For hours, misinformation about MSU shooting prevailed

Confusion was fueled by the internet, police scanner traffic and group chats


(This story was reported by Todd Heywood, Sam Blatchford and Sophia Brandt and written by Todd Heywood.)

TUESDAY, Feb. 14 — As soon as the MSU alert system notified Shelby Avey and her roommate of an active shooter on campus, they locked the door to their Brody Hall dorm room and shut off the lights. The duo followed along on Twitter while listening to the police scanner.

"Between the different sources, I was under the impression that there were four shooters spread throughout the campus with multiple students getting shot,” she said. “Honestly, I'm still not sure what to believe because so much misinformation had been spread around, especially on social media."

Rick Jones, the former Eaton County sheriff and state senator, said he was unsurprised by the rampant misinformation that flushed over MSU and cyberland.

“People have stopped reading newspapers. They’ve stopped watching television news. They are getting all their news from social media, which is often wrong,” he said.

He also said the scanner was an inappropriate tool to get the facts on an emerging crisis. “What is put out over the radio is not necessarily what is actually happening,” Jones said. “But law enforcement has to respond to each and every one of them as if they are real until proven otherwise.”

An individual living on Bogue Street on the edge of campus called claiming to have a photo of three shooters with their weapons. That photo was sent by dispatch to all the officers on the scene. The image turned out to be three law enforcement agents in special response team uniforms that don’t look like police outfits. That one image and the radio chatter about it left many believing the campus was under assault by three gunmen.

City Pulse tried to talk to the residents who provided the photo, but a reporter learned they had left the property early today.

An Eaton county resident posted that photo online questioning if law enforcement was being truthful that there was but one shooter. He amended his post this morning, acknowledging it was just one shooter.

Police say 43-year-old Anthony McCrae was the alleged shooter. They said he took his life in the middle of Lake Lansing Road in north Lansing.

Betty Mei, a 20-year-old pre-nursing major from Macomb, sent friend Blake Geraltowski, a 28-year-old dietetics major from Sterling Heights, a link to the police scanner.  “I was listening the whole night. The cops said the scanner wasn’t totally accurate, so it was hard to keep track ” said Mei.

Geraltowski said he was listening to both the police scanner and watching CNN.

“It was night and day between the two if you are watching the news and listening to the scanner,” he said.

He said the scanner was misleading.

“They were getting calls around Akers. There’s no way that guy’s at Akers and five seconds later he’s all the way at Wonders,” he said. “Like every five seconds, there were ‘shots fired here’ and then the cops would be on the scanner saying, ‘I’m here. There’s no shots’.”

Mei said that at the beginning, there was confusion about how many shooters there were because of the multiple calls to the police from people across campus.

She said there was also some confusion about people reporting explosives and bombs around campus.

“There was so much false information being put out there,” she said. “It just makes students more scared.”

Dispatchers can be heard directing officers to one campus building after another based on calls of shots fired. They went to Snyder Hall and Phillips Hall, the Brody Complex, the Chemistry Building and Owen Hall residence hall. Officers found dozens of terrified students huddled in parking garages on campus, and other students were evacuated from Akers Hall to nearby Conrad Hall.

“People start assuming every little noise is a gunshot,” said 22-year-old Joseph Meng, a Detroit native. “I think Twitter was the worst because people started making random shit up.”

Wisconsin native Fern Pernat was off campus when news of the shootings started flooding social media. She and a friend were at Culver's and relied on social media, group chats and the scanner for information on what was happening.

"I got a message from my mom before I got the email about an active shooter, but we didn't think it was that severe because there have been reports of guns on Grand River before and we didn't think it was actually on campus, we just thought it was nearby,” she said. The first time there was confirmation of an active shooter on campus came in a group chat for students planning to graduate in 2026.

Relying on Twitter, the group chats and the scanner, Pernat said she and her friend believed “there were two people that passed and five injured and we heard there were four shooters."

Law enforcement has said three people died and five were seriously wounded during the shooting incidents. The shootings happened in just two campus buildings, Berkey Hall and The Union. Hundreds of law enforcement agents from local, state and national agencies flooded the 8-square-mile campus Monday night. Michigan State Police not only had officers on the ground, they also had a helicopter in the air. MSU also rolled out an armored truck called a bearcat designed to protect officers from being shot while moving into a hostile environment.

Jones said the rapid, confusing radio traffic in the early part of the police response is normal as chains of command are established and reinforcements are directed to various locations.

“I think they did an excellent job responding to this horrible situation,” said Jones.

(Todd Heywood is a staff reporter for City Pulse. Sam Blatchford and Sophia Brandt are Michigan State University journalism students who work for Capital News Service.)



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