Police search for man who brought gun to university protests - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Police search for man who brought gun to university protests

Students marched through campus Monday afternoon in support for the flag. Students marched through campus Monday afternoon in support for the flag.
Valdosta State University President William McKinney Valdosta State University President William McKinney
VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) -

The President of Valdosta State University confirmed that a man brought a gun onto campus in a backpack during student protests.

The demonstrations were part of continuing protests in the wake of one that went viral as students were seen walking on an American Flag.

In a news conference Tuesday evening, University President William McKinney said that officers located a backpack with a handgun inside at the Odum Library around 2 p.m. that day.

Officials said "unmistakable evidence" links that gun to one man, Eric Sheppard.

Officials believe Sheppard is in hiding, and somewhere away from the campus.

They stressed that the campus was safe, while urging students and staff to remain vigilant.

Anyone with information on Sheppard is asked to call campus police or 911.

But President McKinney also called on students, faculty, and staff to join in a day of "reaffirmation" in the wake of that viral protest.

On Friday, an Air Force veteran intervened where demonstrators were walking on the American flag.

Veteran Michelle Manhart was seen on video taking the flag from protestors and refusing to return it.

Manhart was eventually detained by university police and given a warning. She was then banned from the campus.

University President William McKinney issued this release:

Dear Valdosta State Students, Faculty, and Staff:

Much has been written and spoken about our university in the past several days. What is written in subsequent days and weeks will in large part depend on our actions and our values as an institution of higher learning.

Ours is a university that values our students as the core of our mission.

Ours is a university that values civil discourse and debate, even in the midst of great disagreement.

Ours is a university that values free inquiry and research.

Ours is a university that values our veterans and active duty military personnel.

Ours is a university that values our community, city, region, state, and country.

Therefore, as president, I am asking that each and every one of us dedicate Friday, April 24, 2015, as a Day of Reaffirmation. In all that we do, on campus and off, let us reaffirm those values that have made VSU a great institution for well over a century. I am, therefore, canceling my State of the University Address scheduled for that day. Instead, I am asking that as individuals, or in groups large or small, we reflect upon and reaffirm our core values in all that we do.

Dr. William J. McKinney, president of Valdosta State University

Warning: The video has some profanity at the end.

Since Friday, the university had also received various threats on social media from alumni, parents of future students, and community members threatening to withdraw support from the university because of the protest.

Andy Clark, VSU's Vice President of Enrollment, Marketing, and Communication said university officials were reaching out to those individuals.

Clark said the university is prepared for whatever may happen and said the campus's student conduct officer was reviewing video from Friday's protest to determine if any students violated any codes of conduct.

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