner to the top of its website at 3 p.m. confirming there was no threat to the campus. The university also tweeted, "There was police activity at One Pace Plaza. It was a false alarm. There were no injuries and everyone is safe."
Pace University has nearly 13,000 students between its main campus in lower Manhattan, another in Midtown and two campuses in Westchester.
This year it was ranked the safest college campus in America by RentCollegePads.com, a college real estate listings site, which said Pace “averages just two crimes per academic year.”