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Newspaper’s ‘smack’ spurs report of gunfire at Gettysburg College

Not far from Gettysburg College is this real gun -- a Civil War-era cannon -- at Little Round Top inside Gettysburg National Military Park.
(Steve Ruark / For The Times)

Somebody still enjoys getting the newspaper delivered in Gettysburg, Pa., where the “smack” of the bundle landing on the ground was so loud that it prompted a Gettysburg College student to report gunfire on campus.

Before you could say “stop the presses,” safety officials had locked down the campus in the city famous for the bloody and pivotal Civil War battle. Thankfully, this time there were no shots fired -- just copies of newspapers landing outside shortly before dawn on Saturday.

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But the sound was enough to frighten one student, who notified the school’s Department of Public Safety of a gunshot fired, apparently by someone driving a white sedan. A text message was sent to students and employees of the four-year college to “shelter in place.”

“There is limited descriptive information at this time. The student reported that an unidentified person in a white sedan fired the shot,” said a message posted by campus security officials on the college’s Facebook page.

Additional text messages were sent throughout the morning until an all-clear alert went out at about 8:30 a.m.

On Sunday, a message from the school’s director of public safety, Bill Lafferty, went out explaining that the frightened student did not hear a shot, “but instead was startled by the sound of newspapers hitting the ground as a driver was delivering them.”

“Police indicated that no weapon was involved in this incident,” said the message, which prompted a flurry of responses from students and staff ranging from amusement to dismay at how gun violence on school campuses nationwide had led to jangled nerves.

Several also commented on the rarity of the sound of newspapers being delivered, now that so many people prefer to read the news online.

“Yes, it is a sign of the times that young people wouldn’t know that sound and also, that they are so on edge. Glad this was a false alarm,” wrote one.

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