2 University of Houston students confronted by police while rehearsing play

Theater students at the University of Houston had a frightening encounter with police after a witness mistakenly reported an assault happening, but really, they were rehearsing for a show. 

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The incident happened in November 2022 around 1:30 p.m. when two students claimed to be rehearsing at the loading dock behind the Science and Research Building 2, adjacent to the School of Theater & Dance. 

A transcript 911 call from a student witness captured the frightening moment when they thought they were seeing an assault happening near them. 

"He's grabbing her, covering her mouth…I just saw her scream for help," the caller stated. 

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The unidentified student reportedly tried to keep a distance away, telling officers, "in case he was armed, and he sees us." 

When responding officers with UHPD arrived, they noted in their report seeing one of the students was holding "an object that looked like a knife in the stabbing down motion" while the other student was "screaming/frantic/distressed holding his right hand from coming down." 

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That's when the second officer noted in their report, "I then drew my gun in the low ready position aimed my gun in their general direction."  

"I then yelled out verbal commands to show their hands and get on the ground," the officer's report continued. "They then both yelled out…'we're rehearsing, we're rehearsing,' showing their hands and doing as I commanded." 

The officer then put back his weapon and tried to comfort the two student actors, "who were visibly shaken up…crying…and shaking," according to the police report. 

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Meanwhile, the witness seemed embarrassed by the entire encounter, after the dispatcher explained it was "some type of rehearsal." 

"No (expletive) way," the student responded. 

The dispatcher reassured the witness their reason for calling was completely understandable, saying "you did the correct thing, OK, don't worry." 


In a letter addressed to students and staff by Andrew Davis, Dean of Kathrine G McGovern College of the Arts, there were suggestions made that students "wear brightly colored safety vests while rehearsing outdoors in public areas, in order that they be more readily identified as working actors." 

This proposal was declined by the University, especially as it was not approved or vetted by UHPD Chief Ceaser Moore. Still, University officials said they were looking into options, and establishing public dialogue to ensure something like this does not happen in the future. 

"Among other concerns, vests do not address the issue of providing our students safe and appropriate rehearsal spaces, especially for scenes involving purported criminal activity or violence," the letter added. "Despite its shortcomings, this was a solution that was arrived at with the best of intentions on all sides. The University of Houston is a community that cares, and our top priority is for our students to feel safe so that they can be successful in their studies and in everything they do on campus."