CATAlert delayed following report and investigation of suspicious activity in Harris


Allison Ouellette

An officer stands with UVM Chief of Police Tim Bilodeau outside Harris Hall during the lockdown the night of Sept. 26.

UVM Police Services investigated Harris Residence Hall following a report of two men with an unknown object Sept. 26, sending Harris Millis into shelter in place at 6:16 p.m. 

UVM sent out an initial CATAlert at 6:16 p.m. for suspicious activity. However, RAs sent messages to Harris residents regarding the incident almost an hour before the CATAlert at 5:26 p.m., said sophomore John Keyes, a Harris resident. 

Several students said they were concerned over the lack of urgency informing the community of possible danger. Chief of UVM police services Tim Bilodeau did not specify the reasoning for the delay. 

“I think they were having some trouble with the CATAlert,” he said. 

Another RA message sent to residents in Harris at 5:31 p.m. stated police were currently in the building and mandated residents to stay in rooms. 

“The UVM CATAlert only came out at least half an hour after we were told to go into lockdown,” sophomore and Harris resident Halle Sisenwine said. “The police were here before the CATAlert. I wouldn’t have known anything unless my friends said something.” 

Students outside Harris Mills felt confused about response time of the initial messages from RA’s at 5:26 p.m. and the delay of the official CATAlert at 6:18 p.m., Keyes said. 

The doors of Harris Hall were shut and guarded by several Residential Life employees as students loitered in the hallways just outside the entrance awaiting more information when the Cynic arrived on the scene at 5:46 p.m.

Harris-Millis Dining Hall was still operating at full capacity at first, but was later sent into shelter in place along with the rest of the Harris-Millis. 

Bilodeau arrived on scene at 6:26 p.m. to respond to the report. 

However, the report included no “actual information,” just speculation regarding a gun, Bilodeau said.

Still, UVM Police Services performed a soft search on students’ rooms. If the situation had escalated, the UVM Police Services would have a different response level, he said.

“You see a weapon, you have suspicious behavior, it’s locked down,” Bilodeu said. “If you have this, we just have some information where something could be awry, we look to see if there’s anything that would verify. There’s no indication of a weapon either.” 

The search of student rooms began on the fourth floor of Harris Hall, Sisenwine said. UVM Police Services knocked on doors and asked if students were being held against their will followed by a search of the room and closets, she said. 

By 6:40 p.m., students were not allowed to enter the Harris Millis complex, including Millis Hall and the Harris Millis Dining Hall. 

The Harris Hall Shelter in Place was lifted by UVM Police Services after investigation concluded there was no credible threat, according to a CATAlert sent to students at 8:10 p.m.