After more than three hours, police called off the search at Holy Names University.
Disrupting what would normally be a typical Thursday morning at a small, wooded, private Catholic school, Oakland police swarmed the campus of Holy Names University looking for a possible gunman.
They searched 20 buildings for nearly three hours. But just about 2:30 p.m., police called off the hunt and re-opened the school at 3500 Mountain Boulevard. Still, the gunman - who apparently looked disoriented and was looking for a bathroom - was nowhere to be found.
Police said they would work with campus security to make sure he wouldn't return, but it wasn't immediately clear if authorities were on the lookout for him elsewhere. Police don't believe the man has any connection to the university. It is policy that people need to pass through a security gate before entering the school; it is unclear how the man slipped through.
The campus lockdown came as a complete shock to students and staff. The small school is set in a secluded and affluent part of Oakland, where events like these are nearly unheard of. No one was injured.
"Oh my God, I feel scared," Megan Allen, a nursing student at the school, said after she was escorted to safety. "Our school is really expensive. It’s secure, we have security guards everywhere. It’s a Catholic school, and I love my school, so the fact that someone would bring a gun on campus is like, scary.”
The scare began unfolding just before 11 a.m. That's when police spokeswoman Johnna Watson said a witness called police to report that a "disoriented and disheveled" man had come into the administrative offices of Hester Hall with a gun, seen tucked in his waistband. Holy Names officials immediately locked the gates to the school.
Several witnesses described the suspect as an overweight white man in his 20s with glasses. They said he was wearing a blue blazer, a white shirt and had very short brown hair. Some of the witnesses said they thought he was looking for a bathroom. According to the witnesses, the man had a handgun in his waistband.
As the search was going on, Tim Wood, whose 20-year-old son attends the school, was worried. He said his son was texting him that he was locked temporarily in the library. He told his father he saw lots of officers walking around the school with automatic weapons. He also said that the shooter is considered "active," and police are saying he is "armed and dangerous." Police did not say that at the news conference for reporters.
An NBC Bay Area helicopter over the school showed police were actively searching the campus.
Just after noon, Wood said his son and others were being escorted out of the library, and everyone was told not to use their cell phones.
The private school is 144 years old, and was founded by the Sisters of the Holy Names of Jesus and Mary on the shores of Lake Merritt in 1868. The campus was moved to its current location in 1957.
While the Holy Names community was undoubtedly scared, Thursday's scare was nothing like what happened an another Oakland university in April. In that case, a gunman terrorized the campus at Oikos University, killing seven.