URI scare might be connected to 'Human vs. Zombies' game

It was quiet at 11 p.m. Thursday on the University of Rhode Island's Kingston campus, and at Chafee Hall.

But that's a far cry from the flurry of police activity students and faculty experienced earlier in the day.

The school was thrust into the national spotlight at about 11:30 a.m. after a 911 caller reported a possible active shooter in Chafee Hall. The tallest building on campus was full of students at the time.

"It was kind of scary," said URI senior Eileen Slavin.

A regular Thursday morning on campus turned chaotic, complete with armed SWAT teams and Rhode Island State Police troopers swarming the campus. The specific focus was on Chafee Hall.

"It was pretty chaotic. I was in the computer lab, and all of a sudden I got a text saying that there was a possible male with a gun on campus, so I just, you know I kind of panicked," said URI senior Bill Dickey, who was working on a computer at the time.

At the heart of the incident is a phrase a man yelled out in the Chafee Hall while class was underway.

NBC 10 obtained an audio recording from URI student Krissy Manzi, who was recording the lecture.

Some say that in the recording they can hear a man yell, "I'm a nice guy, I'm a nice guy" and you can hear a female voice scream "Oh my God!" in reaction to it. Then, more chaos can be heard in the background.

State police are still working to identify the male voice.

Authorities are also looking into the possibility that a game played by a URI club called "Humans vs. Zombies," may have inadvertently lead up to the incident.

"The game is basically an adult version of tag that's played with Nerf toys and bandanas. And people are divided into the roles of humans and zombies. The humans have the Nerf toys, and they need to use them to tag the zombies," said a man who identified himself as Ryan S and is a part-time instructor at the university.

Tim Burbank, a URI student, told NBC 10 he's been involved with the "Humans vs. Zombies" game since the beginning. He said he's played the game as both a human and as a zombie, but he's also been an administrator for the club.

"I was among the group of people who brought it here. It's essentially a game of tag. Players run around as humans or zombies, zombies try to tag humans, humans try to run away or defend themselves with Nerf guns," Burbank said.

But Burbank said it is not generally a part of the game to yell out before someone tags another.

Burbank said there isn't a protocol to tagging, and said he doesn't think the game was a factor in the chaotic campus incident.

Ryan S. agreed.

"If there was a misunderstanding in it, I don't think it would be in terms of what caused the incident, so much as the rumors that started after the investigation. So, for example, if there were a 'human' in the class that was initially cleared out, and the investigation found a Nerf toy that was left behind, as a result of them leaving quickly, then that could have resulted in the misunderstanding," he said.

However not everyone is convinced that the game didn't play a role in the massive police response.

"It's a possibility. I'm not quite sure exactly what happened, but I mean they carry around Nerf guns, so it could be an easy mistake," Dickey said.

Col. Steven O'Donnell of the Rhode Island State Police told NBC 10 that investigators are still trying to identify the person who made the comments that caused the panic.

"The Humans vs. Zombie game has not been ruled out, but until we know what the motive is, it's just one more piece of the puzzle we need to consider. We are taking every avenue possible to figure it out," he said.

State police are asking anyone with information about what happened to call 401-444-1000.