Georgia school goes lockdown after SMS is autocorrected from "gunna" to "gunman"

When a student from north Georgia's Lanier Technical College sent an SMS to a friend about his upcoming stop-in at West Hall high school, his phone helpfully corrected "gunna" to "gunman." The message's recipient alerted police, who put both the college and the high school in lockdown for two hours.

He meant to write "Gunna be at West hall this afternoon," but the autocorrect function on his phone changed the word "Gunna" to "Gunman."

The situation was further complicated when the texter accidentally sent the text to a wrong number.

The text, which now read "Gunman at West hall," was received by someone identified only as "a member of the West Hall community" by the Gainesville Times.

Smartphone's autocorrect function puts high school on lockdown


  1. I wonder whether adhering to the more conventional spelling “gonna” would have prevented this problem.

  2. The school then cancelled the gunny-sack race scheduled for later that day, out of respect for the victims. 

    1. Yeah, no followup text saying this???  WTF.  If I wrote my mom and said something untoward, I’d at least have the courtesy to send her a “DAMN YOU, AUTOCORRECT!”

  3. It’s probably just a case of bad writing but something doesn’t add up here.

    If we take the story at face value, “Gunna be at West hall this afternoon,” would’ve been auto-corrected to read “Gunman be at West hall this afternoon,” not “Gunman at West hall,”. What happened to the rest of the sentence?

    1. The phone is clearly an advanced model that also has grammar correction, and upon deciding that “Gunman be at west hall” would be incorrect, it deleted the ‘be’ as well. 

      Skynet is coming!

    2.  Recipient may have had a conventional mobile phone with a smaller display and the sentence was truncated.

      1. Also, dropping some words to keep the message short makes it less likely to roll over the 160 line and cost you double.

  4. I emphatically do not know how to feel about this.

    On the one hand, oh authorities you so silly! But on the other hand, if there in fact was a gunman and they disregarded it as a prank it would have had tragic consequences.

    1. This is purely an autocorrect story, not an overreacting school authorities and cops story. They didn’t storm the halls with SWAT teams, they didn’t summarily expel the texting student, the reaction seems to have been measured and correct (for once.)

    2. It’s funny because it turned out to be ok and no one got hurt. Everyone reacted reasonably, and now we can all laugh at how annoying autocorrect can be.

  5. My opinion: Let us make an example of this case, and use it to scare children into spelling correctly. 


      1.  And the solution is to just turn off autocorrect. I really don’t understand why anyone leaves it on; I find it incredibly annoying and unhelpful more often than not.

    1.  One serious injury was thought to have occurred, but it turned out the ‘victim’ had had his arm previously amputated.

      He was later reported to have declared, “And THAT is why you always proofread your text messages.”

  6. I know exactly how to feel about this:  astonishingly, all parties concerned had a perfectly reasonable reaction.

    Nobody monitored someone’s communication illegally.  No one assumed that because something was different that it was associated with terrorists.  Someone saw a credible threat in a circumstance where they couldn’t reasonably follow up on it themselves (i.e. ask your friend wtf he’s talking about), notified the police, who acted reasonably to the best of their knowledge.

    Kudos to all concerned!  Sometimes screw-ups happen, and all we can do is weigh the risks and act accordingly.

  7. I tried it on an iPhone and on Android and neither auto-corrected gunna as gunman. Since they also sent it to the wrong number it sounds like a prank, with convenient blame the auto-correct escape.

    1. I guess there’s one fairly big clue: did the sender actually go to (or intend to go to) West Hall? If he went, I guess we don’t know much more, but it adds a little weight to the story. If he was at home and had no intention of going, it’s a pretty big red flag.

      Also, how believable was the wrong number? Was it the next person in his contact list? Was it off by one number (who types out phone numbers though)?

      You can better believe that they’re looking into the notion that it was a prank, though.

      1. Yeah, the “wrong number” part seems strange. On the other hand, some woman named Nikki is missing all the messages H&R Block have been sending to my cell over the past week reminding her of a tax appointment.

    2. Mine (Android) offered gunman as the first suggestion after typing in “gunna” on a quick test.

      Wait a mo.. someone’s shouting at the door.  Back in a sec…

        1. Wish I knew how to take a screenshot, absent another camera.  My interface looks completely different (Gingerbread 2.3.4 on a 2-year-old HTC Incredible, getoffamylawn), but my autocorrect for Gunna does “Gunman” as the very first, default correction (followed by “Gymnasium,” “Gymnastics,” “Hubbard,” and “Hymns”), so I have no doubt that the kid’s story is completely true.

      1. This is why real Americans say, “Fixin to be at West hall this afternoon.”

        1. Except that “fixin to” and “gonna” are not synonyms.  “Gonna” just means at some point in the future. “Fixin to” means at some point in the near future or that one has already begun arranging the thing one is “fixin to” do even if that thing is farther off in the future.

          How people communicate without understanding or making this distinction is beyond me.

    3. Autocorrect sometimes makes guesses based on your typing history, doesn’t it?  Maybe he’s typed in “gunman” before?  Which I’m not sure would help y’all feel better…

  8. Some things:
    1) The kid undoubtedly accidentally typed “gunma” not “gunna” – try it yourself: gunna doesn’t auto-correct. gunma does. This is a typing fail, not an autocorrect fail… a phone can only guess words based on your crappy input.

    2) @boingboing-2cb003b410ba24d03b9fc7fee7e2ad8a:disqus : I don’t believe any phones autocorrect grammar.

    3) What ever happened to proofreading? The kids of today are gunman become illiterate and stupid adults.

    1. The kid undoubtedly accidentally typed “gunma” not “gunna”

      We’re lucky that it didn’t change it to granma; we’d have another Bay of Pigs incident.

      1.  The breadth of your knowledge will never cease to amaze me.

        Another thing: You wouldn’t want to be an expat who lives/lived in Japan’s Gunma prefecture.

    2. The kid undoubtedly accidentally typed “gunma” not “gunna” – try it yourself: gunna doesn’t auto-correct. gunma does.

      Not undoubtedly.  Like Smash Martian above, my Android also autocorrects “gunman” for “gunna.”

      “Gonna,” however, is “gonna.”  So, kids, if ya gonna misspell, then misspell correctly.

      1.  My bad: you’re right.

        I forgot that there is an option in Settings>Language & Input>Android Keyboard Settings>Auto-correction that allows user preference as to the ferocity of auto-correct.

        No one should set it above modest IMO…. Call me old-fashioned but I’m of the opinion that you should be smarter than your phone :)

        1. Wow, my menus look completely different.  I assume you have something newer than Gingerbread?

          1. Yeah… in ICS (Ice Cream Sandwich) they sexified the menus and UI. Immediate OS updates upon launch is why I chose a Google experience phone. I have a Nexus S (late 2010 – get off my lawn too!) but this puppy performs way better than the similarly-spec’d Galaxy S it replaced.

            Re: Screenshots – it depends drastically on the model and whether it is a rooted device. Some phones (particularly Samsung) make it very easy – all I do is hit volume down & power at the same time.

            Otherwise for some phones you’ll basically need to root it and install an app that takes screenshots. The reason you have to root it is a security “feature” because obviously if an app can take screenshots your personal information could be easily compromised. Apparently the only other way is some method involving the SDK and your PC:

  9. “The situation was further complicated when the texter accidentally sent the text to a wrong number.

    The text, which now read “Gunman at West hall,” was received by someone identified only as “a member of the West Hall community””

    Is this a story being used to explain a law enforcement response initiated by Homeland Security after routine scanning of keywords in telecommunication traffic?

  10. While this is a good reason to turn off auto-correct, at the same time I always have fun anytime I get a new device and see how badly it mangles “Jabberwocky”.

    Then again I could always turn off my auto-correct after it’s told me that “‘Twas brimming and the slimy toes did gape and gamble in the wire.”

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