IOWA CITY, Iowa — A University of Iowa student has been charged with falsely reporting that there was an active shooter in his dormitory over the weekend, a hoax that prompted a swift police response and the evacuation of the large residence hall.
Harrison Tsimouris, an 18-year-old freshman from suburban Chicago, told police the whole thing was intended as a prank.
The university said Tsimouris admitted to sending a text message to another student on Saturday telling him there was an active shooter in Burge Residence Hall and to call authorities.
That student called police at 5:08 p.m. Campus officers quickly came to the scene with guns drawn and ordered students to get out of Burge, where Tsimouris was a resident. But the student called back minutes later and told police that his friend turned out to be joking about the shooter.
Both students were brought in for questioning, and Tsimouris was taken into custody. He was released late Saturday night after about four hours in the county jail.
Tsimouris has been charged with filing a false report to a public entity, a simple misdemeanor that carries a maximum punishment of 30 days in jail and a $625 fine. He was charged late Saturday, but it was announced Monday.
UI Department of Public Safety director Scott Beckner said the incident was highly irresponsible and put students, staff and officers at risk.
“Students exiting the building could have been seriously injured by running and squeezing through doorways or falling down steps,” he said in a statement. “Only by the orderly exiting by our students, an appropriate response by officers and staff to assist, and luck did we not have reports of students physically injured during this incident.”
Tsimouris didn’t immediately respond to an email sent to his university account. It wasn’t clear if he has an attorney.