Police Radio Reveals Terror and Confusion in Hunt for Michigan State Gunman

Law enforcement faced a deluge of 911 calls containing false alarms, adding chaos to the already difficult task of securing a campus with 400 buildings.

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By Robin Stein, Natalie Reneau, Ishaan Jhaveri and Dmitriy Khavin

There were calls about gunfire coming from dorm rooms all across campus. Reports of shooting and screaming from a basketball court. Someone threatening five people with a firearm at an off-campus apartment.

The mass shooting at Michigan State University on Monday night left three students dead, five others seriously wounded and more than 50,000 locked down in terror for hours. As law enforcement conducted the manhunt, thousands of people across the campus in East Lansing, Mich. — and across the world — listened in, tuning into live feeds of the local police scanner.

The radio transmissions between officers, medics and dispatchers gave civilians a rare — and often terrifying — real-time window into the mass shooting response. They also laid bare an almost impossible task for even the most coordinated and fine-tuned of law enforcement responses: tracking down one man with a gun on an eight-square-mile campus filled with 400 buildings, decentralized closed-circuit TV cameras, and tens of thousands of petrified students and staff members, seeing signs of danger in every shadow.

Only later did it become clear that the threat stemmed from one source: a 43-year-old man wearing a jean jacket and red sneakers and carrying a handgun, who now appears to have left the university soon after opening fire in two buildings at the north edge of campus.

But none of that was known at the time by the public, or even by law enforcement, which was chasing down a deluge of 911 calls from across a campus filled with dead ends and false alarms.

The New York Times reviewed the radio traffic from the “Greater Lansing Area Public Safety” feed posted on Broadcastify, a website that provides public access to emergency radio communications. At one point, more than 240,000 people were listening to the feed on Monday night — a record amount of traffic on the website, according to its founder, Lindsay Blanton.

Police dispatch calls involving suspicious activity

Radio traffic from 8:45 p.m. to midnight on Feb. 13 reviewed by The Times

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