Some east Boulder County commuters were diverted off Arapahoe Road on Wednesday evening after one driver told police she saw a man in camouflage point what appeared to be an AK-47 at cars along the busy street.
The initial report came at about 5:30 p.m. from a female driver who said she saw someone aim a rifle at passing cars near the intersection of North 119th Street and Arapahoe Road, said Lafayette police Cmdr. Mark Battersby.
Authorities responded immediately, closing off traffic on Arapahoe Road in both directions from 111th to 119th streets. About a dozen officers from the Lafayette and Erie police departments and the Boulder County Sheriff's Office searched nearby fields and neighborhoods for the suspect, Battersby said. A police dog was also used, but the animal didn't produce any leads.
One officer encountered a jogger who said he saw two teenagers about the time the driver reported an armed man along the road. The jogger said one of the teens had what he described as an orange-tipped automatic rifle, and the other was on a bicycle.
Battersby said the information about the orange-tipped barrel was important because that's how manufacturers label toy weapons or airsoft guns. The air- or gas-powered firearm shoots small plastic pellets, but the guns can look authentic, Battersby said.
After interviewing the jogger, police called off the search without locating the suspect. Officers reopened the road at 6:20 p.m., allowing residents of the Hawk Ridge subdivision and other area neighborhoods to go home.
Although the threat turned out to be false, Battersby said authorities are glad the woman called police.
"The woman didn't get a great look, but we reacted with the public's safety in mind," he said. "You never know. With the things that are happening in the schools these days, people are doing what they should - calling us."
The rush-hour incident came the same day Fairview High School was placed on heightened alert following a vague threat of violence for Wednesday. About half the high school's student body didn't show up, and more than 250 students stayed away from neighboring Southern Hills Middle School. There were no incidents, and police said the threats appear to have been empty.