UNC faculty member confirmed dead as active shooter shuts down Chapel Hill school

Students received an emergency alert about an ‘armed and dangerous person on or near campus’

Andrea Cavallier,Josh Marcus
Monday 28 August 2023 23:26 BST
UNC shooting suspect arrested after one faculty member confirmed dead

A shooting Monday on the campus of the University of North Carolina (UNC) in Chapel Hill killed a faculty member, according to the university.

“I am devastated by today’s shooting in one of our campus buildings, a place where we conduct our important work of teaching, mentoring, and research every day,” Chancellor Kevin M Guskiewicz said in a statement on Monday. “This shooting damages the trust and safety that we so often take for granted on our campus.”

Police are pictured at the scene of an active shooter situation at UNC Chapel Hill (ABC 11)

The individual was the only person injured in the shooting, police said.

School officials say they will not release the name of the dead faculty member until their next of kin have been notified.

A suspect is in custody, though police declined during a Monday evening press conference to name the man until formal charges have been issued.

“We are sure that it’s him,” UNC police chief Brian James said. “We were able to verify that.”

Earlier in the day, officials released a photo of the man.

Officials say they are still searching for the weapon used in the shooting at Caudill Labs. Chief James said it’s “too early” to know whether the gun was purchased legally.

Police did not elaborate on the suspect’s connection to the dead faculty member.

“We certainly want an opportunity to interview the suspect if that’s possible and to actually have the suspect in custody gives us an opportunity to figure out the why and even the how,” Chief James continued. “It also helps us to uncover a motive and really why this happened today. Why today, why at all? We want to learn from this incident.”

The campus was on lockdown for more than three hours, as officials warned students to shelter in place from an “armed and dangerous” suspect following a call about shots fired.

Campus police issued an “all clear” tweet just after 4pm local time.

A large police presence could be seen near Caudill Labs, near Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower, where a window was seen by news cameras with what appeared to be a bullet hole.

Students were told avoid Caudill Labs building as the investigation continues.

The school’s first alert was sent out just after 1pm. At 1.50pm, officials posted that the shelter-in-place order remained in effect and that it was “an ongoing situation.” About 40 minutes later, the school added a post saying: “Remain sheltered in place. This is an ongoing situation. Suspect at large.”

About two hours after the first alert went out, officers were still arriving in droves, with about 50 police vehicles at the scene and multiple helicopters circling over the school.

One officer admonished two people who tried to exit the student center, yelling, “Inside, now!” About 10 minutes later, law enforcement escorted a group of students out of one of the science buildings, with everyone walking in an orderly line with their hands up.

Two police officers move around a building on the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill campus
(Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

UNC Medical Center was still accepting patients on Monday afternoon despite being on lockdown as a precaution, but it had not received any patients from the incident on campus, according to Alan Wolf, a spokesperson for UNC Health. Outpatient clinics were closed for the day, he said.

Governor Roy Cooper released a statement about the situation.

“My office is in communication with law enforcement and officials at UNC-Chapel Hill who are taking precautions to protect campus following today’s shooting. This is a tragic way to start a new semester and the state will provide any assistance necessary to support the UNC community.”

The report of the shooting and subsequent lockdown paralyzed campus and parts of the surrounding town of Chapel Hill a week after classes began at the state’s flagship public university. The university has approximately 20,000 undergraduate students and 12,000 graduate students.

Several images and videos have emerged from students sheltering in place on campus. Many told ABC11 that they were having trouble getting phone calls out, so they’ve been texting their parents.

One worried mother, Jennifer Reid, shared the conversation she had her son Michael, a student at UNC, on X, formerly known as Twitter, who is sheltering in place on campus.

(Jennifer Reid)

Mr Reid told The Independent that her son told her a SWAT team and officers were right across where he is located.

”No one should have to have these text exchanges with their child bc there’s an active shooter at their school. We have to do more to regulate guns in this country!!!” Ms Reid tweeted.

Samuel Schwartz, whose cousin Alex Schachter was murdered in the 2018 Parkland shooting, said he received video from a friend sheltering in place at UNC at Chapel Hill.

“I’ve got friends who go there and are in hiding right now,” Mr Schwartz tweeted. “They tell me they feel like they want to throw up and they’re watching the cops search the halls. This is daily life in America.”

A student told TV station WTVD that she had barricaded her dormitory door with her furniture. Another student, speaking softly, described hiding in fear with others in a dark bathroom.

Noel T Brewer, a professor of health behavior, said he was once held at gunpoint in his mother’s jewelry store, but that Monday’s apparent shooting and lockdown was “far more stressful.”

Speaking from his locked office where he hid with other colleagues, Mr Brewer, 57, said by phone that he was getting little information.

Mr Brewer, a married father of two young children, said he felt for anyone who might have been shot.

“But even in our own building, the students who are locked down and what they’re thinking about — it’s just a lot. It’s a terrible situation,” said Mr Brewer.

It was also the first day of kindergarten for Mr Brewer’s five-year-old son. His elementary school was also on lockdown.

“He doesn’t know what’s going on. And at some point, he’s going to realize that he hasn’t gotten on the bus when he’s supposed to,” he said.

Mr Brewer, who also has a two-year-old added: “My husband and I have been trading texts and trying to figure out what to do … Just wondering how our kids are feeling. It’s a lot.”

One of his colleagues is visiting from Africa and staying in the US for the first time.

“She said her one concern was guns and possibly something happening at the university,” Mr Brewer said. “And this was her first faculty meeting, and her worst nightmare came true.”

As he and his colleagues waited in locked offices, they texted each other about whether it was safe to walk to the bathroom.

“We’re trying to tell each other stories and talk about cooking and trying to not get worked up,” he said. “But at the same time, we’re fielding lots of texts and calls from friends and family and colleagues.”

Nearby Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools posted on social media that all doors would be locked at its schools and offices until authorities say it’s safe.

"As a safety precaution, schools have been directed not to release students to their families at this time," the district said.

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