Snipers Were Allegedly Spotted at Ohio State University and Indiana University During Gaza Protests. Here's What We Found

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  • As pro-Palestinian protests multiplied on U.S. campuses on April 25-26, 2024, universities called on local and state police to remove protesters' encampments. Two photographs circulated online in posts claiming that state police snipers had set up on the roofs of buildings at Ohio State University (OSU) and Indiana University (IU).

  • The OSU newspaper The Lantern reported that the people on the roof of the OSU building were initially using spotting scopes to watch protesters, but switched to rifles once arrests began on the green space below.

  • Indiana University declined to comment on allegations of rooftop snipers, so Snopes reached out to the Indiana State Police (ISP), which did not respond to our inquiries. However, ISP Superintendent Doug Carter did confirm in a May 1 radio interview that officers in "overwatch" positions on the roof had "sniper capabilities."

As pro-Palestinian protests multiplied on U.S. campuses, two photographs circulated widely on social media on April 25 and 26, 2024. The posts claimed that the images showed law enforcement snipers standing on the roofs of campus buildings at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio and Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana.

The two images were relayed by user @rawsalert on X:

They were reshared multiple times, together or separately, on X and also on TikTok, Instagram and Reddit.

Ohio State University

The picture from Ohio State shows two men, apparently wearing military fatigues and matching baseball caps, standing atop of the Ohio Union building on campus (see Google Maps). One of them appeared to lean on a tripod. The object atop his tripod was impossible to identify because of the shade. The other one stood with arms crossed behind a tripod. The sunlight revealed a small object on the tripod that looked like a scope.

Video of the men also was shared on Instagram:

A search of the website of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security brought up surveillance tools known as spotting scopes. "Spotting scopes are monocular optical devices that focus on, and gather light from, a target to provide the user with a magnified view," the page read. "These scopes, which come in a variety of configurations and sizes, are used by responders for long-range surveillance."

The building overlooks a green space named South Oval. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators had been occupying the South Oval and police were called in to vacate the space, as Instagram video by OSU newspaper The Lantern showed:

The Lantern, whose reporter had contacted university spokesperson Ben Johnson, initially reported on April 25 that the people on the roof were "state troopers in a watching position, similar to football game day," according to Johnson. The article was titled, "University Confirms There Are No Snipers on the Ohio Union's Roof."

The next day, however, The Lantern removed the first article from its website and published a new one citing Johnson, who said that based on information he'd obtained that day, the two people on the roof had indeed switched to "long-range firearms as part of their protocol." 

Indiana University

The photo from Indiana University is more difficult to assess. One of the accounts that shared it was @IUonstrike, a group that appears to have formed in 2013 to organize a student strike. In 2024, the group had taken up the cause of Palestinians in Gaza.

The post claimed it was a photograph of the top of the Indiana Memorial Union, a building that overlooks a green space on the IU campus called Dunn Meadow. A student organization named the IU Divestment Coalition called for students to join the protest by setting up an encampment on Dunn Meadow to pressure the school against Israel and in favor of Palestinians.

We also found a post on X with a video that the poster, Margaret Menge (@togdali), said was of the sniper on the roof of the building:

Besides this, Andrew Miller, the managing editor of IU's campus newspaper, the Indiana Daily Student (IDS), posted photographs on X he said were taken by IU Professor P. David Polly that showed a wider angle of the Indiana Memorial Union building. The building is quite recognizable in them, as is the silhouette of a sniper on the roof:

Also, NPR affiliate WFYI reported that the Indiana Memorial Union board had mentioned reports of a sniper on the roof, and added that ISP had gone through their offices with guns while never being asked or consulted about the matter.

Further, the IDS reported that the Indiana Senate Democratic Caucus had released a statement about police intervention on campus, mentioning snipers:

"What we are seeing on the news and hearing from firsthand accounts gives us great concern that First Amendment Rights and even personal safety could be at risk on the Indiana University Campus. While we understand this is a fluid situation we still worry about the sheer amount of police in riot gear, including snipers, called in to manage what has been reported as a peaceful protest."

The IDS also quoted this statement from state Rep. Matt Pierce, D-Bloomington:

"It's ironic that University leaders who continually use the excuse of potential violence to suppress speech it opposes invited onto campus state police with military-style weapons that included what appeared to be snipers stationed on rooftops to force a physical confrontation with protesters. This reckless decision is indefensible. Does President Whitten not remember Kent State?"

Lastly, Indiana State Police Superintendent Doug Carter, in an interview with conservative radio host Tony Katz on May 1, confirmed that a rooftop sniper or snipers was or were positioned at IU. The interview was cited in the Indianapolis Star:

"Those weren't intended to be sniper positions. They were over-watch positions."


"Did they have sniper capabilities? Yes, they did. But the analogy that we're going to create another Kent State was completely disingenuous and not truthful."

We contacted the public relations office at IU, which declined to comment, asking that we talk to the ISP instead. We did reach out to the ISP for more information and will update this story if and when we receive a response.

Snopes reporter Jack Izzo contributed to this story.


Spotting Scopes | Homeland Security. Accessed 26 Apr. 2024.

'University Confirms There Are No Snipers on the Ohio Union's Roof'. The Lantern, 26 Apr. 2024,

'Welcome to the Indiana Memorial Union'. Indiana Memorial Union, Accessed 26 Apr. 2024.

'UPDATE: Politicians Respond to Dunn Meadow Encampment Clearing, Arrests'. UPDATE: Politicians Respond to Dunn Meadow Encampment Clearing, Arrests - Indiana Daily Student, Accessed 29 Apr. 2024.

Hale, Aubrey Wright-WFIU::George. 'IU President Issues Statement after Student Arrests and Faculty Condemnation'. WFYI Public Media, 28 Apr. 2024,

Officers with 'sniper Capabilities' Were at IU Protests, ISP Leader Says. 29 Apr. 2024,

Katz, Tony. 'Tony Katz Today Hour 3 - 05/01/24'. Tony Katz Today, Accessed 2 May 2024.


April 26, 2024: This report was updated to add confirmation that the state troopers on the OSU building picked up firearms when arrests began.

April 29, 2024: This report was updated to add a tweet with broader-angle photographs and the response of Indiana politicians to police intervention on the IU campus.

May 2, 2024: This report was updated to add an apparent confirmation by Indiana State Police that there were troopers with "sniper capabilities" on the roof of the Indiana Memorial Union building.