someone left a bullet casing on my desk

bullet casingA reader writes:

Yesterday I went to a meeting at work. After our meeting, I came back to my desk, and there was a bullet shell casing on my desk (see photo). I went straight to our unarmed security. They called our head of security, who advised me to download a security app. HR was called. They took notes on what happened, I was sent home. No police report was filed. I’m scared to go to work.

I’m sooooooooooooooo completely terrified to go back to work. Someone put this on my desk. I’m not aware that I am beefing with anyone. Nonetheless, someone at my job REALLY doesn’t like me. My supervisors are just as confused as I am. I had nightmares of me being the target of an office shooting. If someone can bring a bullet in our office, what’s next?

We have no cameras in our office. We do have cameras (four of them) to monitor the vending machine. How can I express my feelings (without being fired) about my company valuing a 25 cent can of soda pop over their employees’ lives?

And here’s the clincher, ready? We sell home and office security. Clincher number two, all of our security we sell is totally automated. I can’t see how installing our own security systems along with cameras and panic buttons has never been brought up. Please help.

Whoa. I think you’re absolutely entitled to be freaked out by this and concerned that your employer doesn’t seem to be taking any action about it.

I do think it’s possible that this is not a threat,  and that it’s even possible that it could be someone’s terrible idea of a prank. But it shouldn’t be on you to have to figure that out alone. Tell your employer that you don’t feel safe and want to better understand what actions they’re planning to take.

I would say this to them: “I am concerned that this was a threat. I would like to discuss specific actions that we can take to ensure that I and others are safe at work. At a minimum, I’d hope we could install our own security system with a panic button, but I’d like to talk about precautions that we can take specific to me, as well, since I may be someone’s target.”

Also, you can talk to the police yourself if that’s something you think would help; you don’t need your employer’s okay for that.

I’d also let your coworkers know what happened. They should be aware of what’s going on for their own safety too (plus it could be helpful on a number of other fronts, including prompting a confession if this was someone’s horrible joke). And it would help to have them join you in pushing for a security system that protects more than the soda machine because groups are harder to ignore than individuals.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 734 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hi, all! This topic has brought out some heated debate, so I’m hereby asking everyone to take it down a notch.

    I do not want people being snarky or aggressive or heated with other people here. People don’t stick around to read hostile comment sections, so please stop that.

    (I’m posting this late in the day so I’m too late for much of it, but consider it a standing request going forward.)

  2. themmases*

    Whoa. I hope this OP stays safe. I will be thinking of them.

    I hope it helps to hear that these suggestions about security are totally reasonable. If something like this happened to me, I wouldn’t go back to that place ever again.

    1. superblarg*

      Threats are within the scope of workplace violence*, and this is definitely a threat. The police need to be involved. Your company needs to respond, their lack of immediate strong action is completely unacceptable. Workplace violence is not ever even remotely ok. Failing to act in the face of workplace violence is utterly unacceptable.

      *Per the FBI, OSHA, and Dept Labor – all include threats in the definition of workplace violence.

      1. superblarg*

        Argh, no edit button.

        To clarify, “this is definitely a threat” means that a bullet casing left on your desk while you’re in a midday meeting… That definitely counts as a threat scenario.

        Whether there is some innocent explanation, and the person who carefully placed it there was using any of the possible scenarios people outline below – the OP is entirely reasonable to infer that someone may be threatening them, and specifically threatening to kill them.

        That threat of violence means that this incident falls under Workplace Violence, and so must be taken very seriously by the workplace. They should not blow off this incident, nor fail to take measures to make the OP feel safe. An investigation may demonstrate its no big deal after all, but they have to take it seriously, or be negligent.

  3. starsaphire*

    Holy cats. HOLY CATS. I’d be terrified too.

    Even if this is someone’s idea of a “prank” or a “joke,” it is so, so, soooo not okay.

    OP, I hope for your sake that this turns out to be not a big deal, but you have every right to feel like it’s a big deal regardless, and I hope your company listens to you.

  4. alter_ego*

    In light of everything that’s been happening recently, if it is a prank, it’s so far beyond what could be considered acceptable that it almost doesn’t matter.

    That’s so scary, and you’re right to press your bosses to do more. I hope you update us with what happens.

    1. INTP*

      Yeah, a person who considers this an acceptable prank in light of recent events is almost as scary as someone doing this as a threat. Their judgment about what is prank-worthy vs. threatening certainly can’t be trusted.

      1. RVA Cat*

        Not to mention that particularly in light of the Orlando massacre, if the OP is LGBT or perceived to be, that could potentially make the threat a hate crime. (Think along the lines of a noose being left on black employee’s desk, etc.)

        1. Yamikuronue*

          MTE. Was this story turned around quickly? As in, was it written about an incident that happened just after Orlando? Because if so, holy shit, that’s terrifying. If it was before… still scary but less likely to be hate-crime related.

          1. MommaTRex*

            Alison is fairly quick on the turn-around time; I bet she is especially responsive when there is a fear factor.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Well, I am often horrible on turnaround time, just because I have a huge volume of letters. But yes, with something like this I try to respond quickly. I got this letter on Saturday.

            2. former op*

              agree… in the past when I was a op my question was posted the following business day.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                But I also sometimes take ages to print something. (I also sometimes print it right away. There is no rhyme or reason to it.) I just don’t want people to assume I’m always fast, because it is very much not the case.

                1. OlympiasEpiriot*

                  Don’t worry, I’m being patient.
                  (My question is also pretty trivial. So, this patience isn’t really a virtue, but slight embarrassment at my pettiness.)

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      Yes. One, the police might have a record of someone receiving threats like this before in your area, and might be able to find a likely suspect based on that, and two, your company may take it more seriously after the police investigate.

      1. SophieChotek*

        Agree with company taking it more seriously if you also state you’ve filed a police report.

    2. Amber T*

      Ditto! If you feel like your employer will respond somewhat appropriately and work with you, I’d tell HR “I want to contact the police and have it on the record.” But if there’s ANY part of you that thinks they may try to sway you from that idea, or retaliate, or react negatively at all, I wouldn’t even bother letting them know. It’s something that either you can let them know later (“I wanted to let you know I’ve already contacted the police”), or let the police handle notifying your company.

      This is 100% NOT OKAY. OP, you have every right to be freaked out by this. DO NOT let your employer or anyone tell you this is ‘no big deal.’

    3. EmKay*

      Absolutely, 100% agree. Do it and do it quickly. And tell the company that you’re doing it as well.

    4. AnotherFed*

      I think the police would see this as a nuisance complaint. One casing is not a threat, it’s either a bit of garbage (or a gift, if you reload ammunition).

      1. pope suburban*

        I’d think that calling the local non-emergency police line would still be a sound idea, though. We don’t know the local or company culture the letter writer experiences, for one. And not everyone is going to evaluate situations the way someone in law enforcement (or the military, or other, similar backgrounds) will, which is why community outreach and talking to the public are important to police departments. If the police don’t think it’s worth pursuing (Which open cans of worms upon cans of worms, yes), they can simply say so. I don’t see a net benefit from the letter writer telling themself to clam up and cross their fingers, not when a) it could be a bigger thing, and b) a five-minute call with the local police could resolve most of the issue.

      2. Florida*

        The police don’t usually consider it a nuisance complain unless you are calling to order pizza or some other nonsense. But if you are genuinely concerned about something, they will come.

      3. AnotherFed*

        You’re right – what’s normal where I am and for my occupation is not the case everywhere. I apologize!

      4. superblarg*

        This is workplace violence – police have special protocols for this situation. This is within my job responsibility, so I’m not just blowing smoke here.

    5. Former Retail Manager*

      I won’t go so far as to say don’t file a police report, but the police report itself isn’t going to do much except serve as proof should someone later do something sinister. A crime has not been committed and the police will take your statement and give you a printout should you request one. It’s not as if the police are going to attempt to investigate who did it….once again…no crime has been committed. To be clear…I totally feel for the OP. Even if it’s a joke, it’s a terrible one, timing of current events or not. Just in very poor taste.

        1. Christopher Tracy*

          I don’t even think they’d go that far. Again, (as far as we know) no crime has been committed. They’ll take the report and most likely call it a day.

      1. superblarg*

        It is against OSHA to fail to take workplace violence seriously.

        Threats and intimidation are considered workplace violence by the US government: FBI, OSHA, and Department of Labor.

        Threats are considered workplace violence by law enforcement: the FBI, the Intl Assoc of Chiefs of Police

        Between HR and the police, you better believe this person has a very strong leg to stand on.

  5. Mike C.*

    Holy shit, please stay safe and let me echo everyone else here by saying that you’re perfectly reasonable in feeling the way you do about this situation.

    1. silvertech*

      Oh yes, you are. I’d also report it to the police ASAP, for the reasons that have been mentioned. It needs to be on record and investigated!

      Stay safe OP and, if you can, give us an update.

  6. Rich*

    I could be wrong but I feel this is a misunderstanding. Maybe someone mistook your desk for someone else’s…they could of been sharing this casing with a coworker (the rounds they use…etc after having a talk) and put it on your desk by accident. I work with a lot of people who hunt/shoot and that was my first feeling. Of course this could also be a threat.

      1. sunny-dee*

        Actually, lots of people have bullets* — hunters, people with concealed carry, security guards, cops. It’s just a thing.

        * Cartridges. That’s a cartridge in the photo, not a casing (which is the golden sleeve) or a bullet (which is the copper tip).

        1. Kelly L.*

          But I think everyone should have an idea of where all their bullets and bullet paraphernalia are, kwim?

            1. Hotstreak*

              It’s not a bullet or paraphernalia, though, it’s a hollow brass cylinder, with nothing inside. You can see from the picture that the striker has been fired, meaning it is now completely inert. Like the hollow outside shell of a pen can’t write without the internal components, this casing is not capable of anything nefarious. I’ve seen folks have similar things on necklaces or keyrings, mostly younger men who were military or like to hunt.

              I’ve had actual live ammunition at work many many times. We will go over to the sporting goods store and buy what we need for the weekend, and bring it in to work until we need to leave. My company allows this, they also allow you to possess alcohol in the same manor, but you can’t use either at work. I also can’t bring guns to work (even in the car, this is a fireable offence).

              To the OP’s point, I’m certainly sorry you are going through this and I hope your office is able to come up with a solution to make you feel safe. Security cameras might be able to find out who is putting casings on desks, or deter them from doing it any more in the future. Of course they will do nothing if someone actually wants to attack the workplace, but that’s a risk you will face at nearly any job.

              1. Christopher Tracy*

                An attorney I know and befriended at an industry event sent me a casing around Thanksgiving last year with a letter about something having to do with friendship and pilgrims. It was a very odd gift to receive at work, and considering that my paternal great grandparents are Native American, also ill-conceived.

        2. Anna*

          Why would they be carrying around the bullet? And why would they leave it on someone’s desk?

          I know hunters. Hunters don’t normally walk around with their ammunition in their pockets. Unless they’re hunting. I know people with guns. People with guns don’t normally walk around with their ammunition in their pockets. And they especially don’t leave it sitting on someone’s desk.

          1. Ted Mosby*

            omg… it’s not a bullet! It’s a casing. I’m not saying it’s not really creepy. But it’s also not outside the realm of things a hunter might have in his or her pocket. It can’t actually hurt anyone, even with a gun.

            I’m not saying LW is wrong to be creeped out. But it’s inaccurate to say this is something that would never wind up in someone’s pocket.

              1. Minion*

                I’ve seen guns at work as well as bullets being passed around and examined while the people examining talk about the different calibers, different guns and what type of ammo does what, etc. So, there are times when people might have a bullet at work.
                Maybe that’s something that you’re not okay with – I understand that. But to say, “No. Absolutely not. Nope. Not ever.” isn’t really accurate – it happens.

                1. Megs*

                  I think we can agree that part of the country and workplace setting matter here. In my workplace? No. Absolutely not. Nope. Not ever. And I think it was a *crime* to be armed in my old workplace (courthouse).

                2. Mustache Cat*

                  Well, I see your anecdata, and that’s fine, but I would hate and fear that workplace with a passion.

                  There’s every kind of workplace out there, Minion. Hell, there’s a workplace out there that has a duck-themed sex club. It doesn’t mean that workplace is an example of appropriate behavior.

                3. Minion*

                  SIGH. I don’t believe I said it was an example of an appropriate work environment. What I said was “it happens.” Just that. Only that. Nothing else intended, no double entendres or hidden meanings. No opinions issued on whether or not it’s appropriate, just that it happens.

                4. Amber T*

                  It’s one thing if one hunter brought one into work to show and discuss with another hunter (which is still an awful, dumb, bad idea). But to leave it on someone’s desk with no note, no mention of it, and no one coming to say “oh shit wrong desk?”

                  There are a lot of ‘innocent’ explanations for this… it fell out of someone’s pocket and someone put in on the nearest desk, it was meant as a ‘prank,’ etc. But this should absolutely be treated as a threat until it’s proven that it isn’t.

                5. Blue Anne*

                  Minion, I think we can assume that it doesn’t happen at the OP’s workplace, given their reaction. It might be normal at yours, but if the OP is feeling threatened by this (as I would be), passing bullets around is probably *not* normal at their workplace.

                6. JB (not in Houston)*

                  Minion, you’re exaggerated “SIGH” was a little harsh. I also read your comment to suggest that this maybe isn’t a big deal. I don’t think people were misunderstanding you on purpose. I know I wasn’t.

                7. Mustache Cat*


                  Can I suggest that the misunderstanding occurred a little further up the thread? Anna’s “No. Absolutely not. Nope. Not ever.” wasn’t meant to imply that it never happens, but that it’s never appropriate. In that context, your comment came off as suggesting that there are some workplaces where it is appropriate, that in my opinion isn’t true.

                8. Ted Mosby*

                  It’s not really an objective matter so you don’t really get to have an opinion. There are plenty of workplaces out there where this wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. This obviously isn’t one of them, but you still can’t randomly decide they don’t exist to bolster your view point.

                9. Srs Bsns*

                  That’s not how an opinion works, Ted. But I sure am glad that you’re here now to tell us all who is and who is not entitled to have one. JFC

              2. Owl*

                I am not a hunter or a huge shooting enthusiast, but I’ve had casings in my pocket, possibly at work before. Iif you’ve been shooting (or walking by the place where you do shoot), you might put some casings in your pocket because if they’re left on the ground, they’re trash. And maybe one got caught in the bottom of your pocket. Doesn’t explain how it made it to the desk, but really, this isn’t outside the realm of being innocent.

                1. Aurion*

                  Maybe it is innocent. But given recent events, it’s really freaking tone-deaf (to put it mildly) to not keep track of your brass to the extent that it lands on a totally non-gun-enthusist coworker’s desk. Even assuming innocence, just that part alone is well-justified in having security/cops rip the culprit a new one. If anyone is carrying casings around for whatever reason, keep track of it so it doesn’t land elsewhere.

                2. Kimberly*

                  I agree with Owl – this could be innocent especially if you found it like in the picture. It is a spent casing. The OP works for a security company. I suspect more than one of LW coworkers is a gun owner. Like owl said it could have been in someone’s pocket after target practice. S/he is trying to get something out of his/her pocket, empties his/her pocket on nearest flat surface. Casing rolls to the side and isn’t noticed.

                  I live in Houston. Sometimes on my way to work in Fort Bend County, I stop at our family’s property to check on something or swap out SD cards on our wildlife cameras. If I see a spent casing from my cousins’/BIL target practice or hunting invasive hogs, I pick it up. I was taught to always pick up my casings – some of the people who married in (most of the guys all my first cousins are girls) don’t. Because I’m a teacher – I’ve made a habit of stopping at the barn and emptying my pockets before continuing to work.

                3. TychaBrahe*

                  Casing rolls to the side and isn’t noticed. Someone else finds it (especially a cleaning person), picks it up, and puts it on the nearest desk.

                  Personally, I took my debit card out of my wallet on Friday to go visit a sales table in our lobby and forgot to put it away. It fell out of my pocket, and although I realized it was lost and I searched for it, I couldn’t find it. I cancelled it.

                  And it was on my coworker’s desk Monday morning.

              3. AnotherFed*

                Totally – have you never left candy wrappers or other garbage in a pocket or bag accidentally? This is pretty much the same thing.

                1. Anna*

                  I’m gonna say no, it is not the same thing. And no matter what, I don’t randomly leave the things I find in my pocket on the desk of a person I work with.

                2. AnotherFed*

                  Right, leaving them on someone else’s desk is wrong no matter what. I was reacting to the ‘never at work’ piece, because I swear I find more casings every time I clean my purse, even if I haven’t been shooting in between cleanings. It’s gun person glitter – fine when it stays with its owner, but nobody wants it left behind without its owner.

                3. Ted Mosby*

                  1)How is it not the same thing? It’s a different item but a casing is not dangerous in any way.

                  2) We don’t know who put it on her desk. It might have fallen from someone’s pocket next to her desk, and someone picked it up and put it there assuming it was hers.

              4. Ted Mosby*

                Well I wear the same jacket to work that I wear basically everywhere else. So when I go to the gym sometimes the next day my headphones are in my jacket pocket. And when I go out sometimes a lipstick is in my jacket pocket. It’s a little piece of trash that is no more dangerous than a butter knife. It being at work isn’t really any different than any other little item you would pick up or forget about.

            1. Cass*

              Yeah, I agree Ted (nice reference.) I could imagine someone who hunts or shoots recreationally forgetting a casing in their pocket and emptying it for something else without thinking…not that this incident shouldn’t be treated seriously and potentially as a threat, just offering a more mundane circumstance.

            2. KT*

              I’m one of the crazy people who usually does have a casing in my pocket. Not trying to be creepy–it’s just like I inevitably have 100 dog bags in my pockets,purse, etc. They just end up there.

            3. Creag an Tuire*

              It’s also reasonable that some of my coworkers carry condoms in their pockets, but it would still be bizarre and inappropriate for one to end up on my desk.

              1. Chairs*

                Unless someone’s trying to recruit you to the local duck club….no, still weird and bizarre for it to be on your desk.

              2. Mallory Janis Ian*

                Right? If a coworker left a condom neatly lined up on your desk, you’d rightly wonder, “Soooo, what are you trying to tell me here, coworker?” That’s why the bullet placed on the desk is perceived as a potential threat; there is an implied (or perceived) message there.

                1. Creag an Tuire*

                  But maybe someone was just twerking over a random coworker’s desk (as one does) and it fell out! Huge misunderstanding, I tells ya!


              3. SJ McMahon*

                Precisely this. I can easily imagine having a casing in a jeans pocket and forgetting about it. I can’t imagine taking it out of my pocket and leaving it on someone else’s desk.

              4. Turtle Candle*

                I think the condom is a great comparison. I have no problem with condoms. I do not find them objectionable as objects. I can totally understand why someone might have one in their pocket/purse/bag. I can even imagine a situation where a condom might fall out of said pocket/purse/bag and land somewhere in my space totally innocuously.

                And yet if I came back from a midday meeting to find a condom on my desk, yeah, I’d wonder if a message was being sent, and if so, what message, and yeah, I’d be creeped out and quite possibly also feel threatened, depending. Because while it’s possible that it’s an accident, it’s also possible that it isn’t, and I don’t have the luxury of just dismissing the latter possibility because there are other possibilities.

                1. spinetingler*

                  “Well – this is much more like finding a condom wrapper than a condom.”

                  Yeah – in both instances the shot has apparently already been fired. . .

              5. Ted Mosby*

                I think assuming it was put on her desk by the person on purpose doesn’t necessarily make sense. It’s just as likely that someone dropped it by her desk and someone else assumed it was hers and picked it up.

                Again I’m not saying that this shouldn’t be treated as a threat. It should because there is a chance that it is one and that chance needs to be taken very seriously. But there’s also a chance that someone had something innocuous fall out of their pocket, and it’s silly to pretend that’s not a possibility.

            4. Student*

              I think you’re missing the point. It did hurt the OP. She doesn’t have a hole to show for it, but she is actually suffering real hurt.

              I had someone hold me at gunpoint once. I walked away with no holes in me, but I was hurt. “Actually” hurt, just like OP was “actually” hurt.

              It’s dumbfounding that you’d suggest otherwise and try to minimize the seriousness of this. None of the hunters or gun enthusiasts I know would ever suggest that being threatened with a weapon was anything less than serious – especially if the threat occurs because the weapon or paraphernalia is being handled carelessly instead of as a deliberate act. In many ways, threats due to carelessness with a weapon are WORSE than direct threats because they are more unexpected and more difficult to prevent.

              1. Ted Mosby*

                We don’t even know if anyone was threatening the OP.

                And again, no matter how you feel inside your heart, this is not a weapon. It is a small metal case. It is probably less dangerous than a fork.

            5. Anonymous for this*

              Yeah, I haven’t even gotten far into the comments, and I’m amazed at how freaked out people are by a spent casing. I can think of several harmless scenarios that might explain the situation, and I think it is weird that the LW wants a police investigation.

              People who shoot guns as a hobby will pick up what is sometimes called “spent brass” to clean up, because we actually care about the environment! I’ve found loose brass, and loose rounds deep in my pockets evev after I thought I emptied them.

              A custodian might have found the brass on the floor and put it one the nearest desk, to avoid getting it stuck in the vacuum. There might be a shooter in the office who dropped it unwittingly.

              A facilities person who is a shooting hobbyist might have changed a lightbulb near the LW’s desk, and this fell out of a pocket.

              Unwitting shooter dropped it, and another coworker found it and assumed it was LW’s.

              Is it so unlikely that it came from a coworker, when this is a security company, after all?

              There is NO WAY that the police would collect it as evidence of a crime and ship it off for fingerprint analysis, when there is no apparent crime.

              LW makes no mention of the state or whether this is a rural or urban area. But I’m a woman who worked in a high tech field in a urban area of a very blue state, yet I sometimes went to an indoor shooting range on my lunch hour. I rented different weapons because I thought it was a cool and fun thing to do with a coworker. I swear I’ve never stalked or killed anyone.

              In other words, LW should take a deep breath. Start by talking to coworkers and don’t jump to conclusions .

          2. Allison*

            That’s what I’m thinking. If you bring something like that to work to give or show to a coworker, you don’t leave it on their desk for the world to see, especially if you’re not completely certain it *is* their desk. That’s just not smart. In an office setting, the likelihood of something like this happening by mistake is pretty slim.

          3. newby*

            Some gun nuts do walk around with ammunition in their pockets. However, they wouldn’t leave it on someone’s desk unless it was a fellow gun nut and particularly interesting ammunition.

              1. Amber T*

                I think this argument is missing the point though. Your average non-gun user probably doesn’t know that. I saw the picture and thought “holy shit a bullet.” The point is, someone anonymously left something that is very closely associated with a gun on someone’s desk in an office that has nothing to do with weapons. The company needs to notify all employees that this has happened and will be investigated, and whoever accidentally dropped it or left it or whatever needs to come forward and say “sorry guys, that was me.”

                1. Not Yet Looking*

                  Just a possibility: What if it was 1) accidentally or deliberately in someone’s cuff or pocket, 2) fell out of said place onto the floor near OPs desk, and 3) was picked up by someone who placed it on the desk, assuming it had fallen off said desk?

                  There are almost always at least a couple reasonable explanations for this sort of thing, and a couple nefarious ones. It’s really hard to say which this is, and probably will continue to be.

          4. nonegiven*

            I find casings around the house all the time. I find them in the washer when they fall out of DH’s pockets, the cats steal them and roll them under furniture and doors.

            DH reloads them, shoots them at targets to find the best load for hunting and reloads them again. He has me order them for him in lots of 50 when they wear out.

            He doesn’t usually carry the whole loaded cartridge loose in his pockets, but the casings are all over the place.

            1. nonegiven*

              I just noticed the picture. It’s trash, those small ones. They get stomped into the ground, they fall into pant cuffs, bags, etc. They fly out back and to the side when they are ejected and end up everywhere.

          5. AnonT*

            My brother owns a custom ammo workshop. He works with ammunition all day, every day. And even he doesn’t walk around with bullets in his pocket.

            If this is someone’s idea of a prank, or if they just “lost” this particular item on accident, I would have serious questions about their judgement. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want to work with someone whose response to losing a bullet is “eh, whatever”, rather than notifying security in case someone finds it and has exactly this reaction.

            1. BananaPants*

              My brother’s in the military, in a firearms MOS, and is a firearms instructor. He works with literally thousands of rounds of ammunition and multiple weapons every single day. He doesn’t walk around with casings or full up cartridges in his pocket either on- or off-duty. Then again, in his line of work, having so much as ONE round go missing can be a career-ending error so they don’t treat ammo lightly. And you police your brass when you’re done at the range!

              Bringing a firearm or ammunition into my workplace would likely result in termination. Doesn’t matter if you’re a concealed carry permit holder – unless you’re a law enforcement officer, you cannot bring firearms, ammo, or explosives onto company property.

              I am a proponent of both the Second Amendment and of reasonable gun control measures, and am comfortable around guns and responsible gun owners. I would still be extremely rattled to find any form of ammunition left on my desk at work.

              1. Anonymous for this*

                I must call BS on your claim that he has NEVER unwittingly brought home spent brass or a loose round, especially if he is around it all the time in great quantities. Stuff happens. I don’t care how careful you try to be. I’ve found loose brass and rounds in the washer and dryer Sven after feeling pockets and shaking out clothing, and I don’t shoot very often.

                1. Srs Bsns*

                  If my colleagues in LE had had spent casings just FALLING out of their pockets the way many people in this thread have described, they would have been on their Sergeant’s shit list for sure. Just because your personal experience contradicts BananaPants’, or mine, doesn’t make them a liar. Is this really what this thread has come to? We’re just calling other commenters liars now because we don’t like what they have to say? SMH

        3. Corporate Drone*

          Whatever it’s called, it’s not appropriate for the workplace, and if I saw it in mine, I would call the police.

        4. Observer*

          At work?! Except for armed security, the police and the like, no people should NOT be bringing that to work.

          1. nonegiven*

            Every office employee at DH’s work has their carry permit including the women. Some have gun safes in their vehicles.

            1. Minion*

              I always carry mine and there are others at my work who carry concealed. It’s not entirely unheard of.

              1. Katie F*

                Why? Is it in response to feeling specifically less safe in your area, or do you work in a security industry where it’d be ore common?

                I’m not asking that to start any kind of judgement parade – I’m just curious as to why you’d want to be armed in the workplace in general.

                1. Katie F*

                  Workplace shootings are still incredibly rare. I don’t know that I’d carry “just in case” in that situation, or that the workplace would have what sounds like SEVERAL people all concealed carrying due to workplace shootings happening elsewhere.

                2. Minion*

                  I don’t carry it to my workplace specifically because I’m worried about workplace violence. I carry with me everywhere I go, as long as it’s legally allowed, because I feel safer having the ability to defend myself if the situation arose where I’d need to. I’m not in security. I have been trained in the proper use of firearms and I take mine, and everyone else’s, safety very seriously and would never, ever leave a bullet or casing on someone else’s desk.
                  There are, of course, all kinds of opinions on this and this is mine only and I’m not interested in debating whether or not it’s good, moral, safe, stupid, or whatever. That’s not specifically directed at you, Katie F, I just know that when I explain how I feel about it, there will be those who will disagree and maybe some who would want to argue or debate the issue. I’m not going to do that. I just wanted to answer your question.

              2. Kt*

                I always carry as well. But I also keep an emergency stash of food and water in the car, have a seatbelt cutter/glass breaker and generally liked to be prepared.

                I carry everywhere. Dog park, grocery store. If I have a jacket or blazer on, I have at least one on me

                1. the gold digger*

                  seatbelt cutter/glass breaker

                  I need to get a glass breaker. How else will I survive if I drive off a bridge into the water and the electric windows will not roll down so I can let enough water in that I can open the door?

                2. Been there, done that. Literally.*

                  gold digger – your response is rather rude and arrogant isn’t it?
                  Maybe because I have too many friends that are EMTs, Firefighters, former military; maybe living in hurricane/blizzard areas have taught me cation, safety, & emergency prep. I see nothing wrong with having a seatbelt cutter/glass breaker in the car, nor is there a problem with some water/food in the car (extra blanket, dry shoes, etc) in the car. And yes, I do have evacuation plans and family meetup spots.
                  Have your house burn to the ground or be in a massive car wreck, you’ll learn how to be cautious and prepared my little grasshopper.

                3. the gold digger*

                  Been there done that – I was actually dead serious. I don’t think my response was rude at all. This is an issue that has bugged me about electric windows for years.

                  You are speaking to the person who had a will when she was 23 and who carries water, a blanket, and M&Ms in her trunk at all times.

                4. E*

                  I just read online somewhere earlier today that all head rests in cars are removable so that you can use the metal prong ends of them to break the window in an emergency. I’d never heard of this before, not sure if it’s true but that’d be good for more people to know if it is.

                5. BananaPants*

                  I bought a combo glass breaker/seatbelt cutter and it resides on my keychain. I’ve read that the ones that stick to the console using Command velcro strips or whatever are too easy to have dislodged in a roll-over, but odds are in such an accident your keys will still be in the ignition and the breaker/cutter will be right there at hand. Also bear in mind that the glass breakers aren’t effective on the windshield because it’s safety glass – you need to use them on a side window.

                  I don’t routinely drive near any body of water and we’re not in an area prone to flash floods, but I like knowing that if the stuff hits the proverbial fan I can break glass, cut my seatbelt/our girls’ car seat harnesses, and get them out.

              3. BananaPants*

                In my workplace you’d be fired if you were caught carrying on company property – doesn’t matter if you have a permit for concealed carry or not. We have some serious gun enthusiasts on staff and they talk about their toys all the time but none of them are foolish enough to violate corporate policy in such a spectacular way.

        5. NJ Anon*

          “Actually, lots of people have bullets”
          Uh, not where I live. I don’t care what it is, it doesn’t belong on my desk!!

        6. aebhel*

          Yeah, I think I have a couple of bullet *casings* in my purse from the last time I went shooting, but certainly not cartridges, and I *definitely* wouldn’t leave one on a coworker’s desk!

      2. SenatorMeathooks*

        It’s not a bullet, it’s a casing. It’s certainly bizarre enough to justify being cautious, especially if firearm hobbyists are not the norm for your regional area and culture.
        In my town, gun ownership is definitely the norm so I would have a different reaction than the LW, so context is important.

        1. Anna*

          I don’t think the context matters in this case. Even if you work with people you know use firearms for whatever reason and found ammunition on your desk, it would be weird no matter what. I work with people who hunt, fire guns for fun, etc. If I came in to my office and found ammunition sitting there, I would still freak the fuck out.

          1. Triangle Pose*

            Agreed. Just because gun ownership is the norm where you live does not make it okay to randomly leave bullet casings on the desk in a professional office. Even with that context, the advice is still the same and OP’s fear of a threat is still valid.

          2. LadyCop*

            It really is ambiguous until we know more. I’ve had a casing or extra round end up in my pocket, especially after a trip to the range…sitting down with slant pockets in…lowering my pants in a bathroom stall, they fall out.

            However, I also know of a cop who lost his job because he engraved his coworkers names on the rounds in his mag…

            So please speak up. Consider filing a police report, though in my state, this would at best (for now) be 5th degree assault. It’s better safe than sorry, even if it’s an I’ll thought prank, or accident.

            1. Jadelyn*

              I actually went through airport security once and while I was on the plane, rummaging in my purse for something, I found a couple pieces of spent brass. I’d gone to the range a few days prior to my trip, and my purse had been sitting on the ground behind me, so it must have “caught” them on accident. It definitely made me question the security, though, if they didn’t notice that!

              But this isn’t spent brass (or even a live round) that fell out of someone’s pocket. It’s a live round that was deliberately placed on someone’s desk. And I feel like the fact that the OP *is* as freaked out as they are tells us that this is not within cultural norms for their area. People who are used to being surrounded by guns and people who use guns don’t have that level of reaction to finding a round on their desk (although to be fair, if I’d had that happen when I lived in a gun-heavy area, I’d still have thought it was weird, just not scary per se).

              1. Meg Murry*

                My husband found a couple of live rounds at the bottom of his backpack that he had used as a carryon once we arrived in our destination – they hadn’t caught by security. He had used that backpack on a camping/hunting trip and didn’t realize the ammo was still in there since it had fallen to the bottom of the pocket. He threw it out when he found it though, he wasn’t going to chance it going through security again on the way back home.

                My mother also accidentally made it through security in both the US and Europe with 3! boxcutters in her purse (she works retail, so will often spend a big part of her day opening boxes in the back room, then wind up with a box cutter in her pocket when she gets home that she throws in her purse to take back to work). Again, when she realized they were there, she threw them away.

                But overall between these 2 examples and others I’ve seen, I’m pretty sure a lot of airport security is mostly security theater and that we’re all wasting our time taking off our shoes, etc.

              2. AnotherFed*

                It’s completely allowed to bring non-live items through – I’ve carried brass for reloading on a trip to a family member so we could do some reloading over a holiday. Live ones you shouldn’t, but the reality is your laptop battery is far more dangerous than 1 round of modern ammunition.

            2. Observer*

              That casing didn’t fall out of someone’s pocket – it was put there. Look at the picture and you’ll see why I say that.

              1. Owl*

                I think it just rolled there, I don’t think it was placed there carefully. If it were standing on its end, then I could see where you’re coming from.

                1. Observer*

                  Oh, please. The likelihood of something falling out of someone’s pocket onto the desk isn’t high, to say the least. To say that something fell out of someone’s pocket and rolled so neatly the line that way is just stretching it to a point of ridiculousness.

                  I honestly don’t understand the need to push an explanation that is sooo unlikely, especially when the risk that comes along with being wrong about this is so high.

                2. Owl*

                  But Observer, my point is, we disagree on which is more likely. I’m not saying the situation should be ignored; certainly they should get to the bottom of it, and find out what happened. And if it was an accident, remind gun users that non-gun users, who aren’t familiar with this sort of thing, tend to think the worst, and they shouldn’t be sprinkling the office with gun casings. But in my opinion, it’s much more likely that this was something innocent, rather than something sinister.

                3. SJ McMahon*

                  But how? Rolled there from where? I can’t see how it got from someone’s pocket onto someone’s desk without it being deliberately removed from said pocket. If it were on the floor, what you’re saying would make sense.

            3. Case of the Mondays*

              I thought the same thing. I had a spent round fall out of my hoodie the next time I wore it after being at the range. It was at home luckily. If it had been at work, I could see someone just picking it up and putting it on the nearest desk.

                1. TL -*

                  If it was an empty casing that I had picked up off the ground, I could see myself treating it like any other piece of trash and absent-mindedly putting it down somewhere while rummaging through pockets.

                  That being said, if I found one at work, I wouldn’t necessarily be alarmed but I would be asking around and letting people know. My workplace and coworkers aren’t gun-friendly so I would be on the concerned side of curious.

                2. Kerry (Like the County In Ireland)*

                  Right? As opposed to the trash, or right back in your pocket. Total WTF there.

                  LW, your workplace security is a joke. Call the cops and have them take a report.

                3. Case of the Mondays*


                  If it were my casing I found I would of course put it back in my pocket. If someone else found it, they might not know what it was and think it came off the nearest desk and put it back there.

          3. SenatorMeathooks*

            I wouldn’t freak out, because gun related things are not unusual here. It would be very strange though, and it makes perfect sense to report it to HR or the police if necessary.

      3. Minion*

        I wouldn’t really say that just the act of bringing a bullet is inappropriate, especially when we’re talking about the bullet casing rather than a live bullet.
        Obviously we don’t know in this case what it means. Was it a very stupid prank? Was it a threat? Was it an accident?
        OP is scared, and rightly so – I carry concealed and I’m very much a gun enthusiast and I know my first thought would run along those same lines. And, so, obviously putting a bullet on OP’s desk was very. very inappropriate, but I wouldn’t say that having a bullet at work is inappropriate as a blanket statement.

    1. pope suburban*

      I had thought the same thing, or that perhaps someone shook it out of a coat or a pocket. That kind of thing would have been normal where I used to live, because people hunt or shoot for sport there. But that said, we don’t know where the letter writer is (It may not be normal) and it’s wise to err on the side of caution. It’s entirely possible that someone, be it a fellow employee or someone who has access to the building, is not-well enough to be considering violence. Treating it as a threat is the best way for the letter writer, and their coworkers, to stay safe.

      1. Just Another Techie*

        I used to target shoot. Believe me I did not have single cartridges lying around that I could “perhaps shake out of a coat or pocket.” Ammunition came in boxes, which I kept at the range, or in the trunk of my car if I was going out into the woods to shoot. The idea that someone might have just one cartridge “shaken out of a coat pocket” and then leave it on someone else’s desk, neatly lined up against a mousepad, is so freakin bizarre. That’s not normal behavior, even for people who hunt or target shoot as a hobby.

        1. Observer*

          Yes, the way that thing is lined means that this PUT THERE. It didn’t get shaken out of a pocket, nor did it fall there.

          1. CeeCee*

            True. Can’t argue with that. And I definitely think OP should go to the police and take the proper precautions. I do, however, see how this could be a case of the casing being on the ground somewhere near her desk (I can’t imagine a reason why it would be, but weird things happen) and someone put it up under her monitor. If it’s anything like my desk, that’s kind of out of the way.

            That to me reads less of a threat (It’s not sitting on her chair with a note attached), but more of a “Here, you may have dropped this and I’m trying to be discreet in giving it back.”

            As readers, we won’t know until the OP updates us on it. Either way, she should contact the authorities and take the proper precautions to ensure her safety, regardless of why it was put there.

            1. Anony*

              Maybe someone from facilities found it on the ground near the OP’s desk and put it there?

          2. TootsNYC*

            or was it tossed there, and it rolled up against the straight edge? (like, if someone found it on the floor and thought it was the OP’s?)

            Though, yeah, I went and looked, and the end is perfectly even with the front of the mousepad, so…

            I’d want some actual conversation among my workmates.

            1. TootsNYC*

              Though, if I wanted to put it on the OP’s desk as a deliberate threat, it would be smack in the middle, not lined up with the mousepad.

              So very weird. I hope the OP can get more info, because it is really unsettling.

            2. Observer*

              Given how freaked out the OP is, it’s hard to think that she comes across the kind of person who would have shell casings at work.

        2. Just Another Techie*

          Wait, that’s a casing, not a cartridge. Was looking at the picture on my phone at first, and the shadow made it look like an unused round. Anyway. It still looks like it was placed there deliberately. And I still feel like that picture is really creepy, and even in the most devil’s advocate position I can view it in, still pretty freakin bizarre.

        3. BananaPants*

          I used to do a lot of target shooting and like I said above somewhere, my brother is in the military in a firearms-related MOS where he often spends the whole day handling ammo or instructing on the range; he’s a firearms enthusiast on his off time. My parents are gun owners. None of us has EVER had the experience of random rounds or casings ending up in pockets or stuck in a pants cuff or anything like that. It’s been drilled into my head pretty much since I learned to shoot that ammunition needs to be safeguarded just like the gun itself.

          That looks like a full-up cartridge to me and it should be in a box or in a magazine – not left on a coworker’s desk. It’s just freaking bizarre.

          1. Anonymous for this*

            I think it might have rolled there. A custodian could have stood on the desk to change a light bulb, work on AC vents, whatever, and it fell out of a pocket. Or someone found it and put it on the nearest desk without further thought and it rolled until it landed against something.

            I think if it had been placed upright right in front of the LW’s keyboard, that might be seen as menacing. But this scenario has many alternate explanations. And it is not illegal to have spent brass at a workplace.

    2. sunny-dee*

      I was wondering if they have armed security guards and it just fell on the floor and someone put it on her desk. It seems like an odd kind of threat? Not that it couldn’t be, but I’d assume mistake before malice.

      1. Florida*

        In most situations, I agree that you should assume mistake before malice. But this is one situation where I disagree. An investigation may reveal that it was a mistake, but HR does not seem to be doing that investigation.

      2. Mike C.*

        I work somewhere with significant amounts of armed security, and this would never, ever happen.

    3. Lizcat*

      I have a hard time with assuming a mistake in this instance. You could be right, but I agree with everyone else who said to escalate it.

    4. Florida*

      That could be true. It could be a joke. It could be a misunderstanding. It could be that it fell out of someone’s pocket. We can speculate all day about what it could be. What matters is how OP feels about it, and OP feels threatened. Therefore, by definition, this is a threat. Casing Owner might not have intended it to be a threat, but it is still a threat. HR should talk to CasingOwner about making poor decisions, threatening co-workers, etc.

      1. KR*

        I have to disagree with the last part of your comment. I agree that OPs concerns are valid and we should treat it seriously and take into consideration that OP might be getting threatened by someone, but just because someone considers something a threat doesn’t always mean that it is automatically a threat.

        1. Florida*

          I consider a threat to be something that threatens another person. So if you are threatened by it, it is a threat, regardless of whether or not I intended that. I think the determination of whether or not something is a threat is determined by the victim, not the perpetrator (sorry about this criminal-type language. They are the best words I can think of right now. I don’t mean to imply that all threats are crimes.).

          For example, let’s say I hang a noose outside your home. You are threatened, but I said it was a joke. Is that a threat? I think you, the victim, get to decide that it is a threat. I was not acting with malice. I was acting in fun – it was a joke. But you were threatened, so it was a threat. That’s what I meant by it. (P.S. I used “I” and “you” because it’s easy to explain. I’m not going to hang a noose outside anyone’s house or anywhere else.)

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            Another example: I’m black and I walk past your house. You consider that a threat. I considered it a walk. Is it a threat?

            So no, not always does the ‘victim’ get to define whether something is a threat or not. Context does matter.

            But, that’s not the point of the LW’s question anyway.

            1. Florida*

              Yes, to me it’s a threat. You even said, “You consider it a threat.” I understand that from your perspective as the perpetrator, you don’t think you are threatening me, but that doesn’t change the fact that it is a threat to me.

              The part about you being black is a red herring in this discussion. It doesn’t matter why I am threatened.

                1. Florida*

                  No, I was going with ThursdayGeeks example. TG said I was threatened by him walking by my house. So, in his hypothetical, that’s a fact for that scenario.

    5. rozin*

      I’m trying to think of an explanation as well, but what kind of moron takes bullets to work and carelessly leaves them on someone else’s desk? Bullets aren’t cheap! And getting caught with them could lead to serious consequences. Maybe an armed security made a mistake? But why one bullet? And why is it so perfectly aligned with the bottom of the computer. No. Someone put that there intentionally and is a terrible person, prank or not. Stay vigilant OP.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        It’s not a bullet. I’m all for reporting this to the police but there really is a big difference between a bullet and a casing.

        1. Cindylouwho*

          I was wondering what Houston Police would say if I called and reported an empty shell casing. Truly, I’m really just wondering if that’s a thing or not. Does anyone have any law enforcement connections to find out if a police department would have a response for something like this?

          I can see in a smaller town, or one where guns were illegal, maybe they’d come out or take a report. I really don’t know what police in a major Texas city would say. If anyone knows, I’m honestly curious.

          1. superblarg*

            Well, Texas is… Texas. But I can tell you that this scenario in my state would not be handled blase by the police. Not that they could track down somebody, but come out and take a report and put pressure on the company? Yup.

            My company would not be blase – workplace violence is a huge issue, and they take it seriously. A shocking number of people quietly come in and report to security that they have a restraining order or a scary person to watch out for, and/or need a panic button or an escort out to their special nearby parking space. A shocking number of workplace violence reports get filed internally each year.

    6. Leatherwings*

      Here’s the thing: It could easily be an accident/misunderstanding/mistake. But assuming that and being wrong carries serious risks. There are much fewer and less deadly risks associated with being wrong to take it seriously.

      1. Grey*

        Accident/misunderstanding/mistake was my first thought too. But I agree. This isn’t the kind of thing you want to be wrong about. The OP needs to find out for sure.

        I’d start asking my coworkers non-accusatory questions like, “hey, anyone know where this came from”?

        1. Michelenyc*

          That honestly would have been my first reaction before calling security and HR. If no one fessed up than I would definitely escalate it to the proper people. Everyone in my department is notorious for picking things up off the floor and putting them on the nearest desk. Usually it is the correct desk but there are times someone comes back and says who this on my desk it’s not mine. Obviously living/working in NYC this would probably never happen but this could happen in my hometown of Portland, Oregon.

      2. wet gremlin*

        I want to festoon this comment with flashing lights and plaster it all over this page.

    7. lolo*

      There certainly is room for misunderstandings… my assumption would be someone found it kicking around on the ground and it was closer to her desk. But regardless of possibilities, police should’ve been called on sight. They could’ve asked someone to explain it on her desk and resolved a misunderstanding or police could’ve fingerprinted it and the staff to discover who put it there.

      1. Adam V*

        Sure, if I see a piece of paper on the floor next to OP’s desk, I might pick that up and put it there. But not a bullet / casing / cartridge.

    8. Katniss*

      People will do “this was probably a misunderstanding” for everything, won’t they?

      Why did they have a casing at work?

      1. KR*

        I think in this case, while the OP should take this seriously and be vigilant about their personal safety, I think it is important to remember that this might be a misunderstanding so they don’t go into full panic mode for the foreseeable future.

        1. Katniss*

          I think this is pretty dismissive of the OP’s genuine and understandable concern, especially in light of many, MANY recent events.

            1. Katniss*

              No one is advocating that the OP panic. They’re advocating she take precautions as if this is a threat. Think of how many times something disastrous has occurred because someone shrugged things off as “probably no big deal”.

              Better safe than sorry.

              1. KR*

                I don’t think you fully read my initial reply to your comment. “I think in this case, while the OP should take this seriously and be vigilant about their personal safety, I think it is important to remember that this might be a misunderstanding so they don’t go into full panic mode for the foreseeable future.” I really don’t think that we have that much of a differing opinion.

          1. Jennifer*

            You might have missed a phrase in KR’s first sentence: “…while the OP should take this seriously and be vigilant about their personal safety…” The ideas expressed therein are at odds with your claim that she is being dismissive.

        2. Observer*

          Except that a “misunderstanding” is really NOT a reasonable explanation, even in a gun heavy area. Therefore, the OP needs to treat this as though it’s a threat, a TERRIBLE prank, or the act of someone who is dangerously stupid about guns, as all of these are FAR more likely than a misunderstanding.

          1. Belle*

            A number of people have suggested possible explanations that are indeed reasonable. For example, “Lady Cop” writes that rounds sometimes end up in her pocket and subsequently fall out. Do you have some experience with firearms that allow you to speak with greater authority than a police officer? I am curious to know what your reasoning is behind your absolute statements.

            1. Observer*

              Sorry, I saw LadyCop’s explanation and it doesn’t wash. That thing didn’t fall out of someone’s pocket and wind up neatly lined up with the mouse pad.

              What’s more, the fact that SECURITY is unarmed means it’s a good bet that this is not an areas where guns are as common as umbrellas.

              1. nonegiven*

                Some tidy person could have seen it lying on the floor near her desk and put it there, all lined up because they were tidy.

                If a person was familiar with guns and saw it on the floor, I think they would be more likely to put it in the trash, knowing how those things work their way into places like sand on the beach.

                1. RKB*

                  That’s a stretch. We can’t believe OP feels threatened or that it’s unusual, but we can believe someone super anal about tidiness happened to find it and put it on her desk because neatness is key? Right. Incredibly more believable.

            2. Observer*

              I clicked on submit too soon.

              None of the explanations given are “reasonable”. They are, in fact, highly unlikely. (Unless, in some cases, the OP’s workplace is inhabited by total idiots.)

      2. Boo*

        Yeah, boggling slightly at all the people going “eh probably nothing in it” well yeah, maybe there isn’t anything for OP to worry about but by not taking it seriously she would literally be staking her life on a “probably”. Then if god forbid something did happen, everyone would be all “why didn’t she take it seriously”.

        I don’t care what the reason was, bottom line is you don’t leave anything ammo related on your coworker’s desks. Which is a sentence I never thought I’d type.

      3. Corporate Drone*

        This kind of thinking is bizarre. This is an accessory to a firearm. This is not normal or appropriate for the workplace. Thanks, ammosexuals.

            1. Gaia*

              It actually refers to people who have a perceived obsession with their gun ownership or use. Like the people who take AR-15s to grocery stores.

        1. Anxa*

          I would that if an accessory to a firearm was inappropriate, the firearm would be, too. But it’s not so uncommon to carry at work.

          1. Anxa*

            Nevermind. There are a lot of jobs were you couldn’t bring a gun to work (mine included!)

      4. Nervous Accountant*

        Oh those zany misunderstandings! Sounds like something out of a bad sitcom *vomit*

      5. Petronella*

        “People will do “this was probably a misunderstanding” for everything, won’t they?”
        Followed by “have you ever thought that maybe the person who did this just has poor social skills, is on a spectrum, has a diagnosis,” and on and on and on.

        1. Katniss*

          Dismissive Comment Bingo (extra points awarded if the person being told they are overreacting is a woman).

        2. Ralph S. Mouse*

          Don’t forget every variation of “Let’s remember that there are many different cultures in the world and we have to be ready to accommodate every single one of them.” That’s always my favorite. I mean, a) this being a “cultural” difference is not a brilliant left-field observation you are the absolute first to have ever thought of, and b) this “culture” is the one you’re working in, so the one you came from is irrelevant.*

          * Obviously excepting actual protected differences. I mean stupid stuff like eating off someone’s plate or standing way too close or whatever. Those aren’t things I care to accommodate just because maybe they were okay where you grew up. And in this case, yes, some areas have “gun culture,” but it needs to be tempered with a little common sense culture.

          1. RKB*

            Don’t forget “everyone is so offended nowadays” and bonus points if the word millennial is tossed in.

      6. KT*

        I’ve accidentally brought casings to work before. If you shoot regularly, they end up everywhere–pockets, bags, etc.

        I have pulled 15 out of my washer and dryer in one go. If I shook out my purse right now, I’d probably find a few along with random coins, old lipstick and stamps.

        No malicious intent or attempt at intimidation, I just forget to empty my pockets.

        1. pope suburban*

          Yeah, while I have not experienced this personally, I have been around people who have. You see someone feel something in a pocket, make a “what the hell is this?” face, and it’s a casing. Based on the times I went along to the range, those little casings can fly far and end up in purses or coats set to the side. They’re one of those things that seem to multiply; my parents’ cats are adept at finding the stray ones and chasing them around the house. That kind of thing happens.

          But. The letter writer finds this alarming, and not without cause, given a lot of things. And especially without knowing where they are, this still deserves follow-up. While violence like this is much less common than hobbyists finding stray casings, it still happens, and reporting this to the police increases the odds that the letter writer (and colleagues) will be safe. Honestly, working and living where I do now, I would probably be this alarmed, because now I am not somewhere that sport shooting is common (and because we have hired some real, certifiable degenerates who wouldn’t be above coming back with a grudge over being let go). There are a lot of possibilities, but in none of them is talking to the authorities a bad idea.

        2. Lora*

          I am the indisputable queen of leaving Chapsticks, coins and pens in every stray pocket and baggage I own, but I don’t put half-melted Chapsticks and stray Sharpies on my colleagues’ desks.

          I come from a rural gun-friendly area, and I get it, they’re like glitter, they get everywhere, but I don’t go to work covered in glitter either, and I certainly don’t smear my co-workers’ desks with it. Because that would be weird. And I say this as someone whose desk currently sports a canning jar of homemade roasted pumpkin seeds, a stress ball in the shape of a virus, a painted rock my niece gave me for a paperweight and a slinky.

          1. Anonymous for this*

            If you found a Chapstick on the floor next to someone’s desk,would you pick it up and put it on their desk and assume it belonged to them? Maybe the person who placed it there is thinking, “wow, I never realized that Bob is into guns.”

      7. pescadero*

        Sometimes, especially when shooting a lot of small caliber rounds out of semi-auto guns – cases end up in odd places. Stuck in pants cuffs, in pockets where you didn’t put them, in the hood of your hoodie, etc.

    9. Jaguar*

      There are many possible explanations. But the most logical one (especially given the seemingly intentional placement in the photo) is a threat.

      Let’s also consider the possibility that it isn’t a threat. What happens? HR (or the police) perform an investigation and conclude that it isn’t a threat. If you were the letter writer, would your mind now be at ease, because an investigation couldn’t prove it was a threat? I imagine LW would still have the thought lingering in their mind.

      In order for the OP to feel safe, all possibility of it being a threat has to be removed from their mind. That seems unlikely in this case. So the bar shouldn’t be “is it a threat?” The bar needs to be “what circumstance would the OP feel safe to return to work?” Someone saying “oops, my bad” probably doesn’t cut it.

      1. Amber T*

        “So the bar shouldn’t be “is it a threat?” The bar needs to be “what circumstance would the OP feel safe to return to work?””

        100% this.

    10. Wendy Darling*

      I mean sure it COULD be a misunderstanding. Maybe someone found it on the floor near OP’s desk and thought it was OP’s and put it there.

      But the implications if it ISN’T a misunderstanding are so very extreme and terrible in this case that I don’t think it’s really acceptable for the go-to to be “it’s a misunderstanding”. I think it’s best to treat it like it’s as bad news as it looks like until given reason to believe the contrary.

    11. Observer*

      Here’s the thing. That someone would be stupid enough to bring this to work is one thing. But to leave a bullet / cartridge on someone’s desk is another whole issue. That’s jut an incredibly irresponsible thing to do. And, people who are stupid and irresponsible with guns ARE dangerous to people, regardless of intent.

      So, the OP still has reason to be worried, even if guns are common in her milieu.

    12. Aurion*

      Maybe it was a misunderstanding, but OP would carry a very high risk if she assumes it’s harmless and ends up being wrong in her assumption. It’s far better to assume caution and be wrong about that.

      And even if it was completely innocent/accidental, like in one of your scenarios, whoever made the mistake deserves to be ripped a new one by security and the police. Especially in light of recent events, this is not a good time to make mistakes like this.

        1. Aurion*

          In fairness, as I was reading the post I was thinking about ways that this could’ve been a genuine mistake/misunderstanding (mostly because I am really hoping this isn’t a threat of some stripe).

          But frankly, even if it was completely innocuous, whoever made that mistake deserves to be ripped a new one. This is not funny, and even if there was no malice it was absolutely fucking stupid to leave a casing lying around. Maybe having security/police breathe down the culprit’s neck would instill the notion to keep track of their brass better.

    13. Mustache Cat*

      I know that many people in this country are gun enthusiasts, and I don’t begrudge them that. But I do expect them to realize that many other people are scared of guns and gun paraphenalia, and to be appropriately careful of where they put their spent casings. Even if it’s an accident (which I doubt extremely, see below) the coworker who did it should be held at fault.

    14. Lanya*

      I agree with Rich. I would not automatically consider this to be a threat, but I see it from my own context as a gun owner. I have carried around lucky bullet casings or shared them with friends if we had had a discussion about the type of rounds used in a particular gun. For a gun enthusiast, it would not be abnormal to have a casing or show it to someone if there was interest. But it was probably in poor judgment to leave this type of thing on someone’s desk at work without explanation, especially in light of current events.

      1. KR*

        Very well put. Guns are really no big deal for me. They’re in my house and I grew up with them. I usually find casings in my pockets for a couple days after going to the range. I can understand why they scare people though – they are dangerous and are only for people who have had the correct training and can take the correct precautions. Many people’s only association with guns are hearing about violent, terrible crimes against humanity so there is a definite difference in how people can view this. I don’t think that’s a bad thing – we all have things we’re frightened of.

        1. GH in SOCal*

          When I was first target shooting competitively I had a couple of casings on my desk as souveniers of events where I’d done well. I also have a really cool matchsafe that holds a few kitchen matches that’s made out of two large-bore casings. After shooting for years, an empty casing doesn’t read as “weapon” or “ammunition” or “threat” to me — it’s just recyclable material like an empty soda can. I wouldn’t think twice about having one in my pocket or purse.

          This thread has opened my eyes to be aware that other people will see it differently.

          1. ThursdaysGeek*

            When I was a kid, I would find bullet casings on the ground and put them in my pocket, because they were cool and shiny. I’ve don’t have any need or like of guns, but I’ve played with many found casings. Even now I would pick one up, if only to eventually toss it in the garbage where it belongs.

            I could see KT jiggling one in her pocket, and it falling out and rolling under the desk of her co-worker, without her noticing. The cleaning person could pick it up and, not knowing if it was important or not, put it on the desk. That’s not even that improbable. They often won’t take away even obvious garbage if it’s not in the bag.

            Nonetheless, since the OP is freaked out about it, Alison’s advice is good.

      2. neverjaunty*

        “Probably in poor judgment”? You think?

        I feel like there are a lot of people here who are so defensive about gun ownership here that they are bending over backwards to make excuses for this behavior. Please stop. Whoever did this was not an innocent gun enthusiast mistakenly sharing their hobby.

        1. Lanya*

          Neither am I being defensive, nor am I bending over backwards to make excuses. I’m just trying to explain why this is potentially not a big deal. There’s no need for attitude.

          We’ll have to wait and see if there is an update from the OP to explain what happened.

    15. neverjaunty*

      You are wrong. I also have lifelong friends who hunt/shoot (and I shoot occasionally) and there is no rational way for this to be a “misunderstanding”.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t know — a bunch of people here have shared explanations that seem like they could be plausible. I stand by the advice in my original post, but I don’t think it’s correct to say there’s no way for it to be a misunderstanding, after reading the full comment thread here (unless we’re saying loads of people here are lying).

        1. neverjaunty*

          Yes, I suppose it is possible, in the sense that anything is ultimately possible. I do not think, even after reading the full comment thread here, that there is any plausible reason that this was likely to be a misunderstanding. And it’s really tiresome to see people over and over prioritize their own dislike of thinking ill of others.

          1. Anna*

            Possible =/= probable. It is possible but it seems really unlikely that it fell out of Person A’s pocket, Person B came along and saw it, picked it up and put it on Person C’s desk.

        2. Observer*

          I don’t think people are lying. But, what they are saying requires one to ignore what we know and can gather. Sure, it’s possible that in an area where guns are common, someone might have dropped a casing out of a pocket. But, the problem here is that it’s almost impossible for that casing to have been dropped from a pocket onto the desk the way it’s in the picture. Which means that someone PUT it there.

          The explanations for someone to have actually put it there that have been offered either don’t make much sense (someone picked up from the floor and tossed on her desk? Really? Never mind the neat alignment with the mouse pad.) or require a dangerous level of stupidity (someone wanted to show someone else a casing and so just left in on a third person’s desk because they don’t know where the second person sits? Really? I would ask what they were thinking except that the only answer I can think of is “they weren’t.”)

          1. neverjaunty*

            Thank you for saying this better than I did.
            I don’t think anyone is lying. I do think that a lot of people are anxious to find some reason that this was entirely innocent, and are bending themselves into pretzels to do so.

            1. Myrin*

              And the weird thing is – they’re perfectly welcome to do so should they ever be in a situation where they find a bullet casing on their desks. However, this is a strange person who is already feeling threatened and afraid, so what is even the point in being so intent on convincing everyone that this was probably an innocent mistake?

          2. Meg Murry*

            My thought was that if it was first thing in the morning and OP’s desk is in a cube farm or open space where the casing could have rolled that the overnight cleaning crew could have found it while vacuuming or emptying the trash the night before and put it on OP’s desk.

            But I just re-read and OP said it was there when she returned from a meeting. So unless there is a mid-day cleaning crew, or OP’s desk is touching her neighbor’s where it rolled from, it does seem like it was deliberately placed there. I suppose if it was on the floor near the door of her cube/office and someone saw it they could have assumed it was OP’s and put it there – but it seems like someone would have said “Oh yeah, I saw that on the floor and thought it was OP’s so I put it on her desk”.

        3. AnotherFed*

          You guys are probably going to jump me for this, but I have absolutely left something like this on coworker’s desks. It’s certainly never been threat! Usually it’s been because there was something interesting about that particular item – we had a very high incidence of crowning in one lot of ammo, others where the links were tearing up casings, and sometimes it’s just “hey, have you seen this?” My own desk has some decoratively painted spent casings.

          This is totally normal where I work. If the OP doesn’t feel safe or willing to accept the same things in a workplace, she doesn’t feel safe, and needs to figure out how to get back to feeling safe, but I can’t see anything HR or the police would do to help that process.

          1. Anna*

            But this is where context DOES play a huge role. You and your coworker already have had that conversation and already share that interest and knowledge. Maybe you left a casing with a note that asked if they’d ever seen this before or maybe you talked about it earlier and you said you’d leave it on their desk. In this case, though, it’s already well established that you are both talking about a given subject and nobody would be surprised by it.

            1. AnotherFed*

              You have a good point. Even where there has been no conversation and I don’t know whether the person in question owns firearms, I just can’t see anyone here would take this as a threat given what we do for a living.

              1. superblarg*

                You have an interesting, and unusual, workplace. But it’s rather strikingly irrelevant here, because the original poster’s reaction indicates that s/he does NOT work in that very specialized sub-sub-sub-set of organizations in which a bullet casing on one’s desk would not be a threat. Your experience is interesting, but utterly irrelevant in this case.

      2. Myrin*

        Really the only way I could conceive of this being a misunderstanding would be in a scenario like another commenter below described where a person found this on the floor and didn’t know what it was. In my country, guns are pretty much exclusively a police/military/your odd hunter thing and the only times I’ve ever seen one in real life was on passing police officers. So I’m not sure I’d recognise this as gun equipment if I found it on the floor (going from the picture – it might be more obvious IRL), especially since I’ve dealt with technical devices that looked very similar. So I might just put this on the nearest desk if it looked like it had rolled off there or something – but yeah, even that seems like a bit of a reach. I’d actually more likely ask around if this thing belongs to anyone and then just throw it away (or maybe keep it if it seemed important/not like trash).

        But yeah, that is literally the only – and far-fetched to boot – completely innocent reason I can think of for this. And if OP is this alarmed, there’s probably a reason. Apart from that, as others have said, it’s a million times better to be a bit too cautious here and later find out that there wasn’t a need for it than the other way around.

    16. penny*

      Yeah I’d at least check around with coworkers. Maybe someone saw who put it there. I’m assuming since you’re freaked out bullets didn’t come up in a recent convo but my first thought stems from my sister who makes bullet necklaces, that it could have been brought up and someone left it there for you or as a joke.

      I’m curious if op asked around outside of hr/management, that would be my first step.

      While I wouldn’t expect to see a gun at work, wouldn’t be that weirded out by it either, (and definitely not a bullet) in the right hands. But maybe it’s regional, I’m in Texas and people love their guns.

    17. Stranger than fiction*

      If that were the case, I’d think someone would have come forward immediately saying “omg I meant that for Bob as we were just discussing quail hunting”.

  7. Florida*

    I would absolutely talk to the police just so they have a record of it. So many times, when something bad happens, several people come forward and say, “That person was a little weird. Once they did this weird thing …” But no one reported that weird thing.
    Also, the police involvement might make your employer take this more seriously.
    If your employer gives you a hard time after you’ve called the police, make it clear that YOU felt YOUR safety was in jeopardy. It had nothing to do with Employer and getting them in trouble or whatever.
    BTW, your Employer is nuts for not getting the police involved. If anything where to happen, and it was discovered that they had red flags and did nothing, well, that’s not going to look good on the news or in court.

  8. Kelly L.*

    Yikes. NOPE. I could possibly come up with a bizarre Rube Goldberg set of circumstances where it’s an accident, but I definitely think it’s worth taking seriously.

  9. Leatherwings*

    Echoing calls to file a report with the police.

    Also, your coworkers should absolutely hear about this, for the reasons Alison mentioned and because it will put people on notice that any other similar “jokes” they hear or see should be taken seriously and not brushed off.

      1. Yogi Josephina*

        I was 100% certain that this was going to come up. I even read it and went, “and the debate on gun rights begins in 3, 2, 1..”

        I am so, SO glad you’ve shot this down swiftly. Thank you.

        1. addlady*

          Yeah, these things are why sometimes I just don’t read the comments on certain articles.

          1. Katrina*

            I am new to this site, and as quickly as I became enamored of the advice, I became disgusted with the comments. It’s not even the debates per se, but more the lack of critical thinking skill and all the outrage that follows when someone misunderstands the point one poster is making. I wish more people knew how to engage in civil discourse.

            1. Megs*

              Eh, it’s been a weird couple of days in the neighborhood (aka comment section). The people here are generally super awesome.

              1. Myrin*

                Yeah, especially since the last two days’ “big” letters dealt with topics that tend to attract a lot of drive-by commenters who just want to pick a fight and then vanish, never to be seen again. Alison is very good when it comes to moderating this site and quick to shut down nastiness so I would hate for a new person to think this comment section is populated by horrible people who don’t know how to have a conversation and politely disagree with each other.

              2. RKB*

                Not to point fingers at other websites but I’ve seen an uptick of AAM being shared on different subreddits and as we know, Reddit is chock full of interesting characters…

            2. AnonInSC*

              Yes – the comment threads today and yesterday definitely have a different vibe than normal.

              1. Mazzy*

                Yesterday’s I understood, today’s not so much though. As per the Reddit thread, I like Reddit but saw a story on the True Scary Stories area that actually occurred in my area and was embellished (unnecessarily), which was a shake to the credibility of some of the stuff there for me

            3. superblarg*

              It’s fairly visceral, especially if you have high empathy. When one side is feeling sympathetic fear and vulnerability, and the other side is condesplaining why those emotions aren’t valid, because there’s a tiny chance it could be innocent instead of a threat… Well that’s fairly irritating.

        2. Jaguar*

          Can we also stop with the holier-than-thou grandstanding? It’s two days straight of this now.

          I’m on your side and think the Bitty Kitty post is really in bad taste and I still think posts like this do nothing other than polemicise the comments.

          1. Aisling*

            It’s Allison’s site. She’s welcome to post as she likes. You’re also welcome to go to another advice site if you don’t like how she runs things.

    1. Florida*

      I’m not going to address whether or not OP should carry a gun to work because I don’t think that’s the issue. I think the issue is whether she should feel like she NEEDS to carry a gun to work because she feels threatened by her co-workers. No one should feel like they NEED to carry a gun to work.

    2. pope suburban*

      All other things aside, some employers may prohibit bringing self-defense instruments onto the premises. For example, at my current job, I’m not even supposed to have pepper spray in the building, let alone something a bit more serious like a Taser or a firearm. Given that, I’m not sure that this is useful advice, since the employer may not permit it.

  10. Catalin*

    OK, first, where is the bullet casing now? Please tell me you slid it into a plastic baggie or envelope before passing it around.

    Next: Talk to your coworkers now. Like right this minute. Maybe they heard something, maybe they saw something, maybe someone has a (semi)reasonable explanation (i.e. it was on the floor near your desk and they just picked it up/ coworkers A and B were discussing what a .38 shell looks like and A mixed the desks up). If no one has answers right that second, call the non-emergency police number for the precinct near your office. The security guards will know the number.
    Next-Next: ramp your 360 awareness up to 11. Watch everyone. Lock your doors and windows. Keep your ear buds out of your ears and listen to everything. So many people run through their lives blissfully unaware of the predators around them. Rack your brain for every odd thing that’s happened with anyone your gut suspects even a teeny tiny bit. It isn’t paranoia when someone leaves a freaking bullet on your desk. Be safe by being loud about getting some protection.

    1. Brightwanderer*

      A lot of your advice seems to be assuming she’s still there at work and this just happened – she states she was sent home and is afraid to go back.

    2. Ralph S. Mouse*

      So many people run through their lives blissfully unaware of the predators around them.

      In this case where there’s been an actual threat I agree OP needs to be especially vigilant, but to be fair nobody can go through life being aware of every possible threat. If I can’t listen to earbuds at the park or zone out at the beach in the daytime, it’s not much of a life for me to be living.

    1. Pennalynn Lott*

      Finger prints only work if the person who left them has a criminal background. I, for instance, could have left that casing with my prints all over it, highlighted in dust, even, and you couldn’t trace them back to me. Not unless, of course, the employer decides to fingerprint everyone in the office.

      1. the gold digger*

        Finger prints only work if the person who left them has a criminal background.

        Or was a Peace Corps volunteer. I had to be fingerprinted as part of that process. So now I am very careful when I commit crimes. I wear gloves.

        1. Blue_eyes*

          Or was a teacher. I’ve held teaching licenses in two states and both required fingerprinting.

        2. ExceptionToTheRule*

          Or worked in the gambling industry or served in the military or has any kind of security clearance. I’ve been fingerprinted in all of those capacities.

          +1 for wearing gloves when committing a felony.

          1. Xanthippe Lannister Voorhees*

            Heck, I have to go in tomorrow to be fingerprinted to volunteer at a library (even though I’ve had it done before because I was a substitute teacher and had to get them done to teach overseas as well)!

            Gloves when criming is really the best bet :p

        3. Dot Warner*

          Certain healthcare professions require fingerprinting for licensure too. This is why I call my cousin Vinnie if I need a crime committed.

        4. Sarianna*

          Or have Global Entry on your passport. It was interesting to realize that the government was getting a digital scan of my fingerprints for that.

          1. Mabel*

            Oh, I forgot about that!

            When I was deciding whether to be a mentor (see comment below), part of the decision was that they would take my fingerprints (I’m a little paranoid). But I really wanted to do it.

            I just got the “known traveler” earlier this year, and it was really creepy when they had me put my hands on the glass scanner to take my prints. I guess I’m really prohibited from a life of crime now! Not only does the State of New York have my prints, but the federal government as well.

            1. Sarianna*

              Clearly the answer is to stick to digital or foreign crime. ;) (Seriously, don’t do that.)

              That said, I heard about a botnet going quiet recently, coinciding with a group of Russian hackers being taken down by the government–for targeting Russian citizens. My InfoSec buddy says it’s because their government doesn’t care what they do so long as they don’t commit crimes within the country–and going after their fellow citizens counts as such.

          2. Wendy Darling*

            Or aren’t a US citizen. My SO is not and his fingerprints are taken every time he comes back into the US.

          3. Murphy*

            Right! I’m not even a US citizen and yet I’m pretty sure the US government could use my fingerprints to ID me, since I hold a NEXUS card.

        5. Mabel*

          Or work with children. When I was a mentor for a couple of young people at the Harvey Milk School in NYC, they took all ten of my fingerprints.

          Or have a California driver’s license – they take a thumb print (or used to when I lived there – this may have changed).

      2. IT Kat*

        Or if they work or ever have worked for the federal government in most capacities. Or was a contractor for the federal government. Or some state/local/regional governments. Or had a very in-depth background check done.

        I’ve never committed a crime except going 5 miles over the speed limit, yet I’ve been fingerprinted at least 4 times in my life. You never know, it can’t hurt to have it checked… as long as it’s not been passed around to everyone and has everyone’s prints on it.

      3. Just Another Techie*

        Or worked for the military. I got fingerprinted when I was a civilian employee of Naval Research Lab.

      4. Oryx*

        “Finger prints only work if the person who left them has a criminal background.”

        Not exactly. I’ve been fingerprinted for jobs before.

      5. Pennalynn Lott*

        Thanks everyone for providing all the additional info! I had no idea that fingerprints were captured across such a wide swath of the population. I always learn something new at AAM!

    2. Small town reporter*

      I just covered a felony trial involving a gun and bullets earlier this month. A state fingerprints lab expert testified that our state has stopped checking casings for fingerprints because less than 1 percent of such checks yielded a usable fingerprint. I had no idea (I mean, I knew TV cop shows weren’t representative of real life detective work, but that was new info for me.)

      1. Bill The Bear*

        I am amazed that these people think the cops are just sitting around twiddling their thumbs waiting to come fingerprint a piece of trash left on someone’s desk. As much as I would love to live in a world where they’re just not that busy, and just have unlimited time and money to put people’s minds at ease over random crap left on a desk by a crazy person or an idiot…it generally is not even remotely the case.

        I don’t know if people are just watching too many of those crime shows or what but it never ceases to amaze me what people think is realistic in that sense. Rude awakening I would imagine when she calls and they tell her they’ll get around to writing a report for her but they’ve currently got actual crime to deal with.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Come on, now, that’s unnecessarily unkind.

          (And really, two police officers once spent a week investigating something very minor that showed up on my phone.)

          1. Bill The Bear*

            I think it is great that they had the time and resources to do that – though I know in many places that isn’t the case. I just think it does a disservice for people to assume CSI will show up and magically they’ll track down the person of interest in under a half hour. It sets up expectations that I don’t think are reasonable in most cases which just leads to disappointment in someone who is already scared because now they think nobody will help them when in reality those people are too busy, tax payers don’t want to give them funds for that, they’re understaffed, etc.

            1. Katie the Fed*

              I think the police are more than capable of communicating to her if they’re busy with other things. They may very well be, but that doesn’t mean she shouldn’t call. They can come and write up a report when they have time. Nobody is suggesting they’ll do some kind of CSI investigation.

            2. Hrovitnir*

              Good god, the idea you shouldn’t bother the police unless you’re under immediate and direct threat is so unhelpful.

              Frankly the biggest thing IMO is having a record at all, and the fingerprints department is entirely separate from on the street cops (I assume it’s the same in the US as NZ in that respect) so it’s not a huge drama to take a report and send on the casing to get fingerprinted when they have time.

              Being in the police is a job, and the fact they’ll need to triage according to urgency doesn’t mean it’s somehow inappropriate to ask for them to do something well within the scope of their occupation.

              1. Marvel*

                Exactly this. Just because there’s someone in the hospital with a terminal disease who needs a heart transplant, doesn’t mean they won’t see you for your might-be-nothing thunderclap headache.

            3. Marvel*

              I lived in DC for most of my life, where I guarantee there is all kinds of crime, and I have absolutely known police to look into things like this. You seem to be making assumptions here that simply are not true.

  11. Seal*

    Not to diminish the seriousness of the situation or your very valid concerns, but why didn’t you tell your coworkers when you found it? They may have seen the person who put it there. At the very least they deserve to know that someone’s going around putting bullets on people’s desks.

    If something like that happened here ALL of my coworkers would know, if for no other reason than someone saying “WTF is THIS on my desk???” at the top of their lungs.

    1. Kelly L.*

      I don’t think starting with security is unreasonable. Most likely one of her nearby co-workers is the bullet-leaver. I can see why someone would decide to go to security rather than taking it upon herself to grill the likely suspects!

      1. Belle*

        I agree. What if someone nearby left it and then freaked out when the OP asked that person about it. You just never know how someone might react.

        Yes, it could be a misunderstanding. But safety should always be taken seriously and the experts are there to help for a reason (police, professional security, etc).

        1. Kelly L.*

          Right, if she asks the culprit, if it was an intentional threat, they’re just going to either lie or do something else threatening. The only way asking the co-workers would become useful, IMO, is if it was an accident and they just went “Oh, CRAP, that was me, I was on my way to zombie preparedness class and I found out later there was a hole in my backpack! I’m so sorry!”

          And there’s no reason they can’t say the same thing to security.

    2. Boo*

      It may have been one of the coworkers who left it there. And really, it’s not on OP to do any kind of an investigation or alert her coworkers especially when she’s been given such a fright. That’s for her security/the police/company to do (delete as appropriate). All OP has to do is get herself to safety, which is what she did.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        So much this. I would not have been going around grilling coworkers either. You never know what kind of nut(s) you’re working with.

    3. DarcyPennell*

      I don’t think a question that begins with “why didn’t you” is helpful since the LW can’t go back in time and take different action in the past. It seems like suggestions about what to do going forward are more in the spirit of the site.

    1. Boo*

      I know right? The answer to personal security fears in the workplace is not and never should be “there’s an app for that”.

    2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      I don’t even understand that. What does a security app do, unless it’s connected to, IDK, a security camera system or something.

      1. Megs*

        Yeah, this was my second WTF thought reading that question. Isn’t a phone that dials 911 a security app?

      2. A Non*

        There are security apps that basically consist of an electronic panic button that will alert building security. Some branches of my workplace use them, mostly to deal with irate clients where the presence of an authority figure is usually enough to defuse the situation. They’re good for some types of situation, not so useful here.

    3. AnonInSC*

      Do me this was the most confusing response. The rest of the response is seriously underwhelming – but downloading an app?

    4. New Girl*

      I took this to mean a physical application to fill out concerns/report the incident?

  12. Well*

    This is just bizarre. Sorry, OP, I’d be freaked out too.

    I definitely agree with Alison’s point about telling your co-workers. I’d do it in a low-intensity, “super weird thing happened today, I found a bullet casing on my desk” kind of way — that way if it is a practical joke, or something that’s intended as a non-threatening-but-still-incredibly-boneheaded-political-statement (“In the wake of everything in the news, I brought everyone on my team a bullet to remind ourselves of the importance of gun rights to our self-defense!”) whoever’s responsible will fess up and put your mind at ease.

  13. The IT Manager*

    I would not be terrified by this. I would assume someone’s terrible idea of a prank. I would still contact the police; the employer does not have to do this it for me. And I am not the LW who knows someone at work really doesn’t like her. So yes, definitely contact the police.

    I do disagree with one exaggerations in the letter: If someone can bring a bullet in our office, what’s next? You know if anyone can bring anything into the office or if there are security checks in your building. But a bullet can be carried in a pocket with change without detection; so the fact that this did happen doesn’t change the LW’s security situation at all.

    1. dmk*

      My reading wasn’t that the LW *knows* someone at her office really doesn’t like her; rather, she is taking the cartridge as evidence that someone at her office really doesn’t like her.

    2. Gandalf the Nude*

      I took the If someone can bring a bullet in our office, what’s next? less as a practical matter of carrying in a small object and more as a wondering at what objects management would take seriously.

    3. Mela*

      In terms of “If someone can bring a bullet in our office, what’s next?” I think the OP was talking more about the level of boundary-crossing someone is capable of, not the actual ability to bring certain items into the office.

    4. Wonder Woman*

      I’m glad you wouldn’t be terrified by this, but the OP is entitled to their feelings. Try reading “The Gift of Fear.” It can be dangerous to ignore signals of potential violence.

      Also, the OP never states gender.

      1. The IT Manager*

        RE: Gender – On AAM Alison defaults to using “she” for LWs of unknown gender and I am doing the same.

        1. Gaia*

          It took me awhile to pick up on this but once I did, I always kind of liked it. I mean…Alison is a woman so why should she default to “he”? Why not, ‘she’?

    5. AnonT*

      I’ll be honest – I wouldn’t be terrified either. Given my personal experience, I wouldn’t even be nervous.

      But the OP clearly is, and it’s best to treat their feelings as valid. There could be a hundred things that the OP knows that they didn’t include in the letter that makes their response reasonable, and there’s no evidence to support or disprove that they are exaggerating (even with the particular line you call out). Critiquing their language and emotional response doesn’t help them feel safe.

    6. Milton Waddams*

      I wouldn’t be terrified, either.

      If this happened to me, my thoughts would go to:

      1. Maybe the office has gotten too passive-aggressive. Nobody likes yelling, but at least then you have some idea of who the problem is between and what it is. A bullet just says someone in the office is stressed-out and unhappy, and doesn’t feel like they can say anything. I would try to foster an environment where people felt safe to speak their minds.

      2. Maybe I haven’t provided enough communication avenues for those uncomfortable with conflict. I know the “anonymous” employee complaint box that is office political suicide to use is a running Dilbert gag, but problems don’t just go away if everyone ignores them — often they get worse. Unmentionable problems can easily become unmanageable problems. I would look into finding some way to open communication in a way that doesn’t turn things into a Dilbert comic.

      3. I would look at the work-life balance of my department. Have people been using their vacation time? Have they been going home to their families? Are we expecting 24/7 availability even when it’s not an emergency? Sometimes these symptoms can be of a department-wide problem — if someone hadn’t left a bullet in my desk today, someone else would have keyed my car tomorrow.

      4. I’d also give a second reflection on the work I’d been getting from my employees; was there some pressure there that I hadn’t noticed before? Of course, it’s important not to turn this into a witch hunt — frankly I’d rather an employee leave a bullet in my desk than an empty liquor bottle in their own.

      5. If I did find myself with a case of the nerves, I’d honestly find that helpful — then I could explore it back to its source. I’ve often found that when you’re feeling guilty, everyone looks like The Punisher. Had I thrown any employees under the bus? Had I protected them effectively from inter-office politics? Of course, what I feel guilty for and what others are angry at me for may not be the same, but an opportunity for self-reflection always seems to help me.

      1. Marvel*

        Whoa. I… really don’t see the logic in most of these.

        Someone feels stressed out and unhappy, feels they can’t communicate this, isn’t using enough vacation time, is under pressure… so they leave a bullet casing on a coworkers desk? How on earth is that the work-appropriate reaction of a reasonable, non-violent adult?

        I really don’t think the solution here is self-reflection or asking oneself “how can I make everyone’s lives easier so they don’t implicitly threaten to shoot me?” This is not a reasonable response to a grievance. People who leave bullet casings on someone’s desk because they are stressed are the same people who bring in an actual firearm because they are stressed, and use it to actually kill people.

        1. Milton Waddams*

          >How on earth is that the work-appropriate reaction of a reasonable, non-violent adult?

          Perhaps our experiences have been different. Mine has been that “work-appropriate, reasonable, non-violent adult” ala Ward Cleaver from Leave It To Beaver is at best an ideal and at worst a dangerous myth.

          The people working for any organization aren’t Ward Cleavers — they are human beings. They have some healthy coping tools in their tool-set, but they also probably have some unhealthy ones. They remain calm under moderate pressure, but if you squeeze them hard enough, they’ll crack like anything would crack.

          Separating employees into Ward Cleavers and The Crazies does a disservice to the whole organization; I would argue it is actually dangerous from a workplace culture standpoint, as it encourages the mentality that “If only we can keep The Crazies out, our workplace will be healthy, no matter what our policies and practices are like.”

          When people keep quitting in “non work-appropriate ways”, as of course they will when there is a culture problem, the solution becomes to just tighten security more and more — which also increases the pressure, likely making the problem worse.

          1. Milton Waddams*

            *quitting or acting out in “non work-appropriate ways”, that is — sometimes they are fired instead of quitting (as may be the end result of this incident).

          2. Marvel*

            Well, I certainly wouldn’t support a separation into “normal people” and “crazies,” since that’s hella unkind to those of us with mental illnesses, but that’s really neither here nor there.

            I think we are definitely not going to agree on this. “Work-appropriate, reasonable, and non-violent” is literally the bare minimum I would expect from any employee, whereas for you it seems to be an unrealistic fantasy of some kind. This honestly worries me slightly, since asking people to be work-appropriate, able to apply basic logic, and not violent or aggressive seems pretty standard to me.

      2. superblarg*

        “A bullet just says someone in the office is stressed-out and unhappy, and doesn’t feel like they can say anything. I would try to foster an environment where people felt safe to speak their minds.”

        Just… What?!

  14. A Non*

    I guess I’m the rare case who wouldn’t find this scary, though I can totally understand how other people in other situations would. My landlord is a hunter who loads his own ammo, so every time I’m in the barn there are casings lying around. (The dangerous parts of the reloading process are safely stored. Casings just get everywhere – if you drop one, it rolls into a corner somewhere.) So they’re not a threatening thing for me. I also don’t have enemies at my workplace and don’t have any reason to fear a shooting. In other contexts, yeah, I’d be worried too.

    My landlord also works in IT, so I could see him randomly ending up with a casing in his pocket, pulling it out to fiddle with while working on your computer, then accidentally leaving it on the desk. Okay, let’s be honest – I could see myself doing that, if I ever had a reason to pick up a casing in the first place. And then being totally mortified and apologetic about scaring the shit out of a coworker. (I’ve left many a paper clip on coworker’s desks.)

    I hope that’s all that happened here, but you’re not at all wrong to be asking for extra security and I hope your company gets its head out of its butt soon. Please let us know how things play out!

    1. Old Admin*

      To chime with the interpretation it might be an accident or negligence (I hope it’s that, but I’m very worried, see my suggestions below), a story I personally witnessed a long time ago:
      I was at the airport about to board a business flight with a colleague who was known to be a bit of a wannabe renegade. This was in a European country with very strict gun laws.
      Our luggage was scanned. The guards suddenly surrounded my colleague, pointing out the live cartridge they’d found in his wallet, saying “OK, where’s the gun?”.
      The idiot actually managed to talk his way out trouble, it was a souvenir from a friend, he’d go back and hand the cartidge to the people who’d brought us yadda yadda. To this day I don’t how he pulled that off, but I do know he liked to be “extra cool”.

      On the flight he told me (after I pushed very hard) he had simply dumped a LIVE CARTRIDGE into the airport trash outside of security when he pretended to go back and hand over the cartridge.
      I berated him for the entire flight for being an idiot. Nothing happened to him at work as he was a golden boy there, and I sooned worked elsewhere.

      This story is just an example of carelessness, cluelessness, idiocy of people… but not of malignant intent.

      1. Observer*

        Sure. But you do realize that this level of stupidity actually does put people at risk?

        That’s part of the problem here. Even if there was not malignant intent, guns and ammo in the hands of idiots are dangerous. You know, like the guy who was playing with a gun while jumping on a trampoline with his girlfriend and baby. The girlfriend is dead and he, according to his mother, was the “victim” of a “freak accident”.

        1. hbc*

          Yeah, I think that’s where I fall on this. There are responsible gun owners, but they are a subset of those who believe they’re responsible gun owners. (We can debate percentages elsewhere.) Someone who’s going “Haha, live rounds at airport security” is not someone I’d trust to have the safety on, no matter what safety courses he passed. Someone who’s casually dropping casings around the office because that’s her fiddling object of choice is someone who’s likely to be all, “He says he keeps a gun-free home, but what he doesn’t know won’t hurt him, and his toddler can’t possibly open the zipper of my gun purse.”

          There’s a person in OP’s office who, at best, doesn’t realize that guns are a Big Deal to a lot of people. That’s not a great best case scenario.

          1. Marvel*

            I seriously think a large part of responsible gun ownership is realizing that many people have a reasonable and justified negative reactions to guns, and doing things like carrying bullet casings around is probably not a good idea.

            Guns are used to inflict violence. That’s it. That is what they are for. I’m not knocking them–violence is, in my opinion, sometimes necessary–but it’s not a massive leap to assume that things so intimately associated with acts of violence should not be brought to the workplace. This is certainly not exclusive to guns; I’d be pretty concerned if a coworker was carrying around a garrote or a big hunting knife at the office, too.

        2. Florida*

          Yep, every year toddlers kill people with guns. The toddlers aren’t exactly idiots, but I think it’s fair to assume that they are not trained to use the guns.

          1. Observer*

            Well, the toddlers are not idiots, but the people who leave loaded guns in their reach ARE.

    2. CMT*

      That wouldn’t have been my immediate reaction, either, but I do totally understand why everyone feels this way. I live in a place where hunting is common, and seeing things like that just wouldn’t register to me. Although I agree that it showing up randomly on someone’s desk is not cool. But my first thought would have been some explanation other than threat.

    3. Liberal Free Or Die*

      Inclined to agree here. I’ve never fired a gun in my life, unless you count Super Soakers/waterguns. Not even paintball. That said–I personally would attribute a casing on my desk to stupidity rather than malice. My workplace is actually pretty close to both the HQ of a recently-in-the-news gun manufacturer and a military base, in a gun-friendly state. It would surprise me not at all that my coworkers might have casings kicking around. And if something falls off someone else’s desk, it’s polite to pick it up so it doesn’t get lost, eh?

      OP, do what you need to do to feel safe.

      1. Gertrude is Gertrude is Gertrude*

        I think this is key: “My workplace is actually pretty close to both the HQ of a recently-in-the-news gun manufacturer and a military base, in a gun-friendly state.”

        The idea that “it could just be totally normal” is so regionally specific as to be moot. If the OP lived somewhere that were true, I think she would know it? I just can’t imagine not mentioning “I mean, this is Huntsalot Falls, so lots of people have guns” even if it were in the context of “and therefore I believe this to be a credible threat because of all the guns.”

        I don’t think it’s reasonable to say “Well, this wouldn’t be a problem where I live, so what’s the big deal?” any more than it’s reasonable for me to say, “Haha, you can’t handle a little snow?” when there’s a snowstorm in a sunny state. Context is context is context.

        I dunno, I live in NYC. There are plenty of guns here, and lots of people who hunt/shoot recreationally, but I think this would flag *danger* here. (Also probably *terrorism* but that’s a thought for another day.) I grew up in an area more rife with rifles, and this would flag *danger* there too.

        1. Liberal Free Or Die*

          Well, if I were still working in Boston proper instead of Greater Boston, I would feel the same way. But yes, there are enough recreational shooting ranges and hunters around that I wouldn’t be surprised to see casings more than once a decade, as a non-gun-user. Hell, I am kinda freaked out by guns themselves, and gun culture makes me profoundly uncomfortable. Bits of trash metal, not so much.

          That said: I’m still not the OP, and they are entirely entitled to their own feelings about it. My perspective/experiences/opinions are my own and should not be applied to the experience of others. :)

  15. Old Admin*

    In my mind, several things need to be done:
    – Contact the police, have the cartridge checked for fingerprints, have the police maybe even come to the office.
    – Immediately query the cleaning service, if you have one, as well as the security night shift if they found the cartridge and put it on the desk. Tell the service there will be no trouble if they did find it, maybe even offer a small reward for more information.
    – Have doors and windows checked for signs of a break in.
    – I suggest the OP work from home, at least in the next days.
    – Inform all colleagues, keep doors closed, ask for confidential reports of unusual behavior.
    – Yes, push for your own security system to installed asap. The OP should not come back to work before that.
    – I hate to suggest it, but could HR run background / mental health checks on present colleagues? Can the police checks which colleagues have a gun / hidden carry license?

    1. Babblinglib*

      I second the point about asking the cleaning crew. If ours finds something on the floor that is not obviously trash they put it on the closest desk. This has resulted in some “why is this here” in the morning. Mine was a pacifier. At least if that’s the case it may relieve some anxiety about being specifically targeted.

        1. Chaordic One*

          I too, live in a rural area where it is common to find spent casings, especially in the street next to the curb, or dumped out in parking lots as trash.

          I don’t know how it would have gotten in the office building, but maybe someone walking through the office found it on the floor and picked it up and put it on the desk. I would think, though, if that were the case, in light of the hub-bub, they would say so.

          If someone were attempting to scare the OP, then they’ve succeeded.

    2. Bill The Bear*

      You watch too much television. The only reasonable (remotely) requests on your list was to check with the cleaning crew and have OP work from home.

      Break in mid day? Doubt it.
      Police come run a crime lab over trash? Doubt it. Fingerprints? What are they made on time and money? This isn’t CSI and as someone mentioned those aren’t all that reliable anyway.
      Ask for confidential reports? Confidential means confidential, not confidential unless you’re scared.
      Security system – maybe.
      HR/Police run mental health checks and look up carry licenses? Neither of these are OP’s business. Not all people with access to guns or bullets have permits and not all people with mental health issues are out to get you. Widely inappropriate.

      1. esra*

        A lot of break ins happen during the day. Most of the time if someone looks like they know what they’re doing and where they’re going, people leave them alone. I worked at a big corporate hq that had more than one daytime break-in and we had to swipe badges to get into each floor and the elevator.

  16. Triangle Pose*

    I echo Alison’s advice and everyone’s concern.

    Your company sells home and office automation and security products and your office does not have any security or monitoring?! Their solution is to download a security app? Why don’t your customers just download a security app instead of buying your security products? And somehow your vending machines have 4 cameras, what…?

    A division of my company has a home security and automation product and we offer it for free/almost free to our employees at their homes, as well as a full, monitored secure systems at our locations. I’m so confused by this. I would understand if your company did not have any cameras in the offices (maybe just entrances/exits, stairwells and common spaces) but to have nothing in those places and then 4 cameras pointed at a vending machine? This just doesn’t make any sense to me.

    1. AW*

      Echoing your confusion over the OP’s company’s redonkulous security situation.

      They didn’t even *offer* to put up some cameras after this happened? It really feels like the OP was blown off and I don’t understand why any employer wouldn’t take this seriously.

  17. AnnonaMomma*

    I had a much less serious thing happen to me years ago. I came into work and found water spilled on my desk across my mouse and other wires and also on the floor across the plug that ran from a space heater to the wall. I was afraid because obviously someone was trying to get me electrocuted. I knew who it was. A woman who for some reason hated me, I never could figure out why. We didn’t have security cameras in our office either. But we all did have individual alarm codes and it was pretty obvious from the log who had been in the office early enough to have done it. Nothing could be proved though, so the bosses didn’t do much other than hold a meeting and talk about the importance of teamwork and getting along. In retrospect I now have a funny story and most of my friends know about the Water Bandit as we call her.

    This is a much more serious thing though, and I would go to the police and file a report immediately. If the company is not taking it seriously, that may force them to.

      1. AnnonaMomma*

        Ha. Seriously. I was young, this was my first job out of college so while I knew it was strange I didn’t really know what to do about it. I should have pushed harder for them to do something. But I think our male bosses just saw it as lady-drama and didn’t really want to deal with it.

        1. CM*

          To me this is actually more scary, because it seems like there is less possibility for a benign explanation. It’s crazy that your bosses’ response to this was to tell you all to get along. I’ve been noticing an uptick lately in the comments here in people dismissing all kinds of workplace complaints as “lady-drama” — I think your story shows the result of that kind of thinking.

      2. Murphy*

        Unless you all band together to attempt murder? Where does that fall on the teamwork-scale?

      3. Christopher Tracy*

        “Let’s all try to get along and remember. Attempted murder is not team work!”

        Unless you work in a group.

    1. New Anon Name b/c this is so specific*

      I had a more serious, but definitely not targeted, scare several years ago. Our building had windows with two layers of glass. One day I came into work and the outer one was cracked. We all assumed a bird had hit it. Birds hit our windows, and my window overlooked an area where birds congregated regularly. Several months later (like over 6), the building managers finally had contractors come fix the window. When they removed the first pane (inner to my office) they found a flattened bullet. It was a bullet that had gone through the first pane, but was stopped by the second. We assume it was a stray bullet from a local entertainment district that had had some incidents that year.

      1. Anon Today*

        We had a bullet come through our 4th floor window last year. We never found out what happened.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          My parents had a bullet come through the window a few years back. It broke the glass but was stopped by the (closed) curtains, and my mom only noticed it who knows how much later when she saw the hole in the window from the outside. The police who investigated said that they thought someone had probably shot a gun into the air a mile or two away (where there is a neighborhood with more violence) and it had come down randomly at my parents’ home with only enough force to break the glass. Still scary; people get killed by bullets that were fired into the air.

          1. Michelenyc*

            I actually had to explain to my ex-roomate that she could have killed someone by shooting a gun in the air. It took 20 minutes for her to finally understand that what goes up must come down. She is definitely not the sharpest tool in the shed!

        2. Anonymosity*

          Same thing happened here–bullet hole in one of the upper floor windows. Nothing ever came of it–there was no way to find out where it came from. The houses nearby are very upscale. I suppose someone could have gotten drunk and was messing around with a firearm, but we never heard any more about it.

        3. Elle the new Fed*

          This happened in my office as well, except it landed in a trash can and because I live in DC, the police had shut off the area before anyone could arrive for work that day so no one was in the building. It came from above though, not below…

      2. JBurr*

        One of our branch offices used to be located in what has been described as a “rough neighborhood”. They keep a collection of the many bullets they found around the building over the years.

      3. New Anon Name b/c this is so specific*

        I’m kind of disturbed to find out this isn’t so uncommon…..

        1. Mabel*

          The house I grew up in came with a hole in the dining room window from a BB gun (that’s what my parents said, although it could have been a bullet…). It’s a window that overlooks the driveway, which is behind a gate, so kind of weird unless it came from next door over the wall.

  18. JustAnotherReader*

    I’m not from nor do I live in a country where guns are a common thing so I have no idea about social taboos and what not surrounding them. However, I do feel it’s a bit extreme to go from cartridge left on desk to assumed threat that has come from nowhere. Even practical joke sounds extreme. As other have pointed out, it could have come from anywhere. There are so many other non-threatening options. Dropped out of a pocket, fallen of someone else’s desk, rolled near OP’s and mistakenly put on their desk because someone spotted it on the floor and assumed it was theirs…

    I don’tr know about your police service but ours wouldn’t do much, or anything, with such a thing unless there was more proof. I know it’s so easy to freak out and assume the worst when scared. We’ve all done it. So I wouldn’t go to the police, but talking about the installation of more cameras is smart.

    I will add though, there’s very little information in the OP’s letter. The work place or employees could receive threats regularly for all I know.

    1. Leatherwings*

      Yeah, you and I definitely don’t have all the information but based on the fact that the letter writer is scared and freaked out by it, I think it’s safe to take them at their word and assume they aren’t overreacting and it’s not a workplace that receives regular threats (even if this was a place like that, I worked for one and things like this would have been taken /very/ seriously).

      Implying that the OP’s reaction is too extreme is dangerous, IMO. There are tons of time that warning signs of workplace violence have existed but people brush them off.

      Is it likely that it wasn’t a threat? Sure! But the risk of assuming that is too high. It risks life. The risk of escalating to the police is maybe you’ll make some people angry or annoyed. I would pick to experience the latter.

    2. Anna*

      With the current state of things here in the US and the last mass shooting having taken place 9 days ago, this is something we would take seriously. The police here wouldn’t necessarily do anything (fingerprints will not be taken, an investigation will not be started based on this), but if this is the beginning of something worse, there will now be a record of the OP’s concern and that can be important.

    3. kapers*

      It is the police department’s job to determine the severity of the threat. Not ours, not her employers’.

  19. Katniss*

    Alison, can we ask for an end to the “you’re overreacting, OP” comments? Especially in light of recent events they’re really dismissive and at least I feel like they go against the spirit of AAM.

    1. Mimmy*

      I agree as well…everyone responds to these situations differently depending on context and their own personality. I’ll admit that I tend to overreact to certain situations, but I wouldn’t want to get scolded for it.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think there’s some utility in the OP hearing perspectives on why this might not be a threat, but there’s a difference between “well, here are some things to consider that could explain this” and “you’re overreacting.” I’d like to see people avoid the latter. None of us can know if she’s overreacting, and the risk that comes from under-reacting is far, far more serious than the risk of overreacting (which is pretty minimal).

      And yeah, particularly in light of recent events, I’d hope people would be especially aware of that.

      1. Katniss*

        Thank you! It’s really frustrating to read for a number of reasons, but especially since it’s better to take precautions than to assume an innocent misunderstanding when it comes to firearms and firearm accessories.

      2. Meg Murry*

        Yes, FWIW, my comments were in the vein of “here’s what I think is a possible alternative explanation that might calm you down but I don’t think it’s overreacting to want to get to the bottom of who left it there and why, and to feel threatened until you get that explanation”.

    3. Wonder Woman*

      I agree. I noted this above too, but the OP never states their gender in the letter, and so many commenters are assuming that the OP is female. I feel like the “you’re overreacting” comments addressed to “she” or “her” are really patronizing.

        1. Wonder Woman*

          Thanks, Alison. I was reminded of that by another poster, too. My apologies, I am a long time reader and should have remembered.

          I’m bothered by it in this particular case because I feel like some commenters are minimizing her concerns, consciously or unconsciously, because they think she is a woman. Women’s safety concerns are frequently dismissed by those who’ve never lived in fear for their safety.

          1. superblarg*

            I got that vibe too. Lady drama, calm down, here’s why you’re not being logical, don’t be so emotional. Big whiff of condesplaining.

        2. Anlina*

          Just in response to your explanation, it is actually grammatically correct to use “they” as a singular pronoun. English has a very long history, dating back to Shakespeare, of using singular they when the gender of the person is unknown, and the more contemporary use of they as a singular pronoun for known individuals has become common and widely accepted, as there is a growing recognition of non-binary genders and increased visibility of individuals who do not go by he or she. Many large, mainstream publishers are updating their style guides to include the use of singular they.

          I’m not saying you should change your convention of defaulting to she, just that it is not at all incorrect to use they to talk about a single person.

      1. Megs*

        Not to downplay potential gendered aspects, but there is a convention here to default to female if a gender is unknown. I’ve gotten into the habit of thinking of everyone as female unless indicated otherwise.

  20. kapers*

    Sorry this happened! I think it’s your employer’s responsibility to let coworkers know what happened, not yours– you should first ask management/HR to do so when you ask them what concrete steps they are planning to take. (If they refuse to notify your coworkers then that’s another story.)

    I would file a police report, and let your employer know once you have done so. Go to the station that serves your office location and have them take a report. Trust me, they have heard it all so don’t feel like it’s not “enough” to report. They may or may not investigate but it might become very important to have a paper trail.

    Of course, this could be nothing; there are a million innocent reasons we could cook up. Or it could be very much something; there are a million horrifying reasons we could cook up.

  21. KR*

    OP, I know you must be panicking right now, but when you panic you can’t focus on being safe. Make sure your car, doors and windows are locked, work from home however long it takes you to feel safe again, and enlist a friend or family member to check in on you once a day. Look through your email and your social media – have you been getting unusual messages or been recently friended by someone you don’t know?

    This could be a threat, but it could very well be someone being boneheaded and insensitive. I also don’t know your personal feelings about gun – I’m fairly used to them so keep in mind that those casings fly everywhere when you’re shooting. They’re like dog hair, but metal and gun-related It’s very possible it was in a fold in someone’s clothes or a pocket and just fell out somewhere and ended up on your desk.

    1. KR*

      Finally – forgot to put this in. If you have a dog or have ever been considering getting one, I would recommend it. My dog will alert me somehow if anyone walks into my apartment building including all of my neighbors. Many people who are abuse survivors or violence survivors find dogs can help them feel safe again. A dog isn’t a deterrent against a gun, but when you’re panicking there’s nothing better than petting them to make you feel safe and cuddly.

      1. Michelenyc*

        I would like to add that you don’t have to get a big dog. My mini dachshund sounds like black lab when he barks. My old neighbors were actually afraid of him for the longest time then they saw that he is only about 13 pounds.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          The deterrent aspect of dogs is the noise they make alerting someone to a potential problem. And often those little dogs can be FIERCE. I wouldn’t want to tangle with one!

          1. Michelenyc*

            My mini will bite you if I am at home and he hasn’t met you before. Most of the teeth that cause the most damage have been pulled but it still hurts.

      2. AnonT*

        Not quite as helpful across the board, but if you have a particularly aggressive or protective cat, they can do something similar. Many pets tend to be pretty protective of their people – my cat certainly lets me know whenever someone even approaches my house.

          1. Yogi Josephina*

            I’ve always said if anyone ever tries to break into my home, I’m screwed. This is my cat, 100%. A total stranger walks in and she trots RIGHT up to them all, “HI! YOU’RE A NEW FRIEND! LET’S PLAY! PICK ME UP AND SNUGGLE ME!” ::rolls over and chirps and squeaks and beeps::

            She is the love of my life, not to mention a FIERCE huntress, but a protector, she is not. In her eyes, everyone is wonderful.

        1. Ralph S. Mouse*

          My cat would disable me and leave me behind to distract the threat until she got away. She presents as normal most of the time, but she’s actually a sociopath.

  22. Mustache Cat*

    I have to say, I don’t think this was a happy accident or mistake. I mean, all things are possible, but LW states that she went to a meeting and came back to find the bullet on her desk. Presumably she would have noticed if it had been there before, so that rules a mistake by the cleaning crew. And unless it was an extremely long meeting, that’s a relatively short period of time for someone to have mixed up a desk, or tripped and accidentally thrown it into the air, or any of the other theories that are floating around. Someone put it on her desk at a time when they knew she was away from it. It still might have been a prank, but I think at least it was deliberate.

    LW, I understand if you’re scared to go into the office, and it’s your right not to. But it might also be more productive to have conversations with your coworkers and manager in person, so coming in might be something you could consider doing. Possibly you could ask a trusted coworker, who wouldn’t embarrass you or not take you seriously, to escort you into the office?

  23. Margaret*

    Ok, I get that guns are a serious issue, and especially in light of recent events if this is a prank it’s a really really terrible one. But without some context of why someone might be threatening me specifically, I just can’t imagine jumping to the conclusion that I’m in danger and that it was meant as a message to me. I just don’t see how leaving something like that, with no other message or known context that someone has it out for you is an efficient threat?

    I know one of out IT guys does recreational shooting, if I came back to my desk and saw a casing my first assumption would be that he was fiddling with it and accidentally left it there. I know people are commenting that it’d be weird to have a casing in your pocket, but a threat seems even more unlikely to me unless you have some idea of someone who might actually have it out for you.

    1. Jaguar*

      I wouldn’t see it as a threat, either. But some people would, which is what’s important here.

      As a society, we expect people to act responsibly with firearms. Part of that is not leaving stray casings around. Maybe only 1% will view it as a threat instead of an accident if you leave it somewhere, but someone seeing it as a threat is _really serious_. Feeling threatened, especially in a place you spend a significant amount of time, is a harrowing experience. For their benefit, people should be more careful with things that can be seen as threatening than they are with something like their keys.

    2. Friday Brain All Week Long*

      Why take the chance that it’s not a real threat? That’s what I’m failing to understand. Basically, the OP either has a careless coworker who sheds cartridge, a coworker with the world’s worst sense of humor, or a coworker who wants to murder her. If those were my three options, I’d be assuming the murder scenario until 110% proven otherwise, and I’d be livid if someone gaslit me that this was anything other than a Big Deal, until we get to that 110%.

      1. Margaret*

        I agree that the murder/threat scenario is possible, but unless I could think of some specific relationship/conversation/comment that could remotely feasibly lead to that (recent breakup, heated political conversation, or at least something like being promoted and someone else being passed over – something that, while most people can handle it just fine could conceivably set someone off), it just seems like a 0.0000000001% possibility. Whereas the careless coworkers, in the context of my geographic area and what I know of coworkers, is at least a 60 – 70% possibility. So, to me, it’s more of a reality check than gaslighting to encourage someone to consider the 70% possibility over the 0.000000001% possibility. Doesn’t mean I’d say there’s any harm in notifying the police or whatever, but I think it’s worth trying to not be totally freaked out over the 0.00000001% possibility until you have more reason to think it’s more likely.

        If you have reason to believe someone’s mad at you, and that it’s conceivable they could get violent, then sure, maybe that possibility is much higher. But if the casing is the *only* reason you think there’s a threat, I think that sounds like a huge leap.

        1. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Unless the OP belongs to any of the minority groups (racial or otherwise) that regularly contend with implicit or explicit threats of violence. There have been times and places in my life when I would have reacted with the same degree of fear, because where I lived and worked was not a safe area for people like me. In my case, LGBT in a rural part of the South; I got to listen to my coworkers regularly talking about how disgusting the marriage equality movement was and how they would “clean up” any gay couples that showed up at their church wanting to get married.

          So it’s nice to say “unless you have a specific something that could lead to this,” it’s not realistic for a lot of people. Sometimes, just existing is enough to earn someone’s enmity.

          1. Katniss*

            This was my thoughts. I’m a queer person. I’m in Chicago now and wouldn’t have the same reaction here, but if I had found a shell casing on my desk when I was living in rural Virginia? That would have been my first worry. Especially after Orlando.

    3. kapers*

      What would we be saying to her if some terrible shooting happened in her workplace tomorrow, and she hadn’t reported a bullet casing mysteriously left on her desk today?

      1. fposte*

        I would be saying “It’s understandable, and it may not have made a difference anyway.” That doesn’t mean the OP should do nothing, but I don’t think I’d see it retroactively as an error the way you’re suggesting.

        1. kapers*

          I don’t mean to suggest it’d be an error. Rather I intended to emphasize that a police report would not be an overreaction. Because we (as in “some folks,” not anyone specifically) feel comfortable telling her a police report is an overreaction one day but some of the same folks would be just as quick to question her judgement if something happened and she hadn’t filed one.

    4. AW*

      I just don’t see how leaving something like that, with no other message or known context that someone has it out for you is an efficient threat?

      It’s not a piece of abstract art, it’s a bullet. What else is it supposed to mean?

      I really don’t understand the folks who find this confusing. Yes, in your circumstance it makes sense to think that it was an accident but it’s not outlandish that someone would see a bullet casing being left on their desk as a threat.

      1. Ralph S. Mouse*

        I think what they meant was that if LW has no idea who has it in for her or why, she can’t change whatever it is about herself they don’t like.

        Of course, if it’s someone’s way of getting her to quit or just plain f***ing with her head, that would make more sense. But if it had gotten that far I think she’d know if someone didn’t like her that much.

    5. Tuxedo Cat*

      If this were the situation with your IT person, this probably would’ve been resolved very quickly. At my workplace, IT schedules things with me so I’d know they were there. They also email and leave notes if they did anything. Similar if people drop off paperwork.

  24. Katie the Fed*

    Thing is – it could be a mistake or accident, that someone dropped it and someone else put it on OP’s desk. I found a casing caught in my jacket after going to the range in the past.

    OR it could be a threat and someone is targeting the OP.

    Either way – there is absolutely no harm in contacting the police and asking them to investigate. If it’s a mistake, no harm done. If it’s intentional, they can investigate. Either way – the potential benefits of being safe WAY outweigh the risks (because there really aren’t any). So the logical thing is to call the police.

    1. Florida*

      This is a great point in that there is no harm in calling the police. Even if it turns out to be unneccesary, there is no harm in it. It’s like making extra copies of the agenda before a meeting. No harm in that, and it’s better than not having enough.

      Her employer might not be happy about it, but I think it’s more along the lines of “why did you think it was necessary to call the police” type of unhappy rather than “you’re fired” type of unhappy. Also, the police can help explain to HR or security or whoever why OP did the right thing.

  25. Kasia*

    I find it weird that people think it’s normal to find ANYTHING on their desk (nevermind a bullet/casing) that isn’t theirs. Do your coworkers just put trash on your desk regularly?

    Whether or not it was a threat or an accident the OP did the right thing by reporting it. If it turns out to be a prank or something stupid the person who did it can just speak up and it will be over with.

    With the state of things as they are it’s better to report something like this. Better safe than sorry.

    1. kapers*

      I was just going to say this! Nobody uses my desk but me. Nobody leaves anything on my desk; it would an aggro move to do so. Cleaning staff come after hours and they don’t put any items anywhere except exactly where they were.

      1. TL -*

        People put stuff on my desk all the time. It’s conveniently located for just putting something down just for a second while you do this other thing.

    2. Tuxedo Cat*

      If I find something I think might be my coworkers, I usually leave a note or verbally mention it. Especially something rather small- I don’t want them to miss it.

      But those times are few and far between normal, maybe once a year.

      1. Petronella*

        Yes, this is a whole discussion on its own! If I see a random piece of trash on the floor, why would I put it on someone’s desk? I would either leave it alone, or, if feeling civic-minded, would put it in the trash.

        1. Florida*

          Whenever I’m walking around in a public place, and someone hands me a pamphlet, I always feel like they are saying, “Here, will you hold my trash for me?”

        2. AW*

          And in this case we’re not even talking about trash. People are suggesting someone found the casing on the floor and put it on the desk but why would the person who first found the casing not report it?

          Or if finding a casing isn’t odd because your co-workers hunt or something, wouldn’t you still ask around to find out who it belongs to? If I found a set of keys lying on the ground, I wouldn’t just assume they belong to whatever desk they’re closest to and not tell anyone about it.

          1. Allison*

            Right, *you* hold onto it, or turn it in to the front desk, you don’t just put it on someone’s desk.

          2. KR*

            Keys aren’t like a casing though. Casings literally fly off the gun when you’re shooting and end up everywhere. Very much like dog hair. They’re also not valuable except as scrap metal or for someone who makes their own ammunition.

            1. AW*

              Then either they’re garbage and the person who found them would have thrown it away or they thought the owner would want them and would have asked around to see who lost one.

              1. CeeCee*

                I don’t disagree with you, but for the sake of the other side of the situation, maybe the person who found it did ask around. OP was in a meeting. Maybe everyone around her desk said,”Not mine, but if you found it near OP’s desk, it might belong to them.” I can’t imagine they’d interrupt a meeting to ask about OP about something found on the floor. Rather, leave it where she can see it so if it’s hers, she has it, if not, she can throw it away.

                All in all, this is a bizarre situation. I hope it’s not a threatening one, but a crazy set of circumstances nonetheless

          3. LCL*

            If I found some small piece of kipple on the floor next to a desk, I would assume it belonged to the person who used the desk and put it on the desk. Unless it was obviously trash, like a dead potato chip.

            If a found an empty brass, I would probably throw it in the office mailbox of one of the self described hunters. Well I would have. This thread is making me rethink that…

        3. Allison*

          I hate it when people leave anything on my desk that isn’t mine or intended for me. Whether it’s trash or random office supplies, my office isn’t some hallway table you can just leave stuff on, it’s my workspace!

          1. Kelly L.*

            My desk at my old work had a terrible case of this problem. There were always random people’s coffee mugs, etc. all over it. Grrrr!

    3. Lanya*

      I’m in a cube in a high-traffic area, and I find things left on my desk all of the time. Cups half full of water, spare wires, papers from the printer. People are always touching my stuff and borrowing tissues, pens, pencils. (I have to lock my best pens in my drawer if I don’t want them to walk!)

      1. Ralph S. Mouse*

        Cups half full of water

        Sorry, that was me. :/ I always have a drink with me, and even I’m surprised by where I find my own cups later. But my desk is also a depository for even more random crap.

    4. Katrina*

      The night cleaning crew puts things on my desk that aren’t mine all the time. I am surprised that no one has suggested that maybe housekeeping found it and thought it belonged there.

      1. starsaphire*

        Probably because the OP states she was returning from a meeting, so this was presumably in the middle of the day.

        In my experience, the majority of offices have the housekeeping team come in after hours or early in the morning, not midday while meetings are going on.

      2. Kyrielle*

        I think someone did, somewhere above – but OP said this showed up while they were in a meeting. Unless the cleaning crew cleans during office hours, that seems a bit unlikely.

    5. Bigglesworth*

      People leave stuff on my desk all the time (I’m assuming in the hopes that I’ll figure out where it goes, who it belongs to, or to throw away for them). I sit at one of the front desks to greet people, so that may be the reason. I’ve also discovered since working here that people ruffle through the stuff on my desk and in my drawers to find what their looking for if I’m at lunch or in a meeting. I don’t like it and I’m trying to train my faculty and fellow staff to stop, but it’s going to be quite a process before everyone is trained.

      1. CeeCee*

        You are not alone. This is my desk every day. I get everything from people’s car keys to empty envelopes regularly. And I love calls when I’m lunch break saying things like “Well, I looked in your top drawer and couldn’t find that report.” Well, that’s probably because I don’t keep reports in the drawer where I keep my pens, highlighters, and sticky notes!

        Ask me for what you need and we’ll all be able to get what we need and find things later!

  26. Mimmy*


    In all likelihood, this was an honest mistake by a coworker or a prank. Still, my first instinct would’ve been to immediately contact my direct supervisor for guidance on how to address it appropriately, but I understand the instinct to go right to security instead.

    I hope this is cleared up soon so that you can feel comfortable at work again!

  27. The Other Beebs*

    The point has been made, but I think it may be getting lost a little . . . that is a casing, not a bullet, The casing is the empty brass shell that, in a bullet, holds the charge and the actual bullet head. (There are probably better terms for those parts, but I’m not a shooter myself.) Aside from the implications, which I agree 100% are creepy and maybe threatening and need to be explored, the casing itself is harmless. It’s just a bit of brass. And as A Non says above, when people reload their own ammo, casings can get everywhere. My husband reloads his target ammo and I have found casings in my car center console, in my purse, and other odd places.

    TL/DR: It’s not impossible to imagine a casing ending up on the floor of an office by accident. It’s much harder to imagine a casing ending up on someone’s desk by accident.

    1. GOG11*

      I get that to some it’s an entirely different thing that it’s a casing vs a bullet, but if it were a noose made of yarn left on someone’s desk it would still be threatening. I’m not saying making a noose and leaving a casing are the same thing, but the potential implication of both, regardless of practical ability to harm, is where the threat lies.

      1. Kelly L.*

        Right. I didn’t get the sense the OP was worried it would actually blow up, but that it was a message.

      2. cask*

        I agree.

        No one was implying that the casing itself was somehow going to harm OP – it is all about the message being interpreted. Casings are immediately associated with bullets, then with guns, and ultimately with violence. If a paperclip was found on OPs desk there would be no perceived threat… but this is a casing and ultimately threatening.

        Even if it was a full bullet, your perspective argues that it is harmless because the bullet is not being shot at OP. With that logic I could put a model grenade on my boss’ desk and tell him that if it isn’t hurting him there is no harm done.

      3. GOG11*

        I do want to clarify that I understand that the way bullets and the way casings are handled is very different, so I get that the distinction might be important for how it potentially got there, but it’s still threatening even if it wasn’t intended as a threat. Regardless, as others have pointed out, there’s minimal risk in treating it like a threat if it’s not but the potential harm of not taking it seriously if it a threat is very serious. From that perspective, it makes total sense to proceed as though it is a threat.

        1. A Non*

          I’m in the ‘personally, casings are NBD’ camp, but yeah, I fully agree that this is best treated as a threat until proven otherwise. I hope that the LW has a very embarrassed coworker apologizing to them soon.

    2. Michelenyc*

      So does my dad and if go down to his cave. 9 times out of 10 I come back upstairs with a casing. I have a habit of picking them and playing with them when we are talking.

    3. AnonT*

      You may find casings everywhere – but do you then move them somewhere else and leave them there? I certainly don’t, and I’m in the same situation where I know someone who deals with ammo a lot and end up finding casings all over. They end up back in my pocket or in the trash.

      It’s not the “I found a casing” part that’s a concern, it’s the “I found a casing where there wasn’t one before, in a place that only I use, which was left there while I was away in a meeting”. In this case, the context matters.

  28. Allison*

    Even if this does turn out to be a mistake, that’s a really BIG mistake to make at work, and they find out who left it there, that person should at least get a slap on the wrist.

  29. Sue Wilson*

    There’s something alarming about a bunch of commentators essentially saying that many people who use guns don’t pay attention to where they leave their ammunition (apparently in work clothes, which…).

    1. Katie the Fed*

      It’s NOT ammunition. It’s a casing. It can do no damage at this point. When you fire a gun, casings fly off. I’ve been burned by hot brass falling into my shirt in the past. It can get caught in your clothes. Sometimes you pick it up and put it in your pocket.

      1. KR*

        Yeah. It’s like dog hair. They fly everywhere. I’ve found them in my hair (which is very thick), my clothes, my hood, down my shirt, in my shoes, ect.

      2. Sue Wilson*

        Well thanks for correcting me about the ammunition versus casings, but I still don’t know how y’all find casings in your work clothes.

        1. KR*

          Easy example: you have a jacket that you wear to the range that you also wear to work. Casings fly off and end up in the pocket of your jacket or hood. You wear the jacket to work next day and get embarrassed because instead of a pen in your pocket you find metal casings. It’s happened to me.

        2. Chairs*

          You pick some out of your range bag when packing up, and since the trash can is by the door, just put them in your pocket for the time being. You forget about them on the way out and next day at work is jeans day, so you just chuck on the same pants you wore after work for an hour or two. Then half-way through the day go “what the blazes is in my pockets…oh, well don’t want to chuck them here, so back into the pocket they go until I get home.”

        3. Augusta Sugarbean*

          Some people don’t have specific work clothes. I wear jeans and work boots to work and I wear jeans and work boots to the range and I wear jeans and work boots to the grocery store.

        4. JustALurker*

          Notice how no-one said they then proceed to put found casings on co-workers’ desks!

    2. Jaguar*


      There are many places where hunting / gun ownership are commonplace and a spare casing in a pocket is as normal as a spare receipt stuffed in a pocket. I understand that can be hard to fathom if you come from a place that doesn’t have a gun culture, since I’ve lived in both for significant periods of time (and I hate guns / gun culture), but a lot of the comments that are treating a more casual approach to shell casings as _something weird and wrong_ are being bigoted in the other way.

      It’s alarming to you because you’re not used to it. To many people, it’s not alarming at all.

        1. Jaguar*

          Acting like there’s something wrong with commentators who suggest that they wouldn’t be alarmed by this is. A lack of familiarity doesn’t rule out bigotry. There are people telling Sue what their experiences are and she’s responding that it’s “alarming.”

          1. fposte*

            She thinks misplaced *ammunition* is alarming. I suspect you’d agree with that. It’s just that she didn’t realize that casings aren’t ammunition.

          2. Blue Anne*

            I think that for the most part, commentators here aren’t suggesting it’s wrong and crazy that you wouldn’t be freaked out by this, but that it’s pretty unhelpful for so many people to be telling the OP that. The OP is likely not in an area where casings and other gun-related stuff is common (otherwise they wouldn’t be so scared about this) and as a result, so many people saying “That wouldn’t freak ME out, this is super common” seems pretty insensitive. I can see how, to someone from a more or less gun-free area, it would be alarming to have multiple people suggesting that they disregard something that is a credible threat in their area. Just different contexts.

          3. Katie the Fed*

            Calling someone a bigot is a way to shut down a discussion, and it’s unwarranted in this case. Nothing Sue said in this case indicated any bigotry. It demonstrated that she didn’t know the difference between a bullet and a casing and if you’ve never fired a gun, it’s an understandable mistake. She thought people were saying that they leave live ammunition around all over the place, because she didn’t know the difference.

            1. Jaguar*

              Yeah. Re-reading this later in the day, I think I misread Sue’s post as “there’s something wrong with people who don’t find this scary and unusual.” That was my original reading.

              My apologies, Sue. This is on me.

      1. J.B.*

        Umm…no, not bigoted. Here’s the thing about those of us who don’t like guns and roll our eyes every time someone goes on about gun control infringing on their rights. If you have a gun and know what you’re doing, you operate it safely, then great! Everyone is happy-you have your thing and I don’t see it! Those who open carry military looking weapons or leave guns around where kids find them and shoot each other (or shoot mom in the car after the firing range)? Not so safe! If something gun-like is sitting around the most reasonable possible assumption is that is dangerous until shown otherwise. It’s not that hard for you to keep it out of work, and if a casing winds up coming to work with you apologize for it and explain. Your rights would not be violated by that.

      2. Sue Wilson*

        I lived in Kentucky, and no one who had guns, and many did, left casings or ammunition in places where it wasn’t appropriate for guns to be fired. When I was a kid, my friends parent’s let them shoot, and somehow they never managed to leave casings around in school. The people at my mother’s job had guns and? No casings. Lived in multiple parts of the state for 13 years and? Never saw any casings where casings shouldn’t be. I didn’t and still don’t know shit about guns, but I never saw anything gun-like anywhere it wasn’t appropriate.

        So maybe take your assumptions, and hilarious accusation of “bigoted” somewhere else.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          I lived in Oregon, and we never had guns in the house. When I was a kid, I found casings many times. Was it in town, where we lived, or when we went to the fields and woods? I don’t recall, but I played with them so much that I probably found them in many places. They were garbage, like cigarette butts, and left in all sorts of inappropriate places.

      3. Katrina*

        I appreciate your perspective. I too dislike gun culture (what I know of it anyway) but I think it is always good to learn a new way of looking at something, and in particular, it’s crucial to learn the facts surrounding an issue that is up for debate. That a shell casing is not ammunition and cannot hurt anyone (unless, I suppose, it is swallowed) is simply a fact. People may *feel* worried, fearful, outraged, etc., and they have a right to feel however they feel, but it does not change the fact that a shell casing is not in itself dangerous, and that other people have different, often more informed, attitudes than they do about what a casing signifies. I don’t know that I would call the attitude you refer to “bigoted”–maybe I would–but it does seem to me to be an inability to distinguish objective fact from their subjective feeling.

        1. Just Another Techie*

          People may *feel* worried, fearful, outraged, etc., and they have a right to feel however they feel, but it does not change the fact that a shell casing is not in itself dangerous, and that other people have different, often more informed, attitudes than they do about what a casing signifies.

          I think you’re missing the point that objects carry symbolic meaning as well as physical significance. Can a spent casing harm anyone? That is a question of fact, and the answer is clearly no. Can a drawing of a noose harm anyone? Again, no, the drawing cannot injure. But in the latter case, the symbolic intent is clearly a threat, even though you can argue until the cows come home that “marker residue on a white board is totally incapable of harming anyone. That’s just a matter of ‘fact.'” I’d argue that similarly, putting gun paraphernalia intentionally in a place where a non-gun-user wouldn’t expect to find it is symbolically threatening.

          Or put another way, no one here is arguing that the casing was going to blow up and injure the OP. But the person who put it there might well have intended to frighten or intimidate her.

    3. A Non*

      This isn’t ammunition, though, it’s a casing – the metal bit that holds a bullet and powder in place until it’s fired, and then is ejected by the gun. Most weapons flip the casing out and into the air, so they get scattered everywhere at shooting ranges. Gun owners need to be hella careful about anything with gunpowder in it, but casings are just trash. It’s not appropriate to have anything gun-related at work, and if this was an accident someone needs a stern talking to, but it’s not a safety issue.

    4. KT*

      …this isn’t ammunition (ammunition is EXPENSIVE. I know where every darned piece is). Casings are what’s left. It’s like the leftovers from sharpening a pencil–just junk.

    5. aebhel*

      A casing is not ammunition. You can’t shoot a casing; it’s what’s left over after you fire the bullet. They fly everywhere, so if, for example, a purse is sitting nearby, they can easily end up in there. I’ve had them fly down my shirt a time or two, which is fun times, let me tell you.

      It’s inappropriate and potentially threatening to leave a spent casing on a coworker’s desk, but I find it frustrating when people conflate a spent casing with live ammunition.

    6. Noah*

      The point many of us are making is that it is NOT ammunition, it is just a casing. They go everywhere when you shoot and I usually try to pick them up and put them in my pocket or bag. TSA will even allow you to bring casings through the security checkpoint and into the sterile part of the airport terminal.

      I understand that the OP is upset and that it may very well be a threat. She has reason to be concerned and notify security and possibly the local police. However, saying that a casing left in odd places means gun owners do not pay attention to where ammunition is left is unfair.

  30. AF*

    OP – I’m so sorry. Please be safe (I don’t know if you can ask to go on leave until this is figured out). Please talk to the police. And if you feel comfortable, please update us to let us know you’re okay. And hopefully HR can provide some services if you still have nightmares or other emotional issues after this is resolved. This is so unbelievably not okay.

  31. costume teapot*

    This whole thread is making me feel super self-conscious. I’m not a shooter or a gun person myself, but for probably five or six years I carried the spent casings from the blanks shot at my grandfather’s military funeral. (Weird form of sentimentality.) I really hope I didn’t terrify someone who may have seen them in my purse… D:

    1. Kelly L.*

      You kept them on your own person, though–you didn’t leave them lying around in other people’s spaces.

    2. Aurion*

      The difference is that your spent casings were in your purse and presumably you didn’t take them out. There is a non-trivial chance that this particular casing was deliberately placed on the OP’s desk, given how it’s aligned neatly with her keyboard.

    3. Big McLargeHuge*

      I was going to make a comment along these lines. People keep the strangest things as sentimental pieces. My dad carries a small stone in his pocket similar to the one his grandfather carried. It means a lot to him, but if it got pulled out of his pocket when he grabbed his keys and fell on the floor, the next person that saw it is likely to just kick it outside as a random stone.

      I feel for the OP. Everyone should feel safe in their workplace. I hope this is nothing more than a random unfortunate event.

    4. AnonT*

      I think it’s different if you have them on your own person, rather than leaving them about for others to find.

    5. Anon Moose*

      Yes, I have one of these from a grandpa’s funeral. I don’t carry it around, as it was years ago, but maybe if the funeral was recent…

      STILL shouldn’t end up on someone else’s desk except by accident.

  32. Karyn*

    I don’t mean to scare the OP more, but let me just say this:

    When I was in high school, my first boyfriend broke up with me, and then, when I started dating someone else, sent me (and a couple other girls he’d dated) bullets in the mail. The school didn’t take it seriously, nor did his parents.

    Until four weeks later, when he brought a bayonet to a band concert and told people he was going to kill me. We got the police involved.

    OP, please take this seriously and contact the authorities, even if just for an investigation and report on file.

  33. Sharkey*

    The cameras are a non-issue for me. Sure, in this particular case it would have been nice to have that evidence, but beyond those rare situations, I wouldn’t find it preferable to be monitored remotely and would want to know how that info might be used and who had access to it. In general terms, I’d find a camera positioned towards my desk rather intrusive, but would be okay with them placed at entrances/exits or other common areas. This doesn’t fix the larger issue, but OP might reframe the part where it’s assumed that the company values soft drinks more than their workers based on the camera placement.

    1. Emilia Bedelia*

      Also, if the vending machines are leased from another company, it may be their cameras, not the LW’s company. I don’t find it ridiculous that a large box full of money has a security camera.

  34. want to be a good friend*

    Oh my goodness, I am so sorry this happened to you! Let me ask you this: after the terrible shooting in Oralndo, did you happen to say anything about your views on gun control? At work on or social media? I do not want to get into an argument about gun control on here but as you know, people can have very, very strong opinions on the matter. If I had a strong anti-gun feeling and made that public recently, someone leaving a bullet on my desk would make me feel like someone in the office is trying to send a message. I would be speaking to the police about it and hopefully they will have some ideas for you.

  35. The Optimizer*

    I shoot and casings can easily wind up in strange places – pockets, the hood of my jacket, the bag i have sitting next to me at the range, etc.

    I had jury duty a while back and went through a metal detector with casings in my jacket hood. The sheriff’s deputy pulled me aside, asked why I might have casings and I told her I had been at the range the night before. She laughed and asked me what range I went to, then we chatted a bit about different ranges in the area before she sent me on my way.

    This cold be as simple is that. It’s not something I would freak out over. It’s also certainly not something illegal or something law enforcement would consider a threat in and of itself.

    1. Leatherwings*

      This is a similar comment to one Margaret made above. That thread had a lot of great responses that I don’t feel a need to repeat.

      Bottom line, there are other explanations but there’s virtually no risk in treating it as a threat and the magnitude of tragedy if your theory is wrong is too great to ignore.

    2. CrazyCatLady*

      This is very different, the casing is not in someone’s jacket. If you look at the picture, it seems unlikely to have been dropped, it looks rather carefully placed.

      I have knives in my house and my coworkers don’t freak over that. If they got them in the mail, it would be a different story.

  36. Daisy Steiner*

    OP, you are not overreacting at all. Just to add my 2c to the ‘other possible explanations’ category, is there a chance anyone you work with wouldn’t have recognised what this was? I don’t live in a country where guns are common, and I would not have known what this was. If I saw it on the floor next to someone’s desk, I would assume it was some sort of computer part (from the picture it looks like the end of a headphone jack) and – yes, maybe – put it on their desk thinking it was a missing part of their machine.

    1. KR*

      +2 I was thinking the same thing. I’ve had people come up to me with bits of metal and screws and the like thinking it was a computer part or connector when it’s just some trash or doohicky. Maybe if someone isn’t paying attention and doesn’t know gun parts well, they might think it was yours and want to make sure you noticed it fell.

    2. AW*

      That makes a lot more sense than someone realizing it was a casing and then just putting it on the nearest desk without saying anything.

    3. Nobody*

      Yeah, this occurred to me, too. Although I live in a gun-loving part of the country, I have never used a gun, and I’m not sure I would recognize an empty casing as a part of a bullet if I saw one randomly lying on the floor. Or if I saw one on my desk.

  37. newlyhr*

    creepy, inappropriate, and just plain wrong. Trust your instincts. insist that your company take this seriously.

  38. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Could everyone take it down a notch, please? I do not want people being snarky or aggressive or heated with other people here, and between this post and yesterday’s, I’m finding myself not wanting to read the comments at all so I imagine others are feeling that way too.

    1. silvertech*

      I certainly feel that way… I always appreciate that you shut down this kind of behaviour.

    2. AnotherFed*

      Could you please move this to the top? It’s far enough down that I don’t think it’s getting seen before the big threads up top suck people in.

  39. Teej*

    Hello All,

    I am the OP. I will not be bringing a firearm to work. I am going to go straight up the chain of command until we can figure out a way to install our own stuff in my office.

    I just spoke with our on site HR director. I asked why our own security systems are not installed in our office. His answer was understandable: ” we handle personal information of our customers”. That’s great, but it’s not enough. I think a metal detector would be a great start. We cannot just let this slide, and write it off as an isolated incident. It just takes one crazy co-worker for our company to make headlines. I don’t want to be in the headlines, especially since this would be our warning.

    1. Jaguar*

      I really think the best thing for you would be to file a police report and as soon as you can get your head in a clear space, begin looking for another place to work as aggressively as you can. You sound so freaked out about this (and rightfully so) that there’s a good chance you won’t feel safe in that environment again.

    2. Kyrielle*

      Perhaps they could position security cameras to monitor traffic through spaces, rather than desks? That way if something happens, you know who had approached the area, at least.

      I can totally understand your concern. I _really_ hope it’s one of the more benign suggested causes – but in your shoes, I would be acting as if it wasn’t. As long as no one goes to screaming and firing if it’s found out to have been a mistake, what harm is done by assuming it’s more until proven otherwise, after all?

      1. Jaguar*

        On the subject of security cameras (and metal detectors) in the workplace, OP, I can totally understand why you would want to see those appear, but from the employer and other employee’s perspective, being under constant surveillance can breed a lack of trust between employers and employees to the point that employees will become unhappy and look for places to work where they aren’t kept under constant supervision like that. This can easily be the perspective your employer is bringing to this which you might not get in your current state.

        I can’t really figure out my position on the subject given your circumstances (although, if my employer said they’re setting up security cameras to watch us today on the basis of nothing, I would flip out), so I don’t really know if your workplace _should_ install that stuff. Assuming they should and they don’t, it can be helpful to at least understand their reasoning. It’s not all gain / no loss. They don’t care if the soda machine is distrustful and resentful towards them.

        1. Kyrielle*

          I’d rather they monitor common-ways than have _four cameras_ on the vending machine, honestly. I mean, seriously, “in case there is a threat or problem, we need to know who has come and gone and whether any strangers were present” is less worrisome to me than “we are so concerned about petty theft from the vending machine that we watch it from every angle”.

          But if the office is not secured from random people walking in, then neither worries me too much.

          Aiming them right at desks would concern me – with the possible exception of aiming one at OP’s desk if they requested it, given their level of concern.

    3. Noah*

      I would probably quit my job if forced to go through a metal detector everyday. I work for an airline and our ground employees and crewmembers both get to skip the normal screening process passengers go through.

      I understand why you are upset and feel like this is a threat. However, I think it is unreasonable for you to ask your company to install metal detectors. It would be appropriate for them to investigate, install cameras in public areas, and ensure the building in secured from outsiders. In your case, because you believe it is a threat, I would file a police report.

      1. CS Rep by Day, Writer by Night*

        I go through a metal detector and have my bags searched every day. It makes me feel safe knowing every single one of my co-workers does the same.

      2. AnotherFed*

        I would also add that metal detectors are not a solution to stop an active shooter – the Navy Yard had armed guards and metal detectors, and Aaron Alexis solved that problem by shooting the guard and going around the metal detector.

    4. The Cosmic Avenger*

      What the hell does that even mean?? Your customer’s PII is not important, or that your company’s products aren’t good enough to protect it? Either way, it sounds like a bull$#!+ answer to me. I’m sorry you’re going through this, and that you’re not getting more support from your employer, Teej. I hope you consider reporting it to the police, but whatever you do, please keep us updated on how it is going. And above all, be safe.

      1. fposte*

        I think the concern is that PII would be exposed inappropriately to security cameras. But otherwise, yeah, bullshit.

        1. Florida*

          Agree. Hospitals have security cameras and they have more private information (and related laws) than almost anyone.

      2. Chairs*

        I think they’re saying they can’t have security cameras because the cameras would record personal information.

        1. animaniactoo*

          Trust me that banks have personal information that they are accessing all day long on computer screens and that they have security cameras in place. It’s a bullshit excuse.

          1. animaniactoo*

            Sorry, that came out harder than it should have. I’m pretty frustrated with people trying to come up with reasonable explanations which are certainly possible but not as likely as that this is a big deal to be reacted to. Including, apparently, OP’s company.

        2. A Non*

          Which is not an excuse – it just means that your security tapes need to be kept safe the same as your other sensitive information. HIPAA is entirely okay with this. Grr, frustrating.

        3. Meg Murry*

          I can see that being a reason as to why they would have to do a careful installation and not just install cameras tomorrow without being cautious about what kind of PII the camera could pick up, and taking steps to minimize that – but not as a reasonable excuse as to why a company that *sells* security systems couldn’t install them once they’ve done their due diligence.

          It is also distinctly possible that there is no way (short of aiming a camera at every single desk/cube/office) to monitor all the workspaces, and that would be overkill and/or not feasible with the building’s current wiring. And while cameras may help with looking back at incidents like this to see who left this on your desk, unless they are actively monitored they aren’t going to do any good in a dangerous situation at the moment it is happening.

          OP, you are freaked out right now, and rightfully so, and I’m sorry for that. However, even if there were a metal detector and cameras installed tomorrow, I don’t know that you’d feel any safer. I know I’ve been places with heightened visible security shortly after the tragedy in Orlando, and I didn’t feel any safer with that heightened security – it just re-reminded me of it over and over again, and made me sad we live in a world where those types of precautions become normal. Or maybe you would feel safer- I’m not you and I can’t say. Does your company have an EAP, and can you talk to someone about your overall feelings about this incident? Again, not minimizing you – but talking it out may help you determine what you need to feel safe and/or that you are being taken seriously.

      3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

        Yeah, this. I’m almost constantly under cameras at work, and I handle pretty much nothing but sensitive information. It’s a lazy BS answer.

    5. Kasia*

      I actually think something like a metal detector would be kind of an overreaction here (and I’m very much on team “be worried”). I think the next steps should be an investigation before anything else goes into play.

    6. animaniactoo*

      In the vast majority of cases, security cameras will not be able to read information off a computer screen, so this is a ridiculous dodge. Apart from resolution issues, there is the point that the cameras can easily be positioned to be able to see corriders/aisles, and not computer screens.

      Metal detectors should not be required to make sure that people are not bringing weapons into a building and they can become pretty invasive/demoralizing. Maybe hand scanners for awhile while this is figured out, but a permanently installed metal detector is a level that shouldn’t be warranted. I understand that you’re completely afraid and freaked out right now – the more so because you’re getting the run around from your company. Just to say there are more issues than strict safety involved here. You’ve had an incident and unless there is a lot more involved that you’re not discussing, that’s a large jump/escalation to installing metal detectors.

      Please do file a police report. Maybe this is something that won’t require that in the end. But if it becomes something more, you will want to have had clear documentation from the beginning, because it will help with whatever next steps can or may need to be taken.

      I’m sorry your company has been giving you the runaround, and that they’re not taking this seriously. Please do pushback on their not-actually-reasonable statement about the security cameras. If nothing else – they’re a security company. If they can’t figure out how to set this up so client info is being kept confidential then they’re not a very good security company.

    7. Observer*

      Actually, cameras make much more sense than metal detectors. And, the idea that you can’t have cameras because of sensitive information is nonsense. In fact, I would argue the contrary. Knowing if someone was at a desk they were not supposed to be at would be a good thing if you ever had reason to suspect a breach.

      At my office we recently installed cameras inside the office space, although not inside offices (although my boss would like to.) People were a bit put off until they heard that someone had been messing with stuff in someone’s office and we had no idea who because the cameras got put in about two days after the fact. Suddenly people were going “Maybe we should be putting more cameras in place.” Not because staff is not trusted, but because lots of other people come into our offices. (And with the right system, you can even set different cameras to be on or off depending on the time of day.)

    8. AnonT*

      Good for you on sanding firm on this issue. Your own safety is incredibly important, and you shouldn’t have to work in a place where you feel unsafe, and where HR and management don’t take your concerns about safety seriously.

      I didn’t see you mention it, so forgive me if you did – have you spoken with your direct manager or coworkers about this at all? Alison mentioned that it’s easier to push for changes as a group, but I also wonder if they might have seen something that may help. Or if one of them left it (as a “joke” or whatever), perhaps they would ‘fess up if they know how unsafe it’s made you feel.

      Just as a side note: your HR department seems to have a less-than-ideal response to this. Asking you to install an app, not contacting the police, not offering any kind of safety solutions… not the best way to handle these kind of concerns.

    9. Meg Murry*

      OP, I admire your resolve, but in this case rather than going straight up the chain of command, you may get further by first discussing with your supervisor or department head that knows and trusts you, and asking them to help you with the higher-ups. Not saying it’s right, but if HR doesn’t know you well, you may get further with someone who has a higher rank and more “pull” with HR making your case as a manager who is concerned about all the employees in his/her department rather than a single employee that HR doesn’t know. Your manager might help convey that you are a rational person who is reasonably freaked out, not someone who tends to overreact or is making a big deal simply to get attention or to get out of work.

      Your manager may also care more about retaining YOU as a good employee who she doesn’t want to have to replace/retrain – while HR also doesn’t want to lose employees, it isn’t quite the same for them.

      1. superblarg*

        That’s crazy, they shouldn’t have to tap dance around chain of command and pull to deal with a workplace violence issue – that’s what HR is for. This is an OSHA situation. They have the right to a safe work space, and by definition, a threat falls under workplace violence. One does NOT need to walk on egg shells around workplace violence. It is utterly unacceptable, and the company risks legal responsibility if the OP ends up harmed.

    10. AnotherFed*

      This subject is very close to what I do for a living. The bottom line is what will make you feel safe enough to work in your office? Feeling safe isn’t necessarily about logic (there’s a reason we put up with TSA, after all!), so this might not help, but it’s at least what we train.

      If you believe you have a crazy coworker who may go on a rampage, your best option is to find another job. Frankly, cameras and metal detectors do not prevent workplace shooters, because the shooter has already committed to violence and will continue that plan regardless of detection, challenge by guards, or police response. They mean the response team will know what happened, but they won’t help employees.

      If you can’t leave and you do have an active shooter, your order of actions should be run, hide, fight. Plan multiple exits path, including what to do when you get out of the immediate office. If you can’t exit, take cover – stay low to the ground, and attempt to hide. Cubicle walls will not stop anything, so try to get to an office, lock yourself in, and use heavy furniture for further cover. Even that isn’t great unless your office buys nice stuff, so you still want to hide and make it seem like the office is empty and therefore not a target. If push comes to shove, use anything you can to fight – fire extinguishers, books, chairs, scissors, etc. The first person probably won’t live, but it’s better than lying down and dying and it might give the next coworker over a better chance.

      1. Michelenyc*

        We had active shooter training in our office a few weeks after the San Bernadino shooting. It was interesting and made you think. I work in fabric R&D and I definitely could cause a lot of damage with my scissors. They are heavy, sharp, and very pointy. I almost always have them with me too.

  40. kapers*

    If the OP is this worried, I think there might be some context we’re missing. She knows the culture of her workplace, the personality of her coworkers, whether they are aggressive, threatening, retaliatory, etc. To me it sounds like there are ongoing “beefs” in her workplace if she felt the need to specify that she wasn’t currently involved in one.

    OP, I have experience making a police report when I was really hesitant to do so. It was much less of a big deal than I had thought. Filing a police report is not an overreaction; it’s a simple step that 1) creates an official bureaucratic paper trail, 2) leaves the matter in the hands of the department best equipped to deal with it, and 3) gives you a sense that you have done what you could. Depending on the officer you speak to, they could be very helpful and give practical advice. They may not “do” anything, but it’s their job to decide that. You might get a dismissive jerk, or you might get someone who helps you sleep soundly tonight.

    1. Margaret*

      Yes, I agree. I understand that there certainly are people who get violent, it’s in the news every day. But I have literally never in my life personally, or anyone close to me, been involved in a confrontation with someone I knew where I feared they’d get violent. (Versus, like, random violence on the street or a person acting up on the subway type of situations.). Thus why it seems like SUCH a huge leap to me to view this as a threat if you don’t have some inkling of who it might be from or why.

      I certainly don’t think there’s harm in trying to escalate reporting it anyway, but I’m curious if there’s some additional information (there has been violence between coworkers before? there is someone who’s expressed a disproportionate amount of anger towards you?) that makes a threat seems like a likely explanation.

  41. Erika*

    I’m sorry if this comes off as misguided, but are you sure someone didn’t find it somewhere and leave it on your desk just to show to you? I guess that would be my first assumption (I live in a more rural area where many people hunt), and I could see someone thinking it was neat and leaving it for you.

    I’m not trying to belittle your distress and completely understand it, but please just put me in the “talk to your coworkers and see if someone owns up to this before you go overboard” camp. If no one does, then yes, I do think you should take this up the ladder – but first cover your bases and make sure it’s not something entirely innocuous.

    1. neverjaunty*

      I’m sorry, but this is ludicrous. “Thinking it was neat”? People who are comfortable with using guns don’t think random shell casings are “neat”. People who think things are “neat” don’t anonymously leave them on the desks of co-workers who they have no reason to believe share their interests, without any indication of why the thing was left there, such as a note or an email or a mention in the hallway.

      It is not going overboard for the OP to prioritize her own safety over other people’s need to bend over backward to avoid conflict.

      1. Erika*

        I’m saying (and apparently not very clearly) that there’s a possibility that the more official people (police, etc) who get involved, the less likely it is that someone who genuinely didn’t mean any harm will speak up, leaving a mystery and the OP more likely to feel threatened. I could see people in my life finding a bullet casing and thinking it’s interesting and leaving it for me, and whether you think that’s ludicrous or not doesn’t change that.

        You can be anti-gun (as I am) and still see how this could have happened in a way that was NOT a threat. I’m not saying that the OP shouldn’t take precautions. What I AM saying is that the more this escalates, the less likely I think they are to figure out what actually happened.

        1. Aurion*

          Genuine question: why do you think that looping in management/security/cops will make it less likely for the presumably innocent culprit to confess?

          If I were in the OP’s place and I had called out loudly “yo, who left this casing on my desk?”, I can see a coworker instantly confessing (assuming everything happened because of a misunderstanding/accident). But my escalating it to the higher-ups should not in any way impede a confession if everything happened via accident. If anything, I would think it more reason to confess; assuming the coworker was innocent of malice and is a reasonably decent person, the train of thought should be “oh crap, my spacing out/picking up random object has really scared the OP, here, let me clear the air so she can put it behind her.”

          I don’t understand why reporting this incident will make it less likely that they find out what happened (assuming no malicious intent).

          1. Jaguar*

            That’s a really good point. If it gets officially reported and the responsible party doesn’t surface, you can be pretty sure it’s a threat.

            1. Jaguar*

              Well, I guess I shouldn’t say “pretty sure,” since it could be a lack of imagination on my part. But I can’t imagine a scenario (outside of total mortification on the culprit’s part) where it wasn’t a threat, it was reported, and nobody came forward.

              1. Aurion*

                If total mortification keeps a person from confessing when their original action was free from malicious intent, I’d be pretty comfortable calling that person an asshole. Not for the original action–because we’re assuming the action wasn’t malicious–but because their pride was more important to them than their coworker’s sense of safety and peace of mind.

                1. Jaguar*

                  I would go as light as milksop. I don’t think it has to be a pride thing. More important, though, is equipping OP with a range of scenarios. If it gets reported and an announcement is made to the employees and nobody comes forward, those are the two scenarios I can think of: a threat or someone feeling unequipped to deal with the pain they caused.

              2. Elsajeni*

                I think the “total mortification” possibility is a big one, though, as is “obscure fear of punishment” — I can see someone worrying that, even if they’re coming forward to apologize and say that they meant no harm, now that work higher-ups and the police are involved it’s going to be a big hairy deal and possibly get them into trouble, investigated and/or fired, etc. I don’t think that’s a reason NOT to report it, but I definitely don’t think you can conclude that, if it’s reported and no one comes forward, it really must have been a threat.

          2. AnotherFed*

            If it is now a Big Deal, I can easily see someone being afraid to come forward because of fear of being fired, etc. That’d certainly be a selfish reaction, and probably more likely to get them fired long term, but it’s still within the realm of standard reactions.

    2. hbc*

      It’s not innocuous to leave something related to guns on someone’s desk without any indication of why you did it. Even if there were good intentions, it shows a stunning lack of knowledge of the current climate related to guns, and the fact that not everyone is going to go “Wow, cool!”

  42. Deb*

    I think we are dealing with two different issues. The first is the casing, which is utterly harmless and, by itself, indicative of nothing. OP, are any of your coworkers artists/craftspeople? Bullet casings are often used in jewelry or as the basis for some piece of art. (Please no commentary on whether or not this would be to your personal taste.) I’ve been in studios where they are rolling around like marbles. Sometimes they are remade as keepsakes. Some are packed with the remains of a loved one. (Again, no artistic commentary from me.) Just know that a lot of people handle bullet casings without ever going near a gun.

    By far the more important issue is how it got there. You have every right to be concerned! Even if it was a joke, it was a cruel and reckless one. Would the “joker” even confess to it now? That, and the fact that your employer is less-than-proactive (Download an app? Are you kidding me?) means that you have to live in flux. And that sucks. I’m sorry.

    1. Michelenyc*

      What comes to my mind is the woman that tried to go through airport security recently with shoes covered in decorative bullets. I think they made her change her shoes.

  43. FD*

    Let’s think about relative worst case scenarios here.

    Let’s assume for a moment that it’s an innocent accident–e.g. a spent casing fell onto your desk by mistake. Worst case scenario, you report it, it comes out that it was a mistake, you feel a bit embarrassed, and maybe some people at work give you a hard time for ‘making a big deal out of nothing’. Okay, that sucks–no one likes to be embarrassed.

    Now, let’s assume that it isn’t an accident and is a threat. Worst case scenario, you and others could die.

    To quote one of my favorite books, I’d rather look weird than be dead.

  44. Librarian Ish*

    I don’t normally comment to repeat what’s said before, but with some of the heated commentary I just want to add one more voice to the masses – you are not overreacting. YOU are the best judge of your safety. This made you feel unsafe, and you are absolutely doing the right thing by going to the police.

    The comments that a “casing isn’t dangerous” are technically true, but totally missing the point. When I worked with domestic violence survivors, one thing we kept in the forefront of our minds was that something doesn’t have to be inherently dangerous to be considered a threat – in fact, stalkers and abusers are absolute pros at inserting a threat into innocuous things, and even using the innocuousness of the situation to keep the victim from seeking or receiving help. The example we used was of a woman who came home to find flowers on her doorstep. Most people would tell her she was overreacting to be afraid of the flowers, but she knew that her ex had told her the only time he’d give her flowers was on her grave. Telling someone “but flowers won’t hurt you” is being oblivious to the context.

    I can see how some of the comments about misunderstandings are coming up, there’s definitely a (good!) trend on this site to not assume malice when you can explain something with ineptitude. But with this? We’re looking at the exception to that rule.

    1. Kasia*

      Very well said. And to add- people are forgetting there is an equal chance this is innocent as there is that it’s a threat. We don’t know the context. Better to air on the side of caution and report it to police or at least push back on management who seem to not be taking this very seriously

    2. J.B.*

      That is a great comment. Also I think the comments section is being led astray (including a little by me-sorry!) by the fact that it is gun related and that is such a hotly contested cultural issue. But if you changed the item to something else not normally found at work, but not something that would seem physically dangerous – such as your example of flowers, or some things I could think of that are NSFW – would it still freak you out?

      When talking with your company, it might help to think of some alternative example as well. Is there a gun culture generally among employees? If you raised a different example, would they take you more seriously?

    3. J.B.*

      One more thought and then I’ll go away. If OP’s company has sent anyone to workplace violence training or has sent around any videos on the subject, there might be some useful quotes for her position in that.

    4. superblarg*

      Thank you for calling this out. Yes, I’m guessing the people who are all “don’t be silly, it’s harmless, you’re overreacting” are lucky and haven’t had the same life experiences a lot of us have had. Some of us know first hand that people who look and act normal can be very scary indeed.

  45. MMSW*

    I also think its important that whatever the intent was the main focus should be on OP’s reaction to this. Does not matter if it was left accidentally or without malice- it is causing you significant problems- fear, nightmares, inability to go to work and this needs to be addressed. Hopefully your company is giving you some form of assistance and you have someone you can talk to about how to process your feelings. I’m so sorry this happened to you.

  46. Editrix*

    Highly, highly unacceptable. Not funny in the slightest bit. I hope to goodness your employer can resolve this.

  47. Lee*

    This appears pretty well veiled if it is a threat.
    Given we don’t know the gender, ethnicity or sexuality of the LW/OP or the office culture where they work, I’m not sure jumping to a worse-case scenario is helpful here. Taking into account how seriously the OP/LW is acting about this and the nonchalant reactions of the Head of Security, Human Resources and the OP/LW’s manager, this really may not be threatening.
    Also (since I don’t particularly like firearms) the OP/LW could bring a taser, mace, spiked keychains or other means of non-lethal defense as a precaution (maybe just keep it in a pocket in your pants/purse/wallet). Also maybe formulate a quick escape plan out of the building or to security from your desk if you ever feel your life is in danger again.
    If that doesn’t work, maybe just look for a new job?

  48. Jessie*

    It’s not a bullet, it’s an expended casing (you can tell it’s expended vs. just never having been used because of the dent at the bottom.) It’s nothing other than a brass bit of metal anymore.

    Reporting it to security is a good idea, but that’s the sort of thing that could easily have fallen out of someone’s purse. As someone else mentioned, crafty people make jewelry and pens out of them.

    I understand that if you never handle guns and don’t spend a lot of time around people who do that this could freak you out. But to someone who does, an expended casing by itself would never suggest anything like a threat.

    1. Leatherwings*

      Disagree completely, I think even knowing what it is and that the object itself isn’t harmful, it can still be considered a threat and symbol of violence (doesn’t mean it is one, but it’s totally reasonable for OP to be afraid it is).

      I feel totally safe in my workplace, but an item related to guns on my desk? I’d be frightened that it might be a suggestion of violence. I might assume I had been outed (even though my workplace is LGBT friendly) or I had made someone angry inadvertently. As people have discussed in depth above, cultural context matters here too. With recent gun violence, seeing something like this in your personal space is jarring and scary.

      1. Jessie*

        I’m not discounting how the OP feels. I’m saying that it’s very unlikely that it’s anything nefarious.

        1. Leatherwings*

          I’m sorry, I don’t intend to be argumentative, but the OP clearly thinks it’s possible that it’s nefarious. Saying it’s really unlikely that it is (and citing experience with guns/knowing that the item itself is harmless as a way of knowing that) sort if IS discounting how OP feels.

          I just don’t think that’s a fair thing to do. It is totally fair to point out that the object itself is harmless, but I don’t think it’s necessarily fair to draw the conclusion that it’s most likely no big deal. It would be no big deal to you, and (probably) a really really big deal to me. Maybe OP falls somewhere in the middle. Implying that experienced gun handlers have a better handle on the entire situation than the person it’s happened to doesn’t seem fair.

          1. Jessie*

            I wasn’t saying that at all. I’m saying that an experienced handgun owner wouldn’t think of using a shell casing as a way of communicating a threat. The OP has every right to feel the way she does and there’s no harm in filing a police report and having further discussions with security, if she feels that’s warranted. I’m a little surprised though, at how angry some commentors are reacting simply for a couple people suggesting that it’s probably going to be okay.

            1. Leatherwings*

              I’m afraid you might be misreading me, I’m not angry in the least, nor do I think most people are.

              It IS probably going to be ok, I agree. Even if it was a prank, it’s going to be ok. But as many many many people have pointed out, there’s a chance it was really a threat of violence. It’s disingenuous to completely eliminate that possibility from the discourse, particularly because OP is already afraid to go back to work. The fear already happened.

              I won’t belabor the point anymore, I just think that pointing out over and over again that it’s a casing and it was probably an accident isn’t helping.

            2. Megs*

              To be fair, it’s quite more than a couple of people – every time I refresh it seems there’s someone new suggesting (1) that there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation, (2) someone else responding that we should think about how the OP feels, and (3) someone else pointing out that we’re arguing in circles. I’ll take number three for $100, Alex!

            3. Mookie*

              No one appears angry or is denying that “it’s probably going to be okay” (emphasis added). It’s what everyone here is hoping for. What some people are reiterating is that what has already happened isn’t okay. The LW has decided that it’s not okay. End of discussion about okay-ness.

        2. Observer*

          But your reasoning is highly convoluted. Even in a gun heavy culture, it’s not at all likely – in fact nearly impossible that a bulled casing fell out of someones purse onto someone’s desk and landed up in such a neatly aligned position. Someone almost certainly PUT that thing there.

          It’s like if someone left a voodoo doll with pins in it on my desk. I wouldn’t be afraid of the voodoo doll itself, but I would be seriously worried that someone means to do me harm. This is worse, though. I’m not worried about the success of voodoo. But, guns in the hands of someone who means to do harm, really CAN succeed.

      2. Blue Anne*

        This is my thinking too. I’m from a cop family, I’ve done a little shooting myself and will probably do more, I know it’s a casing, but right now, in this climate, if I found that on my desk in this place I live which is more socially conservative than anywhere I’ve ever lived before?

        My first thought would be “Oh shit, they found out I’m queer.”

        Context is so much with these things. The OP is scared. Therefore, I assume it makes sense for the OP to be scared. We don’t know everything about their context.

      3. HelenaV*

        Yeah, I mean… I like lillies. They’re harmless, obviously. Would still be incredibly disturbed to come back to my desk and find a funeral wreath there with no explanation. It’s not (just) the item, it’s the context.

  49. neverjaunty*

    I am starting to believe that there is absolutely no situation an OP can report, no matter how appalling or unpleasant, that won’t generate a raft of comments about how the OP is jumping to conclusions, must absolutely assume well-meant error rather than malice, and that there is some convoluted explanation as to why it is ‘possible’ that the OP is overreacting or acting unfairly.

    1. Leatherwings*

      Yes, it’s disheartening. Especially because today, the reaction was already had. The OP immediately went to security and expressed fear and discomfort. I feel like explaining why it’s really overreacting to assume it might be a threat is really just undermining the OP’s feelings – which they’ve already experienced so it doesn’t do much good.

      Providing other possible explanations makes sense and could give OP different perspectives, but in this case it feels like there should be an acknowledgement of the risk assessment that’s inherently attached.

      1. Kasia*

        Totally agree. The comment section generally looses sight of what the OP is asking. A lot of times the comments focus on one very small aspect of the story and the discussion completely gets derailed. The point of this one was the OP felt threatened, management didn’t take it seriously, what can she do next?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah. Based on this week, I’m not feeling great about encouraging the OP’s to read the comments, the way I normally do when I email them to let them know I’m printing their letter.

          1. Blue Anne*

            It’s certainly been a rough couple of days for this stuff. But I’m sure it’s a blip.

          2. OlympiasEpiriot*

            I feel that way, too. Surprisingly.

            I only recently started commenting, only found this site about a year or so ago. I’ve really been liking the light but involved touch you use in the comments and the variety of experiences that your readers bring here. But, this seems to be getting weird.

          3. Kittens*

            I’m pretty surprised by the comments today too. I vaguely remember a letter awhile back about a woman freaked out by someone leaving anonymous flowers on her desk — the commentariat overwhelmingly agreed it was creepy and worth investigating and the OP wasn’t subjected to hundreds of comments telling her it was probably just a mistake. There are lots of way to explain away the bullet casing (I also used to live in an area where guns were super common), and sure of course it’s possible she’s not being actively threatened, but I can’t help but feel there’s a double standard here. The key thing is what can she do to be and feel more safe at work, full stop.

          4. AnonT*

            I hope it’s just an unusual week. I know you got a bunch of publicity in the past few weeks – did you perhaps get an influx of commenters from there, who may not be familiar with the style of comments people generally use here?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Interesting — could be. I’m just going to plan to be more around in the comments for a while so that I can try to shut things down more quickly if needed.

              1. Anon Moose*

                It might also be good to do a permanent sticky comment at the top about commenting guidelines. Or at the bottom of a post (where the other links are now) but most people gloss over that a bit. I’ve seen those reminders on several of the other more civil comment sections I’ve seen on the internet. And as a semi-new commenter, I’m not even sure if there are written guidelines. I just learned by osmosis a bit.

              2. Katniss*

                Just out of random curiosity, do you do all the moderation by yourself or do you get any help with that? I mod at another website and it can be a REALLY time-consuming job, especially on busy threads.

          5. LQ*

            Comments recently have made me feel like maybe I need to put the site down for a while, or only read on feedly where I’m not reading the comments which is super unfortunate. It is good to know it isn’t just me that feels like there’s been a bit of a tone shift on a couple. I know I react poorly sometimes and I don’t want to contribute to that, but I really benefit a lot from reading and participating. It’s a little complex.

        2. OriginalYup*

          Honestly, this isn’t an entirely new phenomenon.

          I’ve been reading and commenting here since 2009. It’s pretty typical for at least 20% of the comments to be speculation about some tangential part of the OPs issue, or sidebar conversations altogether. I wrote in with an interview-related question in 2011 and fully 1/3 of the comments were speculating about whether the problem I was having was “possible.” (Which, since I was having it, seemed disingenuous.)

          My theory on this is basically that it’s Parkinson’s law of triviality in action. To paraphrase: When faced with a big or seemingly insolvable issue, the knee jerk reflex is to focus on a minor aspect or seemingly more controllable part of the scenario and offer advice on that. As the AAM readership gets larger, there are proportionally more and more comments like that on tough topics.

          1. Ralph S. Mouse*

            I agree, it’s definitely not new. I read off and on, and usually the “off” coincides with something really gross happening in the comments so I need to take a mental health break for a few months. But it’s always talked about like it came out of nowhere instead of being a trend. On a blog this size, of course things are going to get weird sometimes. But pretending it rarely happens doesn’t make it better, it makes it weirder.

          2. neverjaunty*

            It’s definitely not new, but as you say, it seems like the ‘surely there must be some other, much more outlandish explanation that doesn’t involve conflict’ stuff is coming thicker and faster lately – and there does seem to be a lot more of people completely blowing off AAM when she pops up to ask people to drop a particular line of derailment.

            1. Turtle Candle*

              Yeah, there’s always been some amount of “but what if [theoretically possible but convoluted alternate explanation]?” and “let me use this as a jumping off point for a totally irrelevant tangent” stuff, but it does seem to be increasing. I wonder if the increased visibility (the recent profiles, etc.) has something to do with that. (Not that increased visibility is bad–it’s excellent for Alison, which makes me happy!–but the more people you get in general, the more devil’s advocates or ‘you tangentially mentioned my hot button issue, now I must derail’ types are going to show up.) I think that also contributes to the people arguing back when Alison does show up to say ‘hey, knock it off;’ regular commenters are more likely to have respect for her as a host than someone doing a drive-by on their personal pet bugaboo.

              1. fposte*

                Also, it means longer comment threads, which means it’s easier to miss an Alison intervention in the middle.

    2. Katie the Fed*

      I don’t really think that’s a fair characterization of the discussion. I think people are trying to offer an alternative perspective to the line of thinking that the ONLY possible explanation is that someone is making a death threat against the OP. Personally, I’m on Team Call The Police – let them sort it out. But I think there’s some merit in pointing out that there ARE other possible explanations and this isn’t the only conclusion.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        OK, maybe it was a fair characterization, now that I’m reading more comments saying the OP is jumping to conclusions and there’s no reason to get worked up. I hadn’t made my way through all of them.

  50. animaniactoo*

    I am really taken aback to see how hard people are working to explain how accidental or not-a-big-deal this could be.

    First of all – something that has fallen out of a pocket is not going to be carefully lined up and placed as OP’s photo shows.

    Second of all – if someone found something on the floor near my desk, or brought it because they thought it would be neat to show me, I’d expect them to leave me a Post-It note with it telling me that they’d left it there for me. Or follow up with me in person fairly quickly to check in with me about it.

    I am a huge fan of probability and risk assessment and bring that to most areas of my life. Looking at the placement, anonymity, and out-of-the-blue appearance of this, I would have to say that the likelihood that this is innocuous is much lower than that it is not. In the event that somebody thinks that this is an innocuous kind of thing, or a reasonable all-in-fun-prank, they need a serious reality check. Which will be much more quickly accomplished by seeing that it was taken so seriously in this context.

    1. Jessie*

      Unless it fell out of someone’s pocket near OP’s desk and someone else picked it up and set it on her desk thinking it was hers.

      1. animaniactoo*

        Which would be a pretty major assumption absent any knowledge that OP has any kind of reason to have had that around.

        If I find keys or paperwork on the ground near someone’s desk, I don’t just pick them up and put them on their desk, I check in with them about it and if it’s not theirs, I turn that in to a receptionist or some such. I would expect most people to do the same – or again, at least leave a post-it note along with the “returned” item. And those items are much more innocuous in any out-of-context situation than a shell casing.

        Is it possible that it happened that way? Yes. But the big picture here is, is it likely that it happened that way. If this was the kind of thing that would be likely based on OP’s office or area culture, I doubt they would be having this strong a reaction to it. So on a risk assessment basis, yes, it’s possible. But no, it’s not the likely explanation.

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          A few years ago, at LastJob, someone found an eyeglass case in the parking lot. They didn’t know who it belonged to, so they took it into the lobby and set it on a counter. Someone else saw a suspicious case where it didn’t belong, and called security. Security called the bomb squad. The bomb squad isolated and then exploded the suspicious package, and then determined what it really was.

          In retrospect, it was amusing and seemed like overkill. But at the time there wasn’t the benefit of retrospect, so taking extra precautions was appropriate.

          So, there may be an innocent explanation. It might even be the likely explanation. But since that isn’t known, taking precautions is reasonable.

          1. Paranoia normally*

            No, sorry, that was just stupid and paranoid. An eyeglass case is an eyeglass case, it’s tiny and specific.

  51. LLK80*

    The placement of it seems very deliberate … definitely not an oversight or some such. Even if someone found it on the ground near the desk and thought “oh, maybe this is LW’s,” I’ll just put it here …. still wouldn’t be all tucked in like it is. Very strange and not funny.

    1. linear*

      Placement seems normal to me… I always line things up like that. It’d be more ominous to me if it was laying smack dab in the middle where it was obvious.

  52. hbc*

    There’s only one innocent explanation here, and that’s someone picking it up off the floor thinking it belonged to OP and didn’t want it to get eaten by the vacuum or something. And in that case, they’d have volunteered that innocent explanation as soon as it was known. (Whoever dropped the casing might never know, given what people are saying about them jumping around like bedbugs on speed, but at least we’d have the explanation for the desk placement.)

    Anything else, no excuse. I don’t care that casings can’t hurt anyone–you don’t leave stuff related to weapons lying around. I would never bring my foam practice nunchuks out at work even though they’re completely incapable of hurting anyone, because 1) not everyone can see that at a distance, 2) not everyone can even tell up close, and 3) not surprisingly, many people have a visceral response to Weapon-y Things. If you can’t keep those things in mind, you have no business training to be lethal to your fellow human beings.

    1. Lee*

      Could’t it have accidentally fallen out of a pocket or purse of someone, rolling on the desk of the OP sideways until it collided with the base of their screen?

      1. hbc*

        And just happened to roll to line up exactly with the edge of the monitor? Okay, yeah, possible, just like it’s possible that it got wedged in the acoustic tiles when work was being performed last week and it finally fell when someone slammed the office door really hard.

        But then you’d still be with someone who shoots guns and visited the desk during the time OP was in a meeting not making the connection that maybe that was her spent shell. Which leads us back to a clueless office mate with a gun.

        1. Jessie*

          Ignoring the snark for a moment: I just did an experiment. I took a round metal pen cap roughly the same size as the casing in the photo and dropped it on my desk near my monitor. It promptly rolled over and lined up right next to the stand.

          1. Leatherwings*

            I think OP probably gets the picture; it could totally have been an accident.

            It could have also have been placed there intentionally as a threat. We don’t know. I think perhaps it’s best for strangers on the internet to cease pontificating about how the casing ended up there because it’s impossible to know.

            1. Jessie*

              It might help the OP to breathe a little bit easier. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with rationally discussing alternative scenarios. Because your’e right, there’s a very strong possibility that no one will ever know where it came from, even if a police report is filed and other steps are taken by security.

    2. Jessie*

      The fact that it’s a used casing also lends to it being an accident. Someone went to the range and the casing got caught in their shirt collar, hoodie, whatnot and it fell out at work. Those things happen more often than not, although it’s generally considered a good idea to give yourself a good shake afterward.

      1. fposte*

        As discussed upthread, though, the fact that it could be an accident doesn’t mean it’s not a threat. And it makes sense to take practical steps about the threat possibility when there’s a reasonable chance it exists.

        I get that casings mean nothing when you’re handling guns, but not everybody making threats is going to parse materiel the way sober users do, and I think it’s a mistake to assume it couldn’t be threatening because such items usually aren’t in your world. (In fact, I can find some instances where they *have* been used as threats.)

      2. neverjaunty*

        “These things happen more often than not”? I shoot occasionally and have friends who shoot regularly, and I have never, ever heard of anyone going shooting at the range, getting brass caught in their clothing, and then wearing that clothing, unwashed, to the office later on. Much less it just happening to drop on a co-worker’s desk.

        1. KR*

          Just because it’s never happened to you or a friend doesn’t mean it isn’t commonplace for other people.

          1. neverjaunty*

            It is actually commonplace for other people to 1) get brass caught in their clothing at the range, 2) wear that clothing to their office job, regardless of how clean it is after being at the range, and without having washed it such that any brass ‘caught in the collar’ would be disloged, and 3) that brass just happening to fall out, at least, on a co-worker’s desk where those people just happen to be near in the co-worker’s absence?


            1. KR*

              Weirder things have happened, I’m sure. I don’t think either of us know for sure whether it’s truly a threat.

    3. Deb*

      Some of us are simply (and very politely, btw) pointing out that, in many locales, bullet casings are commonly seen items. Far more common than bedbugs on speed. But thanks for the image.

      1. fposte*

        Though some people are suggesting that they therefore couldn’t be used to threaten anybody, which is an untenable claim.

      2. Megs*

        And I’m actually glad that people have pointed that out (the polite ones, at least), because it is so completely out of the norm where I’m from, I would probably have panicked as well. It’s easy to get caught up in one’s own context to the point that it’s impossible to see that things could possibly be otherwise, but the number of people disagreeing on what’s “normal” here is a great example that norms really do vary quite a lot.

      3. animaniactoo*

        If the OP lived in such an area, what do you think the odds are that they’d be that freaked out by finding this on their desk?

        1. fposte*

          I live in such an area, and I’d be really thrown by finding this on my desk. So I don’t think OP’s freakout proves that it couldn’t be an accident, but I also don’t think the possibility of accident means that the OP should dismiss the possibility of a threat.

          1. animaniactoo*

            Valid point – my main thing so far has been that the fact that it’s a possibility doesn’t mean it’s a likelihood, and pushing back against the tide of “oh, it’s probably just” and “this is completely normal in my area/experience/etc.”

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, I understood where you were standing generally. I’m always messing with eddies within the tides :-).

        2. Leatherwings*

          I grew up in a rural gun savvy area. I have handled guns myself, I know what a casing looks like. I would have had the exact same reaction as OP. 100%.

  53. Heaven's Thunder Hammer*

    Wow, this makes the time someone put charcoal in my desk during the Holiday season seem pretty goddamn tame in comparison.

    Can you report this to the police and have the bullet casing analyzed for prints?

  54. LibraryChick*

    I think this is very worth taking seriously. OP, if you feel threatened, you have every right to feel that way! And sometimes I think the subject of safety can be difficult to introduce when there haven’t been any threats or “incidents” in a workplace. About a year ago my work place had experienced a couple rounds of layoffs. I was in a meeting where we were trying to figure out what we could do for maximum coverage using the employees left. I brought up a safety concern when it was proposed that we would have one person working alone some of the time on certain floors of an unsecured building. I literally got laughed at, and my boss made a sarcastic comment asking whether or not I was in need of a “babysitter”. I was taken aback at the time, and spent a couple of weeks very upset that no one had taken my concern seriously. Then, about a month later, that same boss was beaten and mugged as he was getting out of his car. I felt terrible that he had gone through such a horrible ordeal, but after that the issue of safety was a regular discussion at meetings.

    1. Meg Murry*

      Yes, I think you were entirely reasonable to point that out. I’ve worked multiple places that had a “no one in the building alone” policy, or “security makes rounds every hour after X:00”, not because of worry about an outside threat, but more because it really isn’t hard to trip and fall, accidentally cut yourself or have a medical emergency like a heart attack or diabetic shock that could be very dangerous if you were in the building by yourself and didn’t have someone to call for help for you, or could turn a situation that would be bad if left alone for an hour to far worse or even fatal if left alone overnight.

      Bringing this back to OP – OP do you ever have to work by yourself, or where you are the only person in your section of offices? Do you walk back and forth to a remote parking area alone, etc? One concrete thing you can do is ask that your schedule is aligned so that you aren’t the first one in or last one out, and ask for a security escort to and from your car, etc. Will that prevent every possible threat? No, but it may help.

  55. Here today, anon tomorrow*

    About 10 years ago, I was working in a government office that had received some death threats and hate mail. One of my staffers was opening the mail, and opened an inter-office envelope that had nothing in it except for a white powder. The label on the envelope was barely legible, but it had been placed in our department’s inbox. I initiated a full emergency shutdown protocol. Immediate law enforcement presence, bomb squad, chem-bio response, quarantine etc. White powder in the mail when you have had threats by constituents before is NO JOKE.

    That said, it turned out to be ceiling tile. Ceiling tile! A person from a nearby department put a chunk of ceiling tile in an interoffice envelope and sent it to another co-worker. I can’t remember why, but there was an entirely plausible explanation at the time (although it was clearly short-sighted). The envelope was labeled poorly, delivered to the wrong department, and along the way, the tile got pulverized into the powder that we opened.

    The situation turned out to be completely innocuous, but I don’t regret our full-scale response at all. When it comes to workplace safety, false alarms are just a great opportunity to practice. Please—don’t hesitate to push for an aggressive response.

  56. Megs*

    I know it’s hard to stop the train, especially when folks jump in without reading other comments first, but sometimes I feel like someone should invent a comment field that auto-populates a survey after a little while to cut down on (often inadvertent) piling on. Although I suppose that’s kind of a like button and I suppose those cause their own issues.

    1. fposte*

      Is there someplace that does this? I’m intrigued, but I can only think of ways it would work satirically: “Click here if you’re indignant about A; here if you’re indignant about B; here if you think it’s all gone downhill since WWII.”

      1. OlympiasEpiriot*

        No, no. no…it has been all downhill since the Spanish Inquisition.

        (You never expect the Spanish Inquisition, eh?)

      2. Megs*

        I was thinking 100% satirical, I’m afraid, but now I’m trying to figure out a way to make it work!

      3. Creag an Tuire*

        “If you are Inspector Internet and have a lengthy manifesto explaining why the OP is lying/completely misunderstanding their own post, please stop filling out this survey and contact the number below. Your deductive reasoning is needed at Scotland Yard.”

  57. Brett*

    I was not sure this was worth mentioning except that you work for a security sales company and security sales companies frequently employ ex-law enforcement officers for credibility.
    On my first day on the job working for as a civilian for a police department, someone left a bullet on my desk. Not just a casing, but a bullet. Being the _only_ one in the office without a previous law enforcement background, I asked my co-workers what it was about.

    Turned out, at least in our region (so I have no idea if this occurs elsewhere, but it is true for several very large metropolitan departments in the midwest), leaving a bullet on an employee’s desk means “I’ve got your back.” Basically a variant of “I’ll take a bullet for you.” It is particularly a tradition among older employees, so if the OP works with retired law enforcement officers, this might be the opposite of a malicious meaning.
    But it was always an entire cartridge, not just a casing, so that is different (but maybe different areas have the same tradition slightly modified).

    The reason this particular tradition might matter, is that this makes it more worthwhile for OP to talk to her co-workers to find out if any of them were responsible.

    Related to that, if there are ex-LEOs in the office, talking to them might be a good idea. They would both know right away if this was likely not a malicious token and they would know the next steps to navigate a police report and other steps to ensure the OP is safe.

    1. Brett*

      (Also, the tradition had something to do with Barney Fife, but I never understood what that meant even though I knew the reference.)

    2. fposte*

      Now that’s an interesting viewpoint. I don’t think the OP should stop pursuing the threat angle, but your idea of checking with any ex-LEOs in her org seems like a good one to me.

    3. Aurion*

      Huh, this site teaches me so many things.

      The OP has already escalated this up the chain so presumably all the coworkers (ex-LEO or not) would hear about it. But this interpretation is the most hopeful one I’ve heard so far of all the innocuous ones. I really hope this is the explanation behind it.

    4. Case of the Mondays*

      I can’t believe I didn’t think of that. Some military members do this too. My husband is a LEO and we have several bullets in our house that were exchanged with similar intentions. One is in his bedside table from a close military friend. One is on a bar in our family room from another agent in a joint task force. They are full bullets though, not just casings.

    5. Brett*

      A bit of anecdotal research among a few more military and police people, and I found that bullet clubs and bullet exchanges are a real, though dated, thing. They might have evolved into challenge coins.

      (And the original idea was supposedly that every member carried an extra bullet in case captured by the enemy.)

    6. Aisling*

      This is such a nice, well-reasoned response! I’ve got a LEO in the family who is also working security, and I can’t believe I didn’t think about the probability of LEO’s at the OP’s workplace. I’d definitely ask them as well.

  58. 2horseygirls*

    Nothing really to add perspective wise, but I strongly recommend reading “The Gift of Fear” by Gavin deBecker.

    It contains, among other invaluable information, a list of 30 Pre-Incident Indicators (PINs); the more you can recognize in a variety of relationships/interactions (romantic, friendship, workplace, neighbors, etc.), the more likely that the relationship will become violent. pp. 183-185,…/dp/0440226198

    This list appears WELL into the book, after DeBecker discusses a lot of other behaviors and warning signs, so you can logically piece it all together. And deBecker designed the threat assessment system MOSAIC®, used by the United States Supreme Court Police for threats against the Justices, and by the United States Capitol Police for screening threats directed toward members of Congress, so for me, he certainly has the credentials to make these empirical observations that have been used in over 37,000 cases.

    1. JennyFair*

      This book is totally on my to-read list, and hopefully I will get to it before I need it. *ponders priorities*

  59. dbp*

    Gun owners are not doing themselves any favors in this thread.

    If someone left an empty bottle marked ‘poison’ on a LW’s desk, would people be falling all over themselves to explain (over and over again) that the bottle is clean and thus can’t harm you, and therefore the LW should chill out? This is like gun nuts going ape demanding people reference the exact specific correct gun model a mass murderer used; it doesn’t matter. We don’t care, and we don’t have to care or know your subculture’s nomenclature to state the obvious.

    Beyond that: if your hobby of playing with a weapon designed to kill things makes trash, you should clean up after yourself and dispose of said trash properly, not randomly fling your trash around an office and then pretend like it’s no big deal. Dudes, even if your hobby were a completely innocuous one, it’s still gross to fling your trash around. (Side note: I am sick of washing your coffee mugs in the break room sink.)

    1. Case of the Mondays*

      I’m a pro reasonable gun control person from a gun owning family. I just wanted to make one comment about knowing a model etc. I think when politicians are proposing restrictive legislation, they lose a lot of ground when they can’t “talk the talk.” So may people think AR stands for Automatic Rifle or Assault Rifle when it actually stands for ArmaLite. The AR is not automatic or an assault rifle. If politicians want to ban something, they need to understand what they are banning. If you say banning an automatic/assault rifle would have stopped the bad guy with an AR then you don’t actually know what you are talking about. Lots of gun owners are in favor of reasonable restrictions but they need to first be factually correct or else they fail to serve their purpose.

    2. KR*

      Alison stated up thread that she doesn’t want this to be a debate on gun control. I doubt anyone on this specific thread is the one who put or dropped the casing there, so your tone is really inappropriate.

    3. Anon for this discussion*

      Wow. This is harsh and dismissive and rude. The reason gun owners are picky about the “nomenclature” is because the term “assault rifle” doesn’t mean anything real, except in politics and it’s also irrelevant to this OPS concern.

      The OPS concern is real and the situation would cause me (a gun owner) to escalate in the same way she did and I know what a spent casing is, I know that it is not dangerous and I even know that in some circumstances it’s innocuous. I wouldn’t consider this innocuous and would err on the side of caution.

      Also, I don’t “play” with weapons, thank you very much.

    4. Student*

      I agree with you. If you have a hobby that makes trash, it’s not okay to leave that trash on a co-worker’s desk. That’s toddler behavior. I am astonished at the people who’ve said they think it’s okay for bullet casings to be left all over and are bending over backwards to try to explain this as some sort of bizarre accident or weird friendship ritual.

      I don’t care if your friendship rituals involve bullets, per se. I care if you think you can leave bullets or used casings or whatnot around and expect everyone else to magically divine that your weapons trash is some sort of friendship gift or casual accident. You’re not a cat, for goodness sake, leaving a friendly dead bird offering out for a person to find. If you want to do that kind of thing, fine, but use your words! Write a note explaining your intentions, at bare minimum. The common understanding is that bullets are a tool that you kill things with! There is no common understanding that bullets or casings are the equivalent of gum-wrappers trash or friendship bracelets.

    5. JustALurker*

      THANK YOU for the point about trash!!! If casings=trash, why would anyone leave it on a co-workers’ desk? If it accidentally fell out of a pocket why not pick it up when you hear it hit a surface? When a casing (metal) falls it makes noise doesn’t it? Some of these “explanations” are just weird. If someone left any kind of trash on my desk I would wonder WTF??? Trash isn’t a “valentine” or a “love letter”.

  60. Meg Murry*

    So in case anyone reads this far, I think one of the lessons in this thread given the number of times this scenario has been posed is: If you find something on the floor that you think might belong to the person at the desk nearest it, at least leave a post-it that says “Found this on the floor next to your desk, is it yours? -Name”. Because if that really is the explanation for how this ended up on OP’s desk, it would have gone over 1000 times better with that accompanying note.

    1. Blusher*

      Agree with you 100%

      On a lighter note than this post, the same goes if you had found a piece of jewelry (the desk owner make think it is an anonymous romantic gesture) or an orange that rolled near a desk (the desk owner make think it is a stab at their diet or weight) or even a pen…. you don’t want to be caught red handed by a pen nazi by someone just tossing it on your desk!

      I remember once I came back from lunch to a single flower on my desk – no note or anything. I got all flustered because I thought a coworker must’ve been in love with me and was leaving a present. Well it turns out that the flower was getting passed from person to person because a coworkers ex dropped it off for her and she didn’t want to keep or toss it. A sticky note saying “Jane got this flower and doesn’t want it, thought you may like to have it” would’ve saved me a whole lot of grief!

    2. neverjaunty*

      Right? Or an email afterward saying “hey, just so you know, I found a rice sculpture clip on the floor and put it on your desk”.

  61. Argh!*

    I would be concerned but not terrified. First, I would ask coworkers about it in case they can explain it.

    Going up the chain is a good idea, but sometimes the people in the chain just don’t respond the way they should. I am unfortunately speaking from experience here. Whoever did this needs to be talked to… firmly… by someone in authority who can affect their life in some significant way.

    Talking to the police is a good idea. They may not consider it a crime but they can give you better advice than HR can.

  62. I'm Not Phyllis*

    What matters here is that OP feels unsafe and (unless I’m mistaken?) feels that her employer’s response to her concerns was inadequate. Personally, I’d be pretty upset if I came back from a meeting to find a bullet, or a casing, or anything gun-related sitting on my desk. It may be normal in some workplaces, but it sure isn’t normal in mine, and judging by OP’s reaction it’s not normal in hers. I would start with your HR department and explain that you’re feeling unsafe. Ask them what they’re going to do re: security. If you don’t get an answer you’re comfortable with, ask that the police be brought in. If HR refuses, bring them in yourself. And don’t let anyone (here or in your workplace) tell you that you have no right to feel what you’re feeling.

    1. Betty Sapphire*

      +1 +1 +1 +1

      OP, I’m keeping you in my best thoughts. I think you are completely valid in your feelings. I have no experience with handling guns and, combined with recent news stories, I would see this as either a threat or a terribly played-out joke and I would react the same way. PLEASE give us an update when you are able to.

    2. TempestuousTeapot*

      Exactly! Be safe and do what helps you to feel safe, OP. It is completely irrelevant how innocuous it may turn out to be. It’s just not appropriate to leave something like that on another’s desk, period. Especially lacking in any context. I’m also in the contact the police camp. Best wishes for you.

      I do have experience with guns/firearms and bullets/ordnance, and this is just not done. Not in an office, not as a prank.

    1. superblarg*

      Yes! So does the FBI. So does the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Threats are Workplace Violence.

  63. JennyFair*

    It would not have occurred to me to feel threatened by a casing, and I would be likely to assume that it had been found near my desk and placed there to avoid a tripping hazard, or that someone noticed that I had a casing on my desk already (I did until I came to this job, it was memorabilia) and wanted to add to my collection, or some other mistake had led to it. But you’d probably have to inscribe my name on an actual bullet (not yet fired) for me to understand it as a threat and even then I still might think I was meant to make jewelry out of it. *However* my feelings on the subject are undoubtedly colored by the fact that I live, and have always lived, in a somewhat rural, conservative area, my coworkers discuss guns often, my parents were in law enforcement, I’ve been the worst shot in my family since before my kids reached their teens, and shootings around here tend to be unplanned, heat-of-the-moment things. Also no one in my life is giving me skeevy vibes. If I lived in an inner city, law-abiding gun owners were rare and shootings were common, or something else was making me uncomfortable, I might find a random casing threatening. My hope for you, OP, is that your employer decides to be responsive, and the casing has an innocent explanation.

  64. AnAppleADay*

    I’ve seen lipsticks in casings like that. That was the first think that popped in my head when I saw the photo.

    However, it doesn’t sound like there is any lipstick in this one.

    I would:
    1. Fill out a police report
    2. Rally your coworkers to approach management about installing the very products you sell/install etc. I find it extremely odd that your office isn’t using the very security products in your office areas!

    Good Luck OP. I hope this works out for the best and it turns out to not be any kind of intent to harm. In the meantime, you have to keep yourself safe until it is resolved. You did all the right things so far.

  65. Biff*

    Uh, I don’t think that this was necessarily ‘placed’ on the desk as a threat. Right next to the monitor is where I’d put anything I found on the ground that I thought belonged to a particular workstation. It’s quite possible that whomever picked this up didn’t know what it was and simply placed it on the desk in an obvious spot, thinking it was important to the person who occupied the workstation.

    I feel like ‘threat’ would be more on keyboard or placed horizontally in front of the monitor.

  66. Old Admin*

    OK, I just talked to *Mr* OldAdmin, a former soldier and security guard:
    – He says the picture is very small, but it looks like ammo from a hunting rifle, such as a .38 .
    – He thinks cleaning service wouldn’t have put it on the desk like that, but either dumped or reported it.
    – Also, in his view – with the orderly placement – this is a serious threat towards either the OP, or perhaps the company itself, seeing it manufactures/sells security systems.
    – It would be a very bad joke (as in possibly fireable offense).
    – He would *definitely* report to the police. In addition, if this is in the US, threats like this within a security related company could conceivably interest other authorities.
    Just the 2 cents of a person with some experience, hope this helps.

    1. CA Admin*

      Thanks for this perspective–I hope the OP reads your comment. I’m not thrilled with everyone twisting themselves into knots trying to explain how this is ok. If whoever put it there didn’t mean any harm, then reporting to the police won’t be a problem. If they did mean harm, then reporting to the police is a must. Why is this controversial?

  67. That's odd*

    So, if you are in a security business, it is entirely possible two or more people were discussing bullets and guns and left that behind accidentally. It could’ve been a personal conversation and no big deal.

    I find them all over my house, my husband reloads bullets. I currently have one in my medicine cabinet next to my deodorant.

    I think jumping to someone must hate you is a little extreme.

    1. Anon Moose*

      No. People of marginalized groups- women, lgbt people, minorities- often HAVE to jump to conclusions out of safety. Given recent workplace shootings and hate crimes and even the prevalence of domestic violence murders… seeing to your safety first if its even the remotest possibility this is a violent threat is what you have to do. And with the timing especially. People are more worried about guns and things to do with guns this week. Whatever you think about guns personally, that is a fact.
      Don’t say “you’re being too sensitive.” No. Abundance of caution is much safer, and we don’t know anything else about OP’s situation or context.

    2. Observer*

      You really think that security professionals are going to have a conversation about bullets at a third person’s desk and be so sloppy as to actually leave a casing at this third person’s desk? Talk about extreme reactions!

      1. pescadero*


        …but then I live near a city where people getting accidentally shot by LE service weapons left lying around loaded by the officer is a pretty much yearly occurrence.

  68. LabTech*

    I’m bothered by how contrived the scenarios are for this gun shell to be there on accident. I’ll admit, I’m not a gun owner, but why is there such a strong insistence on an innocent explanation when we can’t assume that’s the case based on the limited information? Especially when not taking this threat seriously can have much more severe consequences than the alternative? Investigating this threat further and finding out it’s nothing isn’t going to hurt anyone.

    As tired as many are of this word, I think it comes down to privilege. As a Muslim American I’d be terrified to see this on my desk – particularly if I had coworkers who seemed … less than thrilled about religious tolerance or an office where gun culture weren’t present. It would be dangerously naive of me to assume otherwise. This could also easily be the case for other racial minorities, LGBT folk, and women (particularly women who have dealt with domestic violence). Context of OP’s office environment matters here.

    1. Anon Moose*

      It doesn’t really matter if randomcommenterX is more comfortable with guns and ammo and would not be threatened by this. Not all people are randomcommenterX, or have the same context as them. Certain groups of people have to be more vigilant. We just do. And this was less than a week after a horrific hate crime/mass shooting in Orlando, and there’s lots of terrible hate stuff going around politically at the moment. What matters that the OP is really really worried about this, for whatever reason and does not feel safe. “Innocent” explanations should be investigated maybe, but not at the expense of OP being and feeling safe.

    2. Katniss*

      Thank you to you and others in this thread mentioning the genuine and reasonable fear minority groups might feel in reaction to this.

    3. Jaguar*

      They aren’t really contrived, though. And for my sake, when I’m freaking out about something, having alternate explanations for a situation are often very helpful. I don’t think I would immediately take it as a threat if I saw a spent casing on my desk (although, who knows how I would react in the moment?), but I can also understand how many people, like the OP and yourself, would be seriously alarmed by it, so I’d never do what the culprit in the letter did.

      The OP should absolutely take the threat seriously. If someone finds a growth on them in a cancer area, suggesting that it might not be cancer isn’t the same thing as saying don’t go to a doctor and seek a diagnosis. It’s getting someone that’s understandably terrified to step back and see things from a healthier perspective. The cancer threat (like the violence threat in the letter) is very real and should be taken very seriously, but it’s still helpful to calm down and look at it from all perspectives.

      1. Jaguar*

        I think it comes down to what people see the purpose of the comment section being. If it’s for advice (and this is an advice blog), getting as many perspectives as possible is good (and this backlash against it is unhelpful). If it’s for support, giving perspectives like “it might not be a threat” would be destructive and invalidating towards the OP’s fears (or even other poster’s fears).

        1. Aurion*

          Personally, I am absolutely for this comment section serving as advice, and not just support. I think Alison walks the fine line between advice and support really well, and very pragmatic to boot. (For example, I think Captain Awkward’s comment section skews too far towards “support the OP 10000%” from what I remember of it.)

          That being said, I feel like shrugging off this incident as “no big deal” is too dismissive given recent events. I can accept wholeheartedly comments that are along the lines of “[possible other explanation] but be cautious and look into it further/report it up the chain”, but comments that are “wow, I think you’re overreacting, this is totally normal” seems very tone deaf to me. Though not harmful by itself, a bullet casing is associated with a deadly weapon. Given the OP’s reaction and the casing showing up mid-day, this is not a workplace where guns are routinely discussed/shown around the OP. This is abnormal to her, even if it’s normal for other people. And I think ignoring that context does the comments a disservice, even in the name of offering perspective.

          1. Jaguar*

            Yeah, I agree. I think the “this is no big deal” comments are gross. “This might not be a big deal” is an entirely different message, though.

          2. Ultraviolet*

            Yes, totally agreed with your second paragraph–one of the things I find most discouraging and off-putting about this conversation is the way so many comments are ignoring what we know about the context. Now, do we know everything about the context? No, but OP’s reaction to the casing is a big clue! The fact that they perceive it as a threat should impact our estimates of the likelihood that it was left there by accident. OP clearly thinks there’s a low probability the casing was left there by accident, and OP’s estimate of that probability takes into account things we can’t possibly assess as well as they can, like how many guns are onsite, whether people wear the same kind of clothes to this office as they’d likely wear to a shooting range, how many people walk past OP’s desk in a day (giving the casing the opportunity to fall out of their pocket), etc.

            I mean, I think it’s useful for people to say, “You might not realize this if you’re not a gun user, but when you’re at the shooting range spent casings fly everywhere and can end up stuck in your coat or backpack. Given that, do you think the casing could have been accidentally dropped on your desk by a coworker?” But just saying, “If I found a casing on my desk I wouldn’t worry at all! You’re probably wrong” is pointless and rude. It’s really helpful when we can all bring our own perspective here and apply it to the OP’s situation. It’s not helpful if we bring our own perspective and apply it to something other than the OP’s situation, or to a less complete picture of OP’s situation than is presented in the letter.

        2. fposte*

          I don’t think it’s an either/or, though. I lean more toward the advice side, but I think advice still has to take the listener into consideration, and still has to be written in a way that surmounts the gap between intention and words floating on a screen. If your sister, best friend, whatever, meets you for dinner and starts crying because she’s so afraid of her workplace, saying flatly “There’s no danger there” and going back to your veal scaloppine may be accurate information, but it’s a failure as advice because it doesn’t consider the listener.

          Good advice-givers can give information that causes questioners to rethink the situation; it doesn’t mean they always have to accept everything unquestioningly. But good advice givers also pay attention to context cues and advise so that people can listen. (Have a look at that AAM interview with hildi, for example. She’s somebody who’s brilliant at giving advice that may be hard to take but in a way that’s 100% clear she’s on your side.)

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            This is really well said. I come down firmly on the side of the whole site being for advice, but that it also needs to be kind.

            “On your side” is a really good way to look at it, and it’s one reason that I’m getting frustrated with the adversarial tone some comments are taking.

            1. fposte*

              I do think a lot of it is the screen vs. face to face, so that good intent isn’t always expressed in a way that others can hear, and that the effect magnifies when there are more comments, because the conversation feels less direct.

            2. Mookie*

              Alison, in a subthread above this one there was discussion about a sticky at the top of comments encouraging appropriate behavior. Perhaps fposte’s advice to remember to Be on the Commenter’s Side / Look Out For Their Interests and Stated Needs could be incorporated?

              I’ve been reading for ages, participating for not very long, but I love the camaraderie here and self-policing. Even during the last few weeks, I feel that the regulars and helpful lurkers provided balance and got the derailing discussions back on track (and did so with humor, grace, and insight). This is still a great community full of very interesting, diverse, and seasoned people, and I’m sure it can accommodate more as it and you gain a higher profile.

        3. neverjaunty*

          Even if it’s for advice (and I think that’s a fair characterization), ‘as many perspectives as possible’ is not a good standard – the mere fact that someone’s opinion is different or one of many does not make it inherently valuable or worthy of airing.

          1. Jaguar*

            Sure, but it’s a public forum. I’m not sure how far you’ll get asking people to refrain from posting opinions the letter writer won’t want.

            1. fposte*

              I don’t think that’s what neverjaunty was saying–I think she meant that more opinions are not inherently better. This conversation would not be enriched by having David Icke chime in that the shell casing was left by lizard people.

              And public forums aren’t shapeless vessels filled with whatever is draining–they have their own characters and gestalts. Reddit isn’t tumblr isn’t Usenet, and forums/groups/subreddits have their own personalities, too. Increasing size is always a challenge, but so far AAM has stayed between bounds most of the time with only the occasional ref call or timeout.

    4. Margaret*

      I think a reality check isn’t unreasonable in an advice context – e.g., in a recent letter about the bad intern who was related to a higher up – the letter writer stated she “couldn’t” fire him, and the advice request was more about how handle the situation given that assumption. Yet many people – including Alison’s answer! – questioned that assumption. That in their experience, that assumption’s not necessarily true. Tone and approach to bringing that up matter, but it’s not inherently downplaying how frustrating the situation is to the letter writer or calling them dumb for coming to that assumption, it’s just bringing another perspective, one which could totally alter the best approach to the situation. I think those bringing up the possibility (in a non demeaning way, and still providing that further exploring of reporting and/or protections won’t hurt anything) that this isn’t threat is really the same thing as that.

  69. A-native-mous*

    It seems that there are several possibilities what is actually happening to the OP in this thread.

    Maybe someone found it on the floor and thought it was the OP’s. Perhaps someone found it on the floor and thought it was part of the OP’s desk or computer etc. Perhaps it was someone’s way of saying “I have your back.” Maybe it was a threat, we don’t know and all of those options seem plausible.

    On another note. I couldn’t help but notice in this thread is how some people feel it’s acceptable to be intolerant of another culture; gun culture in particular. I find those comments to be intolerant and offensive. I’m Native American and I’ve experienced what it’s like to be hated and disliked just because I’m a member of a different culture. I’m seeing the same undercurrent of intolerance in this thread directed at people from gun culture and it’s wrong. Imagine the outrage if someone were to post or imply that they are intolerant of Native American culture, LGBT culture or Jewish culture. There would be a huge outcry for those comments to be removed and the person banned from the site. But when someone posts that they are intolerant of gun culture little objection is raised. It seems that some people here believe that intolerance is fine as long as it’s not directed at them or their preferred cultures. Perhaps we are not as enlightened and open minded as we would like to believe.

    1. LabTech*

      I’m sorry, but there’s a fundamental difference between race/religion/sexual orientation, and what amounts to a hobby. You cannot equate inclination for ownership of a weapon with the struggles of historically under-represented/oppressed groups.

      1. Srs Bsns*

        Oh my god, thank you! Gun owners are not some marginalized group in the US of A. Their lobby groups wield immense political power. Gun ownership is enshrined in the constitution. There are literally more guns than people in this country. Reading some of the comments on this post, I feel like I’m losing my damn mind. And to say that Gun owners face the same prejudices that POC or LGBT people do? Really? Orlando JUST happened. But I’m supposed to shed a tear for “gun culture” when they’re putting people in the ground. (I’m sorry Alison @AAM, I know you didn’t want to see this discussion continue, but this is honestly a bridge too far.)

      2. July*


        and I am not anti-gun ownership but to equate a CHOICE to be invested in “gun culture” as opposed to being born into a marginalized group is absolute absurd.

    2. Macedon*

      Gun culture is strongly associated with the primary purpose of guns — shooting. Damage. Murder. The US, which is the primary readership of this blog, has a thorough tradition of misfortune with gun use, including a very recent, well-publicised and hurtful event. You can’t really compare the perception of ethnic cultures with that of gun culture.

      1. Jaguar*

        It’s regional culture, and of course you can compare that to ethnic cultures. If I give someone the middle finger in England, it doesn’t mean the same thing as doing it here.

        I’m not religious and there’s many things I find highly objectionable (and violent) about all Abrahamic religions. To me, there’s no difference between “liking guns” and “liking God.” I don’t see why I should treat them differently (keeping in mind that I’m talking about understanding and tolerance of both).

        1. Macedon*

          Actually, the middle finger gets the same reception in the UK.

          I’ll be honest: I had a long graph about how you can equate liking something explicitly created to kill with liking religion, particular community habits, etc — but I strongly feel this post has been sufficiently derailed with talk pro and against gun culture, speculation about whether OP is overreacting, and even complaints about the derailment.

          In light of that, to condense my point: to you, there is no difference between liking something not explicitly designed to kill and something that is explicitly designed to kill. A high number of people disagree, and we might be speaking of intolerance of their part, if their dislike didn’t relate to objects explicitly designed to kill.

        2. LabTech*

          Well, no society has ever committed genocide on the basis of gun ownership. One is a lifestyle whose traditions span millennia – and for whom the minority often faces oppression – and the other is a hobby.

        3. July*

          It’s regional culture, and of course you can compare that to ethnic cultures.

          No you cannot. It’s a choice. Not everyone in certain regions is into this hobby just because all your friends are.

    3. Gaia*

      Well, as someone who has been a victim of gun violence, I find it pretty offensive that you would compare gun ownership with LGBT, race, religion or gender. Gun ownership is a hobby. It is not the core of who you are as a person.

      And before you go there, I fully support gun rights. My family all owns guns. While I don’t own a gun, I shoot regularly.

  70. Macedon*

    Hi, OP. Not sure if you’ll get through all these comments, but here’s another one: please speak to your HR folks to send out an e-mail (or to carry a conversation, whatever they prefer) to your co-workers asking if anyone knows anything about this casing and its arrival on your desk. It could be that it turns out it’s one of the countless scenarios already listed, it could be you get no new information at all. Either way, if you decide to approach the police about this, they are likely to ask if you took any steps to inquire.

    Likewise, try to review the following questions: have there been any changes in the make-up of your office group? New arrivals? Anyone due to leave soon? While you are not aware of being in conflict with anyone at work, were you previously? What about at home? Were you recently promoted or privy to some kind of privilege that might make you the target of jealousy in your office? Have you noticed any other unusual incidents recently? I am not encouraging you to do any kind of sleuthing — please leave that to professionals. This is just to prepare you for the kind of questions you might be posed, if you decide to speak to the police about this.

    When discussing potential safety measures that could be taken to help you, use polite, but firm words. You feel ‘unsafe’, not ‘a little uncomfortable’. You want to remove ‘risk to your person’, not ‘inconvenience’. You have been entertaining the possibility that someone ‘could be out to cause you physical harm’, not that someone ‘doesn’t like you’. Call a spade a spade, so that your supervisors are reminded again and again that this is serious and they cannot just sweep this under the carpet.

    Best of luck and keep safe. Please update.

  71. Claudia M.*

    Ok, so apparently I’m “gun culture” because I would not see this as a big deal at my workplace.

    I work in state government, and threats are a constant possibility.

    We have A LOT of concealed carry on our campus (of almost 4000 employees) so while weaponry and ammunition are not common,at very least they are not unexpected. We also have a large number of armed security personnel, and an armed investigations law enforcement division officers on campus as well.

    The idea is: how you respond depends on your environment. If this is completely out of left field for where you work, then it makes sense to be freaking out, regardless of your opinions towards guns or gun culture.

  72. Gaia*

    A similar incident happened in the office that shares the building where my office is located. We were notified because we had three police officers patrol our building every day for 3 weeks. We had to show our ID as we entered the building and we were escorted to and from our vehicles (often in groups).

    I cannot explain how terrifying this was, but I am glad the police took it seriously. While workplace shootings are incredibly rare (statistically) they are still terrifying. I am sorry, OP, that this happened. Your fear is founded. Perhaps it was not a threat, but the negatives of taking it too seriously is so much less than the negatives of not taking it seriously enough.

  73. LitS*

    This happened to me too.

    I admire your courage and foresight to alert authorities. That never crossed my mind. For some reason I’ll never understand, I hid the bullet and still keep it as a reminder of just how toxic a work environment can get.

    (I’m a long-time daily lurker. I’ve been too shy to post anything, but I’m just so stunned that this wasn’t an event unique to me. Take care of yourself and be safe.)

  74. Marvel*

    Somehow, in the last couple of days, this has become one of those sites where I link the posts on social media but strongly advise people not to read the comments.

    Which sucks, because the comments here are normally excellent. Is there something in the water?

      1. Marvel*

        I always appreciate how much you do to simultaneously keep the comments sections both dialogue-heavy and carefully moderated. That’s SUCH a difficult line to walk; this kind of thing is bound to happen occasionally.

  75. Min*

    I know I’m late to the party, but having slogged through all of the comments I have a question for those in the “no big deal” camp –

    If one of your loved ones, wife/husband/son/daughter, told you that they came back from a meeting to find a spent casing on their desk, would you honestly be so sanguine about it? No snark or sarcasm here, I’m sincerely curious.

    1. Old Admin*

      I second that.
      I have worked in various countries, and tried imagining in each country in turn how I would react to a casing on my office desk:
      – Italy (widespread hunting): freak out, think of Cosa Nostra activity.
      – Malta (crazy illegal hunting, poaching, bird netting): freak out, think of disaffected hunters, angry neighbors, weirdo local politicians.
      – Germany (strictest gun laws of the world): extra freak out (who the heck has a gun in this country!)
      – USA (big gun culture): freak out exactly *because* anybody can have a gun.

      What I am trying to say with this heavy handed list is that *I personally* cannot conceive of a place or circumstances where a random casing on my *office desk* would not disquiet me. It simply is completely out of context, regardless of the surrounding culture.
      Please bear in mind this is not the office of a shooting range, a hunter’s home office, a sports bar, your garage etc. etc.
      It’s a cubicle farm in a serious 9 to 5 office. Doesn’t belong there.

      I also am hoping for an update here.


    2. A Non*

      I’d take my cue from the family member – I trust them to make appropriate judgements about whether someone is trying to threaten them. My goal in saying “by the way, casings are NBD to me in my current situation” is to add perspective and hopefully help people avoid panic, not to say that they’re overreacting or shouldn’t take precautions. Some people (and I’m not referring to the OP here, just people in general) treat anything associated with guns like it’s an escaped zoo animal, which can distract from evaluating the threat posed by another person.

    3. Sunshine*

      I think it all depends on what you’re used to. If you’ve been around guns, or have friends/relatives who hunt or shoot, no it probably wouldn’t be a big deal. But if not, I can see where someone might freak out over it, especially in light of recent events. However, there IS the possibility that it was innocently placed on the desk by someone who found it on the floor. Case in point from my own experience:
      Last century, before Orlando, before Sandy Hook, before Columbine, before all of them, back when we were still (relatively) innocent, my late husband was a New York City Police Officer. In those days before speed loaders (when cops in a gun battle were getting shot while reloading) my husband used to keep extra bullets in his pocket. And they used to fall out all the time. I’d find them in the couch cushions, under the table, even in our bed! It was something of a joke that he’d never get lost if he followed the trail of bullets back home. On his way to work one day he stopped by the park where I’d taken our children. We sat on the bench chatting, then I walked him to the car. On my way back I happened to glance at the bench. I had to chase him before he drove away because, sure enough! there was a bullet on the ground under it. So, yes, while it is unlikely, it IS possible that this was an innocent occurrence.
      PS: A few years later when all the kids in his class were making leather change purses and things for their dads for Father’s Day, our son made his dad a bullet pouch!

  76. Heaven's Thunder Hammer*

    This is definitely a story I’d like an update on later, if possible.

  77. July*

    Even if it was a mistake (I’ve had random casings and bullets end up in my purse or pocket after going range shooting) and someone set it down by accident, this is TERRIBLY unsettling.

  78. TheaterGeek*

    … So much controversy, why??? Because we’re a divided nation – Gun Control vs. NRA culture…
    My personal opinion – Hunting is an archaic tradition in the 21st century, and guns are dangerous to all living things, equally.
    As far as this circumstance is considered, the OP can freak-out if she wants to- it’s her life and her natural reaction- no judgement. Would I freak-out??? Definitely!
    Report it. Tell the police. Stay home from work, maybe. If it freaks out the OP, then it’s important to the OP, and that’s what really counts.
    [This “argument” is so divided, it reminds me of the Civil War – half the country in favor of an offense to basic human rights, half the country opposed. I didn’t even know guns were so widely accepted as part of our “culture.” I thought they went out of style with last war… Oh wait… Yeah, violence is bad, and guns equal violence.]
    Peace, too.


    Been done to me back in 2000: a bullet casing left at my desk. I reported it to my managers, then I got fired shortly thereafter. Official firing excuses: we ran out of projects for you, but verbally told that I should have never reported the bullet, as it was a “joke” from a co-worker.
    Started my own firm a couple months later, been in businesss 16 years and counting.

  80. Just Some Observations*

    I just wanted to put my two cents in. After reading all of the comments on this article, I just wanted to say to the OP (and anyone who’ll read my comment) until someone comes forward and says there’s an innocent explanation for the casing. For example: OP’s co-worker goes to a gun range or hunts or something and somehow the casings got on him/her and one of the casings rolled on the ground toward OP’s desk and a random person picked it up and miss thought it was OP’s since it was close by. Then I think she/he should take this seriously and take safety precautions. It light of the recent of the events involving mass shootings, political and racial turmoil and senseless deaths caused by guns or otherwise, the OP should not be dismissive. Besides, ONLY the OP can decide if she/he needs more protection (i.e. gun) and the OP knows the workplace culture, co-workers, and what he/she looks like etc. that would cause her/him to panic like that, better than we would. Again, just my two cents.

  81. I can't see Russia from my house*

    It’s an interesting perspective I bring to this conversation. I haven’t read through the comments to see if anyone mirrored the sentiment, because AAM’s warning about the heated debate turned me off to seeing what was already written, but, here’s my two cents.

    I live in Alaska, and finding bullets, shell cases, or even seeing someone open carry is not at all uncommon here. I understand the feeling of it being a threat, and being completely freaked out by it, not everybody lives somewhere where guns and hunting are the norm.

    But, as I thought about if i had found something like this on my desk, I couldn’t help but think of what my reaction would be. I’d have checked the caliber to see if I could use it, taken it home if I could, and tossed it in the trash without a second thought if not.

  82. Ann*

    I would like to say that this girl is a bit of a drama queen. I have lived/worked in eight different states and for a variety of industries. (Military wife) I have come across some weird things over the years that you just have to wonder “Where did this come from?” I have found bullets and bullet casings in desk drawers, a used tire in a break room, porn, children’s toys on a factory floor and recently a brand new mouthpiece for a clarinet (no one in the company plays musical instruments). Why this scardy-cat girl did not simply ask her co-workers “Hey, does anybody know where this bullet came from?” is beyond understanding. More than likely it was left behind by a long gone employee and somehow ended up on the floor next to her desk. I see no overt or implied threat in this. Just junk from someone else’s pocket that got left behind.

  83. Ian M*

    It could be, that the shell was a totem or a fidget that they fiddled with constantly, and when they were using your desk they left it behind.
    If it were a threat they would have left it front and center on your desk (look at me) rather than off to the left side of the keyboard.

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