Baltimore SWAT Team Locks School Down for Four Hours over Student with Tripod


Baltimore police stormed a school in SWAT gear, locking it down for four hours before evacuating the students to another school after a journalism student was spotted with a tripod.

The University of Maryland student should count his blessings he wasn’t shot to death considering his tripod was reported as being a gun.

Baltimore City Public Schools released the following statement, according to CBS.

“This morning, KIPP Ujima Village Academy and KIPP Harmony were placed in heightened security status, based on a report of a possible intruder. Police responded and secured the building, while police and school staff together ensured the safety of all children and staff. After a thorough investigation, police determined that there was no intruder in the building or on school grounds.

“As a precaution while the large school building was searched, students were taken by bus to the shared campus of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and Western High School. Parents were contacted by phone and through local and social media channels, and were directed to pick up children from that location.

“We thank Baltimore City police, the staff and students of the KIPP schools, and City Schools staff for their exemplary handling of this situation and their calm, complete implementation of security protocols. The district responds to any possible threat to children’s safety as a matter of extreme urgency, and we appreciate the professionalism and cooperation of law enforcement, school and district staff, parents and partners.”

It took them four hours to  figure out there was no gunman?

About Carlos Miller

Carlos Miller is founder and publisher of Photography is Not a Crime, which began as a one-man blog in 2007 to document his trial after he was arrested for photographing police during a journalistic assignment. He is also the author of The Citizen Journalist's Photography Handbook, which can be purchased through Amazon.

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  • Clark

    Wow, and I thought the only school systems where the admins were dumber than their students were here in the South. I hope the kid sues everyone, and the parents of the kids affected sue the school system for causing a panic where none existed.

    • $910553

      Why should the school system or the pigs CARE if they get sued? Mere Citizens will pay for their defense, while the plaintiff will have to foot his own expenses. And if the pigs or the school system DO lose the suit, Mere Citizens will pay the settlement.

      Nothing will change for the better until there are enough dead pig corpses stacked in the streets. What part of that do you fail to understand???

      • Ian Battles

        I know making others foot the bill when I fuck up makes me care about not fucking up.

        • $910553

          If it does, then you are probably neither “Law Enforcement” nor a school system administrator.

      • JoeFNA

        That’s why you sue them in their private capacity, so the town or city’s insurance doesn’t cover the bill.

        • $910553

          Good luck with getting the “Legal” system to let you do that.

        • ExCop-Lawyer

          @joefna:disqus You can sue them in their “individual” capacity instead of their “official” capacity. There is no “private” capacity.

          In either case, the officer is indemnified by their employer or the employer’s insurance.

          Thanks for playing.

    • ExCop-Lawyer

      Exactly what are you planning on suing them for? There’s no tort for “causing a panic.”

      • KB

        Actualy there is its called false reporting as well as the good old stand by of yelling fire in a crowded place HMMM those are crimes are they not?

        • Kaemaril

          “as well as the good old stand by of yelling fire in a crowded place”
          Nope, that’s not a crime.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            Actually it is, in every state.

          • Kaemaril

            > as well as the good old stand by of yelling fire in a crowded place”
            Nope, that’s not a crime.

            >Actually is is, in every state.

            So you’re claiming It’s literally illegal to shout the word “fire” in a crowded place? In every state? Is that a federal law, or did every state band together to ban the use of the F-word?

            What if it happens to be true? You’re saying it’s illegal for somebody to raise the alarm for a fire when he or she happens to spot a fire? Is it legal if they preface it with ‘Call 911! There’s a …’ or is it still illegal no matter what other words are used in the sentence?

            If somebody stands in the centre of a crowded space and commits the crime of yelling ‘Fire’ is a second person who stands up and shouts ‘No! Don’t panic! There’s no fire!’ just as guilty as the first, for using the forbidden word?

            If an actor has to loudly proclaim the word “Fire!” as part of his performance, is he legally required to make sure the theatre isn’t at full capacity before he does so or is he OK take the word of the stage manager that it doesn’t count as ‘crowded’? Should he play it safe and seek independent legal advice before the first performance?

            Or is the “You can’t shout fire in a crowded place” line just utter claptrap?

            Let’s go for the classic, shall we?

            “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in *falsely* shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic” – Chief Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Schenck v. United States

            Hey, look at that important modifier that is nowhere to be found in the original statement I responded to. Think that might make a difference? I sure do.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            It would more impressive if you had not misidentified Justice Holmes as the Chief Justice in Schenck v. United States, 249 U.S. 47 (1919). Holmes was an Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

          • Kaemaril

            Yep, true. I concede he was an AJ at the time of Schenck, sure enough. I just referred to him as the Chief Justice as that (in an acting capacity, ISTR) was the highest rank held, so to speak. In the same way that I’d refer to a quote from Nelson as being from Admiral Lord Horatio Nelson, even if he were only a lower rank at the time he spoke the words.

            Sorry, my bad. I guess my attribution needs work. But IANAL so I see no great need to immediately change things :)

            Still, the point stands – it is not a crime, and never has been, to yell “fire” in a crowded theatre (or any other place). It may be a crime to needlessly cause a panic,stampedes etc but that’s a different thing entirely.

          • ExCop-Lawyer

            Except Holmes was never Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and while as the senior Associate Justice, he did preside, that does not make him an “Acting” Chief Justice. He only did so for 21 days.

          • Kaemaril

            You know what? I’m not interested in debating with you whether or not I gave Holmes the correct title. I will cheerfully hold my hands up to the error.

            But …

            I could have just as easily attributed that quote to ‘Oliver Wendell Holmes, Supreme Law Sasquatch of the Grand Intergalactic League’ and my point would have remained exactly the same.

            I assert that It is *not* a crime simply to yell “fire” in a crowded place.

            At most it may well be a crime to cause a panic by *falsely* yelling fire in a crowded place. But that is not what I replied to. A poster said it was illegal to yell ‘fire’ in a crowded place.

            I said it was not.

            You said it was. In every state.

            I gave a couple of examples why such a blanket ban might be tricky, and gave the originating quote for the ‘classic’ (as the OP put it).

            Now, if you still maintain that it is illegal to simply yell ‘fire’ in a crowded place irrespective of motive or whether it is true or not – in every one of the 50 states, no less – could you address that?

          • ExCop-Lawyer


            It’s called the clear and present danger test. In a model penal code state, like Texas, it is covered by False Alarm or Report, Tex. Pen. Code Ann. § 42.06 (West), or Disorderly Conduct, § 42.01. The same thing occurs in a common law state.

            You cannot scream fire in a darkened theater and create panic. It is clear what the initial poster was speaking of, and what I replied to, from the context of the discussion.

          • Kaemaril

            “You cannot scream fire in a darkened theater and create panic.”

            You can if there is a fire. There is NO “good old stand by of yelling fire in a crowded place”

            There may be a “good old stand by of FALSELY yelling fire in a crowded place”, but that is NOT what was said. Even the law you cite makes it clear that it is only an offence to FALSELY yell ‘fire’.

            Context be damned, I would have thought – what with you being both an ex-cop and a law student – that you would agree that precision in such matters counts. Indeed, what with you being both an ex-cop and a law student I’m surprised you didn’t point out the slight inaccuracy in the initial statement yourself.

          • Michael Raymond

            This guy is ignorant, & wants to impress the world. IGNORE HIM.

          • Pat Lane

            Nope. It’s not. You can yell fire in a crowded room and have it not be a crime.

          • Max

            Schecnk v. United States (1919) upheld the illegality of any actions that cause an unnecessary panic, or speech that has a “clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent”.
            So this is illegal on the federal level in all 50 states, yes. Your semantic arguments are ludicrous and have absolutely no merit.

          • Kaemaril

            You may think it ‘semantics’ that the word FALSELY should be critical to the argument, but I’d argue it’s an important distinction and not mere wordplay.

            But tell you what, the next time somebody raises the alarm by yelling ‘fire’ in a theatre when there actually IS a fire, why don’t you arrange to have him arrested and prosecuted anyway? Maybe the judge will agree with you. Maybe the jury will, once properly instructed. Maybe the difference between FALSELY shouting something which might cause a panic and shouting something TRUE which might cause a panic is, indeed, merely semantics.

            It’s a shame that the people who dig out this line, based upon ol’ Wendell, can’t get it right. I’d have absolutely no problem with anyone saying ‘It’s illegal to *falsely* yell fire in a crowded theatre’, because that’s what the law actually says. I mean, it’s not like the law *ever* makes a distinction between what people says truthfully and what they say falsely anywhere else …

        • ExCop-Lawyer

          They may be crimes, but they are not torts.

          You can’t sue someone for a crime. Crimes are handled by the state.

      • Clark

        How about the good old “mental anguish.” Any half-decent lawyer could easily make a case that these kids were led to believe there may be a shooter on campus and their lives were in danger.

        • ExCop-Lawyer

          “Mental anguish” isn’t a cause of action, but a type of damage. Intentional infliction of emotional distress is a similar cause of action, but the facts here do not support it.

  • Kaemaril

    It took them four hours to begin to evacuate a school full of children where there might be one or more gunmen present?

    Also, I’m surprised the authorities didn’t come up with some completely bogus charge for the guy with the tripod :)

    • Carlos_Miller

      Well, you know, they had to protect themselves first, so they probably were hiding behind their cars for four hours before they got the courage to enter the building.

      • stk33

        There’s something strange in this. They evacuated the students first. So I wonder, when evacuating them, they were somehow sure that the supposed gunman is not around?

      • jcfromnj

        OK Carlos, consider this….the tripod COULD have morphed into a 50 cal Barrett
        Rifle…I saw it in a Transformer movie .

      • G

        The cops were probably drinking their bottle of courage (booze) in order to overcome their fear and calm their nerves before they could enter the building. If you recall the movie Saving Private Ryan, Tom Hank’s character was drinking in from his water canteen while in the landing craft before hitting the beach in order to calm his nerves since his hands were shaking either from fear, PTSD, or both.

      • Colin


        I don’t see you jumping at the chance to be a cop and put your life on the line for someone else.

        Over the past 10 years, 154 cops per year have died in the line of duty in the USA. That an average of 3 a week. Couple of years ago, three died in one day in St. Petersburg, FL.

        Someone reported a long gun, so the cops have to treat it like it is.

        Why not blame the moron who can’t tell the difference between a rifle and a tripod. No, in this case, you would rather blame the cops.

        PS This has nothing to do with PINAC as it was setup.

        • Rob Smith

          I don’t see Carlos (or you, for that matter) jumping at the chance to be a fisherman either.

          While they only had 38 fatalities in 2008 (the most recent stats I could find) that’s about 111 fatalities per 100,000 people, about 5 times more dangerous than being a police officer (21.8 fatalities per 100,000).

          It’s even twice as dangerous to be a farmer than a police officer – 293 fatalities in 2007, nearly one per day, or 39.5 per 100,000.

        • JdL

          Over the past 10 years, 154 cops per year have died in the line of duty in the USA. That an average of 3 a week.

          You might want to check your math there, Colin. If 154 cops died in ONE year, that would be three per week. In TEN years, not so much. There are many professions that are way more dangerous than being a cop, and as far as I know, none of those professions are riddled with psychopaths who go around savaging and murdering people as cops do.

          • Colin

            My math is correct.

            It would have been a little clearer if I had said “Over the past 10 years, an average of 154 cops per year have died in the line of duty in the USA.”

            But the math and my statement are still correct. 154 is the annual average deaths for 2003-2012.

          • Frank Talk

            Last year, the National Law Enforcment Officers Memorial Fund reported that 111 police officers died in the line of duty. Of those, 46 were in car accidents and 33 by firearm, the lowest number of shooting deaths since 1887. The statistics prove that policing has become much safer over the past 20-25 years.

            The number of homicides by police, however, has remained constant even as the cops’ job has become safer. That includes justifiable and nonjustifiable homicides.

            Not saying it’s the easiest job, but let’s not go overboard here. Many more would get home every day if they would just put their seatbelts on and drive close to the speed limit.

          • Colin

            One year is not an proof of anything. I used the same organization you did, I just averaged 10 years together to get a better picture of officer deaths.

            Here is my source (see below). It contains date from 1791 to 2012. I would assume they have not yet updated the web page.


            And if you total the 2003 through 2012 fatalities, then divide by 10, you come up with 154.

            I agree with your last paragraph. Most cops are decent, hard working people. There are a few bad apples, as there are in most fields. The problem is that the bad cops have the power to really hurt other people and often get away with it.

            I have no animus against cops, I just think it’s silly for this site to criticize them for taking four hours to clear a building when a non-cop reported a long gun (rifle or shotgun) in a school.

          • Alexander Vucelic


            Cops have the SAFEST blue collar job out there. The vast majority of deaths on the job are are caused by their own stupidity.

            40% of cop deaths are caused by cops wrecking their cars, not wearing self belts, driving recklessly for no reason at all.
            15% of deaths are caused by heart attacks ! No doughnut jokes please

            In 2013 there were 34 cops killed by gunfire of these;
            1 cop was killed while off duty after he attacked a innocent American. The cop was drunk at the time staggering home after a all night party.

            1 cop was burned to death after getting shot a few hundred times by a posse of other cops.

            7 cops were shot and killed by other cops. Most of these were bad cops murdering good cops.

            14 cops were shot by innocent Americans who were lawfully defending themselves.

            A mere 11 cops were shot and killed by criminals.

            Whiney crybaby cops complaining about hard and difficult their are jobs are just wrong. Cops have easy cushy jobs. They have safe jobs. My receptionist runs a greater risk of getting shot than cops.

          • Pat Lane

            It is each year, on average. Sometimes more, sometimes less.

    • stk33

      Right on target. I noticed long ago that whenever there’s a real shooting, we hear that “police has established the perimeter” – rather than “police made dynamic entry and neutralized the terrorist”. Since officer safety is paramount, they apparently make “dynamic entry” only when they have really nothing to fear of (despite their own claims that they after all did fear a 0.5′ big puppy or 90-year-old wheelchair patient they shot in the process). So for 4 hours they hoped that the situation would somehow resolve by itself, like in Sandy Hook. Imagine the disappointment when it did not.

      I bet on their drill that they had in the same school right before that (and which very likely played the role in this), their actions were completely different. Maybe they need to adjust the scenario of their next drill by telling the kids that because of officer safety being #1 priority, it’s upon the kids to take care of the gunman.

    • Tijuana Joe

      Yeah, all that mayhem deserves a charge, dammit. Maybe non-malicious mischief.
      That might stick. Or prowling.

    • Pat Lane

      Yes. They don’t just say “everyone ruuuuuuun!!!”

      They have everyone shelter in place, go room to room, and escort people out.

      What’s wrong with that?

      • Kaemaril

        Nothing wrong with that, except that the source article says:

        After four hours on lockdown, students were evacuated to a nearby high school.

        Four hours to BEGIN evacuation? Do you think that’s an acceptable timeframe? I bet you the parents of those kids don’t.

        • Pat Lane

          They likely searched the entire school, before evacuating anyone. So that if anyone were potentially lying in wait, they wouldn’t be able to start killing children as they were leaving.

          And yes, I think 4 hours is enough time to thoroughly search a huge building. Not sure how many building searches you’ve done, but they are hard.

          • Alexander Vucelic


            Because it shows what cowards cops are. Cops are complete cowards

          • Pat Lane

            Your idiotic opinion means nothing to me on this matter.

          • Jesse Back

            Happy New Year.

  • ARtP

    School immediately institutes a zero tolerance policy on clothing with pictures of tripods or students making a tripod gesture with their hands.

    • inquisitor

      Those little plastic, fluorescent orange tripods that tell you the floor is still wet from the janitor’s mop were immediately defused and promptly removed by bomb squad experts.

      The word “tripod” can now only be spelled in school using a hyphen.
      As the new DHS version of the word “tri-pod” now diminished the Al-Qaeda threat.

  • pcman312

    People love to freak out about things the media tells them to freak out about. OMG guns kill people. OMG photographers are possible terrorists. OMG the police are only there for your protection. Welcome to the world of corporate media and a lot of people who aren’t willing or able to think for themselves.

    • Joseph Murray

      um…guns DO kill people. Every day.

      • $910553

        More like PIGS do kill people. Every day.

      • JW

        Are you an animist? Do you believe that inanimate objects have volition?

      • DocRambo

        There isn’t a gun who has ever killed a person, you idiot. Just like there isn’t a knife that has ever stabbed a person. Just like there isn’t a car that has ever run over a person. Any tool has to have an operator, or is that too much for your libtard politically correct sorry excuse for a brain to comprehend?

      • jcfromnj

        NO….GUNS DO NOT KILL PEOPLE, TRIPODS DO….get your facts straight.

        • rust

          don’t forget UMBRELLAS

  • Frodo

    Welcome to America: where citizens are afraid of their own shadows.

    • Skip V. Patel

      Welcome to the Post-American Republic of Draconia.

      Shelter in place.

  • Gerperzader

    Quelle surprise.The kid with the tripod will probably be charged with trespass, disturbing the peace, criminal threatening and resisting arrest.

  • Jaysin R Clifton

    just lucky the police didn’t shoot someone. too many people running around schools with guns and its the police

  • Flashing Scotsman

    The kid’s lucky he didn’t have his dog with him.

  • deathfrogg

    Massive overreaction is the new name of the game. It is terrorism. On the part of the Police. They want to make sure everyone has a reason to be afraid by maximizing their visibility in cases like this. This kid was lucky they didn’t shoot him on principle.

  • JW

    At least the journalism student got a good story out of it.

  • Happy Tinfoil Cat

    My nephews school had a similar incident over a gun a child had fashioned out of paper. He wrote “not a gun” on it. Teacher tore it up but not before it was spotted and reported. Zero tolerance, mandatory reporting etc. Anyway, the SWAT team kept doing things like kicking little girls in head for cowering under their desks in fear of the masked, armed invaders after being yelled at to “Move!”

  • Steve Toom

    I am starting to get very afraid of the mental state of police in america

    • omg

      Google Salvatore Rivieri and it will show you the mental state of The Baltimore Police.

      • Steve Toom

        Lol that guy is actually mentally retarded for sure

        • Alexander Vucelic

          I AM NOT A DUDE !

          • Steve Toom

            It was sarcasm

    • Pat Lane

      Because they made the report? What should they have done? Ignored it?

  • Modsquad

    Demonizing photography.

  • DocRambo

    Typical bureaucratic over reaction to a non-existent threat. Show of force to justify SWAT team’s existence. Person who reported it should be made to pay for their lack of intelligence and common sense, and pay for all expenses involved. We have become a nation of sheep with shite for brains.

    • alexanderrogge

      I agree. Anyone involved with making a false report of an imminent threat should face criminal charges.

      I wonder if this worked like the Telephone game. The student reports a strange guy walking around outside the school, and the story quickly goes from that to “man with gun” to “man with gun in the school hallway” to “man with gun in the school hallway who is about to murder everyone.” It’s all a bunch of paranoia, and the government bureaucracy feeds on it to justify terrorizing the community. If this had been a real attack, all of their swat teams wouldn’t have done anything but quicken the fatalities.

      If only there was this much urgency when there is a report of academic-illiteracy or bullying!

  • Free America

    I think this article is a good opportunity for Carlos to rant about gun control. Come on Carlos, lecture all of us on gun control.

    • G

      I think the cops gives us everyday example of why we need gun control on the cops since they are unable to act responsibility with the weapons that we give them

  • alexanderrogge

    If this is how the government responds to a fake report about a “gun” in or near a school, and how parents go to pieces over fake reports about a threat that doesn’t exist, just imagine the carnage that a real attacker could bring. Why don’t people react this way when there’s a DUI driver on the highway, or when drivers are running red lights around school bus traffic? Even better, why don’t I get this sort of urgent reaction when I talk about the lack of seatbelts on school buses?

    • Pat Lane

      Name on single drunk driver who murdered dozens of students in a school. Oh none? Exactly.

  • Uncle_Scrappy

    Took them 4 hours, but hey they got to get all dressed up in their battle gear & go play WAR & fuel their testiorone desires. Bullies with Badges are always looking for a reason to go to war where they can bully others.

  • Colin

    While I almost always support PINAC, this is not one of those cases.

    A. Nothing to do with somebody photographing a cop or situation.
    B. Some idiot (NOT a cop, but a citizen) reported a long gun in a school.
    C. Cops extra cautious with long guns, because they can go through walls and bullet proof vests.
    D. Does not matter how long it too.

    Note that-in your photo-the cops did not handcuff the photographer.

    Please stick to your charter, cops abusing photographers who record them.

    • Kaemaril

      Where is this “charter” that you speak of?

      I’ve been reading this blog for some time, and it strikes me it’s evolved beyond a website that reports on “cops abusing photographers who record them” and now covers a wide variety of stories where photography and the law bump into each other. I think, myself, that that’s a good thing.

    • JdL

      Please stick to your charter, cops abusing photographers who record them.

      Who the heck are you to tell Carlos what his “charter” is? You can start a blog and make its “charter” anything you like, and Carlos can do the same for his blog.

      • Colin

        If it was an astronomer or surveyor carrying a tripod into school, and it was reported as a gun, it would have been totally outside the realm of ‘Photography is not a crime'(PINAC). Correct? It would have been apropos for “Astronomy is not a Crime”, but not ‘photography is not a crime.’

        The only relation that this story has to PINAC is that it was a photographer who carried the support device. The problem was caused by a moron in the school who can’t tell the difference between a tripod and a rifle/shotgun.

        I totally support Carlos in his efforts to protect photographers against over-zealous or criminal police action. Here, this is not the case. In this case, this is nothing more than police bashing.

  • Pat Lane

    Interesting story but, not sure if this really has anything to do with PINAC’s overall mission.

  • Penny Lane

    uh.. what about the bloke who thought the tripod was a gun causing the initial panic? i rather them shut down the school and be dramatic than not show up so these “awesome” know-it-all commentators can be all “omg i can’t believe they didn’t take him seriously and never showed up” =.= so many jackasses with internet access nowadays.

  • Mac Sterling

    They were afraid he was going to “shoot” someone with a camera. Hey – that is no more preposterous than taking a bite out of a pop tart and being suspended because it now looks like a gun. Maryland should be banned – it looks like a gun