Three people, including a current and former student, were injured in a shooting close to UT campus Tuesday night, but UTPD says the threat never expanded to the overall campus. Police say the suspect and victims knew each other.
Regardless, university police exercised caution by sending out a series of email and text alerts shortly after the 9-1-1 calls came in, warning students of an active shooter situation.
The warnings sparked panic among some students and humor in others after reading, "as a last resort, and only if your life is in danger, attempt to incapacitate the shooter," and ending with the final message: "RUN, HIDE, FIGHT."
How seriously students took the warning seemed to correlate to how close they were to the shooting.
But whether they could hear gunshots or they were on the other side of campus, most people didn't now what to make of the "RUN, HIDE, FIGHT recommendation."
"It's just goofy. No one was taking it seriously," said student McKenzie Martin, who was inside the Haslam Music Building with friends when the shooting started on the other side of Cumberland Avenue.
For Senior Abby Knight, the evening was much more frightening.
"I could hear police knocking," said Knight, "that was terrifying."
Sitting home alone in her Fort Sanders apartment, Knight says she relied on UT's alerts to know how to respond.
"I didn't know if I should keep my lights on, or turn them off," said Knight. "But they said turn them off, so I was sitting in the dark, just kind of crouched down- but, 'RUN, HIDE, FIGHT' was not reassuring at all."
UTPD Sgt. Cedric Roach says the phrase was a reference to a training course they offer to students and teachers.
"If there's an active shooting in your area we teach run first, hide if you can't run, and fight as a last resort.," said Roach on Wednesday.
When asked about how they balance the desire to warn students without panicking them, Roach said they're approach is usually to err on the side of offering up all the information that could potentially be useful.
"We leave [how they respond] up to the individual. We just want to make sure we provide the information so you can make that decision," said Roach.
Roach says they will continue to offer the course to students and teachers in the future.
And while the course could prove useful for students, Martin and Knight agree including the phrase in the text alert did not.
"We're a college town. This kind of stuff happens," said Knight. "But the alert said 'RUN, HIDE, FIGHT.' That is not really reassuring for a 20-year-old girl."