UNC-Chapel Hill faculty member killed in shooting prompts campus lockdown

One teacher is dead and one is in custody after a shooting that shut down the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill for three hours and prompted emergency warnings for students to evacuate.

Classes had started a week earlier, but the shooting had turned into an eerie and eerie silence during what was normally a happy and exciting time on campus.

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

Authorities have not released the suspect’s name because he has not yet been charged, nor the victim’s next of kin, officials said.

UNC Police Chief Brian James said at a news conference that the first call to 911 about a shooting at the Coutil Laboratory, a center that focuses on chemistry, came in at 1:02 p.m.

Hundreds of police officers from other agencies descended on the campus, some in armored vehicles, and a helicopter buzzed overhead. School principals soon canceled classes.

UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said at a news conference that the 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., visited Edward Waters University and killed three people in what authorities said was a racist attack at a Dollar General store. A security guard refused to allow the shooter to enter the school, the university said.

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

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

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North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper (D), an alumnus of the school, Tweet “All state resources necessary to apprehend the shooter and secure the UNC campus” will be available. According to a White House statement, President Biden was briefed on the shooting.

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

Gerdes told the employee who was swiping his student ID about the alert before rushing up the escalator to the cafeteria’s second floor, where a friend spotted him.

As the two sat at the table, students around them began scrolling through the anonymous messaging app Yik Yag, using local police scanners, trying to find more information. Friends who live in different states texted Gerdes asking if he was safe. All he knew was that nothing happened.

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

Kuskiewicz said he was pleased with how the crew followed their training and executed the plan to react to the shooting.

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

Santino and his classmates received an emergency alert to take shelter where they were. Their professor tried to lock the classroom door but was unable to lock the door, Santino said.

After 1 p.m., about 20 geography students, their professor and a teaching assistant rushed into the basement of Mitchell Hall and locked themselves in a room.

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

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“You never think it’s going to happen to you, maybe I had similar thoughts, but it happened today,” he said. “This is happening as I write this, and it could happen to anyone else in this country.”

Guskiewicz said mental health resources will be available to students and staff.

“Shooting damages the trust and security we often take for granted,” Guskiewicz said.

Nick Anderson contributed to this report.

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