False reports on social media, police scanners added to trauma of MSU shooting

“I thought they were everywhere on campus. Not just Berkey and the Union.”
Published: Feb. 16, 2023 at 6:00 PM EST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

EAST LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - As police responded to the active shooter on Michigan State University campus Monday, hundreds of thousands of people turned to social media and police scanners for the latest developments. 911 calls were being relayed directly to officers on the scene, but not all of the calls were accurate.

Related: Timeline of events in Michigan State University shooting

Unverified information added to the trauma of Monday’s shooting. While students were told to run, hide and fight, they were desperate to find more information. Many Spartans on and off campus, thought that listening to the police scanners was the best way to stay informed.

“Obviously, there was the Berkey and the Union, but then they were saying that there were shots heard at other dorm buildings, like spread across campus,” said MSU junior Natalie Polehna. “That’s when we thought there could be more than one shooter.”

While responding to the numerous calls that were coming in, police said they were trying to determine what was real, and what wasn’t.

“So those were reports received through dispatch, that (were) then coming to us. Then we have the opportunity to verify, or to confirm that it’s not true, then we do that. That’s part of the overall decision-making process.” said Marlon Lynch, MSU’s Police Chief.

As people called in tips, students said one call felt like it was meant to instill fear. Someone placed a 911 call about bombs being on campus.

“Obviously the false information added to my anxiety, because I thought they were everywhere on campus,” Polehna recalled. “Not just Berkey and the Union.”

Read: MSU gives update of counseling options available for students, faculty, staff

Social media posts only added to the terror.

“Rumors were being spread,” Polehna said. “It was just a lot.”

False information about the location, the number of shooters, and even the possibility of explosives spread like wildfire. Police said they diligently worked to verify information as they received it.

“If that’s what’s going on, what else do you have to believe? If you’re listening, actively listening to a scanner. That’s why we were communicating in the manner that we were. Please utilize us as your source for information,” Marlon urged.

MSU’s police chief knows how scary the scanners can be and asks the community to listen to their updates moving forward.

Police scanners provide real-time information, but that information is always unverified. Anyone tuning into a live scanner feed should be aware that not everything they hear on the scanner is accurate.


Subscribe to our News 10 newsletter and receive the latest local news and weather straight to your email every morning.