PITTSBURGH — A misinterpreted text message sparked a scary situation in the city’s North Side on Friday afternoon.
At around 12:30 p.m. many workers and guests at Nova Place were promptly evacuated, while nearby neighbors watched police and EMS fill the entire block of South Commons Street, shutting down portions of the street to manage what was believed to be an active shooter.
Police confirmed that this afternoon, a frantic 911 caller had reported that shots were heard in the Nova Place office building. In response, both city and county police arrived at the scene.
“We [heard] like an emergency alarm go off … but this time [police] told us there was some sort of like active potential active shooter situation,” said Kelley Denham, a worker at one of the restaurants inside Nova Place.
Denham and all the guests were instructed to leave the building immediately.
“Three cops guns drawn, they are like, ‘did you guys see anything?’ We said ‘no’ and they’re like, ‘get out of here now,’” said Ted Uminski, a guest at Nova Place.
For more than two hours, police searched Nova Place and the vicinity.
At one point, Pittsburgh Public School District also confirmed that nearby elementary schools such as King PreK-8 and Allegheny PreK-5 were also placed on lockdown.
All these actions, for what ultimately turned out to be a big misunderstanding.
According to police, a person meant to text “fire alarm,” but instead sent “firearm.”
“The person texted [another] person off-site fire alarm. [But] what was meant to say fire alarm came out as firearm. When they didn’t respond to their phone, the person that got the text called police because they thought there was an immediate danger, but there was not,” said Maurice Matthews, PIO for the City of Pittsburgh Police.
Officials later confirmed there were no injuries, victims, or a shooter.
“Responding officers arrived on scene and didn’t find any evidence of a shooting, no victims, and few people even said that they didn’t hear anything,” added Mathews.