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Sounds From Construction Site May Have Caused Gunfire Scare at Southwestern College

Students reported hearing bangs near the campus library but college police said the noise likely came from construction work happening at the college

Sounds coming from a construction site may have caused a scare of reports of gunfire at Southwestern College in Chula Vista Tuesday, police confirmed.

Officers with the Chula Vista Police Department swarmed the community college campus just after 1 p.m. to investigate reports of gunfire. As a precaution, some parts of the campus were evacuated or placed on lockdown.

Just after 1 p.m., the school began sending email and text alerts to students, including this text message: “The college received a report of shots fired on the 3rd floor of the library. Library has been evacuated. Chula Vista Police are searching the library. Only the library area is on lockdown. Please remain calm.”

At around 1:30 p.m., nearly a dozen law enforcement vehicles were parked near the new aquatic center on campus. The library and learning resource center that was being evacuated is located just south of the student parking area off East H Street.

At 1:43 p.m., the college tweeted saying the area was “all-clear” and that the brief lockdown had been lifted. Southwestern added, “All operations resume as normal.”

By 2 p.m., Southwestern College Campus Police Sgt. Marco Bareno confirmed the reports were unfounded and at least two bangs that were heard near the school library had likely been noise coming from a construction site. 

"At this moment, there’s a lot of construction going on. I think there was construction going on one of the floors – that might have triggered the noise," Bareno said.

Bareno said officers scoured the campus and, when they didn't find anything amiss, the lockdown was lifted. No one was hurt.

The scare, although brief, jarred many students, including Salvador Garcia.

He was in a classroom when he said someone walked in and said there was a man shooting a gun in the library. From prior drills he learned in school in Tijuana, Mexico, Garcia said he knew he had two choices: run or hide.

Garcia told Telemundo 20 and NBC 7 that he and everyone in his class ran out of the building. 

“[I thought], ‘I better run before I get shot,’” Garcia said.

As soon as he ran out, Garcia said he saw officers on the campus and a police helicopter overhead. He didn’t hear any gunshots but a few minutes after evacuating his classroom, Garcia said he received an email alert from the school.

Another student, Zemn Aljaber, was attending a film department meeting when someone walked in and told her group to leave the room they were in.

“Everyone was kind of panicking, in a way,” she told NBC 7. “And then as soon as we ran out, we saw a lot of police officers, holding rifles, and that’s when we knew that there could be a shooting and we evacuated immediately.”

Aljaber said she heard sirens and stuck close to some friends who had been in that meeting with her, including Seke Snow and Ismael Cosio.

“I was very scared,” she added.

“Everybody ran out; nobody was really understanding what was going on,” Snow recalled. “Everyone was scared and confused.”

“I was worried,” Cosio added. “I had no idea what was going on. I ran outside.”

Southwestern College is located at 900 Otay Lakes Rd. in Chula Vista. 

According to the school's website, the two-year community college was established in 1961 and is one of 115 public community colleges in California. As of 2016, approximately 26,500 students are enrolled in the school.

No other information was available.

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