A faculty member at UNC-Chapel Hill was fatally shot in a laboratory building on campus Monday, prompting a three-hour lockdown that caused confusion and anxiety both at the university and nearby K-12 schools.
Update: During a press conference on Monday evening, campus officials and police confirmed that a person had been taken into custody. However, they did not disclose the identity of the individual in custody or the faculty member who lost their life.
All classes and activities at UNC have been canceled for Monday night and the entirety of Tuesday.
Zooming out: The shooting occurred at Caudill Labs on the first day of the university’s second week of classes. Simultaneously, it was also the inaugural day for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.
The initial report of gunshots was received via a 911 call at 1:02 pm, according to UNC Police Chief Brian James. This led to lockdowns being enforced across the campus and the surrounding community. The official all-clear wasn’t given by UNC until around 4:15 pm.
During this period, students turned to social media to share videos and images, a person was briefly detained and then released by the police after being mistaken for the suspect, and concerned parents and community members continually checked their phones for updates.
Zooming in: At 1:03 pm, UNC issued an initial alert about an “armed and dangerous person” either on campus or in close proximity, just a minute after the 911 call.
Notifications instructing students to take cover and avoid windows were sent out at 1:21 pm. The suspected shooter was apprehended by the police at 2:31 pm, almost 90 minutes after the initial 911 call. A mere four minutes later, a picture of a person of interest was shared on social media.
Despite the detainment of the suspected shooter, the shelter-in-place directive remained active, and UNC alerts continued to indicate that the suspect was still at large until after 4 pm. Police Chief James explained that this delay was due to the time needed for the police to confirm the shooter’s identity. In the meantime, another individual was apprehended and subsequently released.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public Schools system announced they had received the “all clear” to dismiss at 3:40 pm.
Reading between the lines: The acknowledgment of a shooting didn’t come from police or university officials until a press conference held at 5:45 pm.
The sole confirmation of the shooting during the afternoon came from Governor Roy Cooper, who pledged all available state resources to apprehend the shooter in a statement provided to Axios.
Taking a broader view: The alerts created a sense of uncertainty throughout the campus and its vicinity.
A significant police presence was focused around several laboratory buildings on South Road, close to the iconic school bell tower—a landmark frequently photographed in the state.
For many, the events brought back painful memories of February 10, 2015, when three Muslim students—a pair from UNC’s dentistry program and one from N.C. State—were tragically killed in an off-campus residence.
In the words of UNC Chancellor Guskiewicz during the evening press conference, “This is a moment for the community to unite.”