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HawkAlert sent more than an hour after a possibly armed suspect reported near campus

BY HAYLEY BRUCE | NOVEMBER 15, 2011 7:20 AM

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University of Iowa officials issued a HawkAlert more than an hour after Iowa City police received a call about a man who may have had a gun near campus Monday night. The man was eventually found about 30 miles from campus with no weapon, according to the police.

And though the HawkAlert system has previously been criticized for its lack of timeliness, UI officials did not have an explanation for the delay in notification Monday evening.

"I would have to check with the team that deals with HawkAlerts," said UI spokesman Tom Moore.

He said he was first informed of the potential campus threat when he received the HawkAlert himself.

Several UI students noted they were disturbed by the vagueness of Monday's message.

"I got up off my futon and locked my door right away," said UI student Megan Walker. "They said near campus, but the campus is so big. I wish they would have given a specific location."

A dispatcher with UI police said the shift commander at the time of the alleged incident is responsible for issuing HawkAlerts. The dispatcher declined to provide any further information Monday evening.

The HawkAlert was sent out at roughly 10:30 p.m. by UI police. The initial call, however, was made to Iowa City police.

Iowa City police Lt. Mike Brotherton said police received a call at 9:06 p.m. regarding a domestic situation between a male and female.

Brotherton said a female reported that she had a dispute with a male. The female told police that the male told her he had a gun, and he threatened to harm her and himself.

UI police sent out a second HawkAlert at roughly 11:20 p.m. canceling the warning. Brotherton said the man in question was located by police in Muscatine. They had searched his car and determined he did not have a weapon.

"I don't know if it was really accurate information initially, anyway," Brotherton said.

The delayed alert comes just under one year after University of Iowa police issued a HawkAlert about an inmate who had escaped from the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics nearly 10 hours after the first incident — in which a man allegedly assaulted a UI student and stole her car before carjacking three other vehicles.

Following the December 2010 incident, Charles Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police, told The Daily Iowan he had wanted the HawkAlert message to be sent out earlier, but his staff was focused on locating the suspect.

The HawkAlert system was also criticized in April 2010, following a delayed notification about a tornado near the Iowa City area.

The system also issued a delayed notification in 2008 after a local man killed his family before ending his own life.

Moore said steps have been taken to ensure warnings are issued as timely as possible, though he did not specify what steps have been taken.

Moore could not provide any more information regarding the alleged incident Monday evening.

"It's impossible for me to say at this point; I don't have all the information," he said. "I will not make that judgment or speculation at this state."

DI staffers Alison Sullivan and Dora Grote contributed to this report.


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