UNC-Chapel Hill faculty member killed in shooting, sparking campus lockdown

A faculty member was dead and a person was in custody Monday after a shooting that shut down the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for three hours and sparked urgent warnings for students to take shelter.

Classes started a week ago, but the shooting led to terror and an eerie quiet during what is usually a joyous and exciting time on the campus.

“This is truly a tragic day for our campus community,” Kevin M. Guskiewicz, chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill, said at an afternoon news conference.

Officials did not release the name of the suspect, because he had not yet been charged, or the victim, whose next of kin were being notified by authorities.

The first call to 911 about a shooting at Caudill Labs, a centrally located facility that focuses on chemistry, came at 1:02 p.m., UNC Police Chief Brian James said at the news conference.

Scores of police officers from other agencies descended upon the campus, some in armored vehicles, while a helicopter buzzed overhead. School leaders quickly canceled classes.

Kevin Guskiewicz, chancellor of UNC-Chapel Hill, said in a news conference that a suspect shot and killed a faculty member in a campus building on Aug 28. (Video: The Washington Post)

The shooting came two days after a gunman in Jacksonville, Fla., went to Edward Waters University, a historically Black college, before killing three people in what authorities said was a racially motivated attack at a Dollar General store. A security guard refused to let the eventual shooter enter that school, the university said.

The suspect in the UNC shooting was apprehended at 2:31 p.m., James said.

It is too early to know a motive, he said at the evening news conference, and investigators were still looking for the firearm used in the shooting. During the lockdown, authorities released a photo of an “armed and dangerous” man and described him as “person of interest.” They did not confirm later whether that man was the suspect in custody.

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (D), an alumnus of the school, pledged in a tweet that “all state resources needed to capture the shooter and protect the UNC campus” would be made available. President Biden was briefed on the shooting, according to a White House statement.

Jackson Gerdes, a sophomore, was walking into a dining hall when he received a university alert on his phone, instructing everyone on the campus to shelter in place.

Gerdes told the staff member who was swiping his student identification card about the alert before rushing up an escalator to the dining hall’s second floor, where a friend found him.

As the pair sat down at a table, students around them started tuning in to local police scanners and scrolling through the anonymous messaging app Yik Yak, trying to find more information. Friends who live in different states texted Gerdes, asking whether he was safe. What stood out to him was the lack of anything going on.

“The campus was a ghost town,” he said. “It was surreal to see and hear nothing happening.”

Guskiewicz said he was pleased with how staffers followed their training and enacted the plan to react to a shooting.

But Kyle Sandino, a junior studying political science and dramatic arts, wanted more communication from the university.

Sandino and his classmates got an emergency alert to take shelter where they were. Their professor tried to lock the classroom door, but the door could not be locked, Sandino said.

It was a bit after 1 p.m. when about 20 geology students, their professor and a teaching assistant hurried into the basement of Mitchell Hall and locked themselves in a room.

The students met with about 10 others from a lab in the building, Sandino told The Washington Post over a messaging app before the all-clear was given.

“You never think that it will happen to you, and perhaps I had similar thoughts, but it happened today,” he said. “It’s happening as I write this, and it can happen to anyone else in this country.”

Guskiewicz said there would be mental health resources for students and staff members.

“The shooting damages the trust and safety that we so often take for granted,” Guskiewicz said.

Nick Anderson contributed to this report.

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