At 1:03 p.m. Monday, I was in a journalism class at UNC-Chapel Hill discussing story ideas for an upcoming project.
At 1:04 p.m., a classmate received a message on his phone from the university’s Alert Carolina system. He read it aloud: “Emergency: Armed, dangerous person on or near campus. Go inside now; avoid windows.”
Then, the sirens sounded. He looked up in alarm.
“Guys, I think this is serious.”
A campus-wide lockdown that lasted more than three hours ensued. An assailant shot and killed a faculty member in Caudill Laboratories, a chemistry building near South Road in the middle of campus, and police arrested the shooter at 2:31 p.m.
The suspect is in custody, and their name was not officially released as formal charges have not yet been filed, according to Brian James, chief of UNC Police, who spoke at a news conference Monday night. Preliminary reports indicate the suspect is a graduate student in applied physical sciences.
University officials did not name the faculty member who was killed as relatives are still being notified. This was the only fatality, and no other injuries were reported.
James said it’s too early to identify a motive for the shooting.
After we were alerted to the lockdown, seven of my classmates and I decided to lock the classroom door in Curtis Media Center and huddle on the ground furthest from the ceiling-high windows. We texted friends and family, trying to make sense of what was happening.
Rumors were flying among students—compounded by the silence from the university’s administration—and another campus alert, released at 2:25 p.m., notified us that the suspect was still at large and that we should continue to shelter in place.
Finally, at 4:14 p.m., the lockdown was lifted and we were instructed to “resume normal activities.”
Today marked the second week of classes at UNC. This is the week when the syllabus is set aside and the teaching begins, when the workload increases, and the friendships deepen. For first-year and transfer students, it’s the first real week of school at UNC, and they spent it crouching, barricaded, and scared.
Four years after the shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and one year after a gunman killed multiple students at the University of Virginia, this shooting is another in a pattern of shootings on college campuses over the last four years. A shooting took place on the campus of NC A&T University in Greensboro just last week.
“It’s a day we trained for, but we hope it never comes,” said James, the university police chief, at the press briefing.
Classes were canceled for the rest of Monday and all day Tuesday so that the Carolina community can take the time they need to process the events of today and prioritize their wellness, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said at the press briefing.
“We will work to rebuild that sense of trust and safety within our community,” Guskiewicz said. “Our hearts are with the family of our fellow faculty member, those who are personally connected to the victim, and those traumatized by this senseless act of violence.”
Hannah Kaufman is an INDY intern and senior at UNC-Chapel Hill majoring in journalism.
Support independent local journalism.
Join the INDY Press Club to help us keep fearless watchdog reporting and essential arts and culture coverage viable in the Triangle.