Mississippi authorities are searching for a Delta State University professor who allegedly killed his live-in girlfriend in their gulf coast home and then allegedly shot and killed a fellow professor on the campus five hours away, prompting a lengthy lockdown of the small school on Monday.
Police in Gautier, Miss. said they are trying to find Shannon S. Lamb, 45, who they said is at large and should be considered armed and dangerous. Lamb, a Delta State professor of geography and social sciences, was last seen driving a black 2011 Dodge Avenger with Mississippi license plates. Police in Gautier and Cleveland, Miss., home to Delta State, both said that Lamb is the chief suspect in each of the slayings.
Delta State, founded in 1925 as a teachers college, is 120 miles north of Jackson, Miss., and it has an enrollment of 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The campus was preparing for its 90th anniversary celebration Tuesday when shots were heard on campus Monday morning at about 10:45 a.m. Police said assistant history professor Ethan Schmidt had been shot and killed in his office in Jobe Hall.
Buildings at the small college immediately went on lockdown as police flooded the campus, and students and staff remained on lockdown into the night as police searched for a shooter. Police worked to clear buildings one-by-one to ensure student and staff safety, and those who were cleared from the buildings were escorted to Sillers Coliseum, according to Jennifer Farish, a Delta State spokeswoman. Classes have been canceled for Tuesday, and a planned celebration to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the campus Tuesday also has been postponed.
Schmidt, who students said was a beloved and accessible professor, received his doctorate from the University of Kansas and specialized in Native American history and taught courses on topics as varied as the Old South and baseball.
Delta State senior Antoinette Riddle, 21, credited Schmidt with helping her learn to appreciate history, a subject she had previously struggled with before taking classes with him.
“He pulled me to the side and helped me understand it more,” said Riddle, of Tupelo, Miss. “Every person that took his class would say the same thing. He made history actually enjoyable.”
Riddle said that Schmidt also counseled her when she was struggling with academics.
“I would have given up if it weren’t for him,” she said. “I was scared about school and down on myself, and he lifted me up.”
Officer Matt Hoggatt said the ordeal began when Gautier police department received a call shortly after 10 a.m. reporting a shooting at a residence located there. When police arrived at the scene in Gautier, they found Amy Prentiss, 41, dead inside. Police said Prentiss was Lamb’s romantic partner and lived with him in the residence on Santa Cruz Street.
Police said they believe Lamb drove to the Delta State campus, and he is the chief suspect in Schmidt’s slaying there before 11 a.m. It is unclear what the connection is between the two cases, but Lamb and Schmidt were both on the small liberal arts faculty at Delta State.
Lamb joined Delta State in 2009 as an instructor in the geography and social science program, according to his biography on Delta State’s Web site. He received his undergraduate degree from Delta State in 2003 and a master’s degree in geography from Delta State in 2007.
In the spring, Lamb earned his doctorate from Delta State, writing his dissertation on how Mississippi students view high-stakes tests.
Schmidt previously taught history for six years at Texas Tech University in Lubbock before joining the faculty at Delta State. His first book, “The Divided Dominion: Social Conflict and Indian Hatred in Early Virginia,” was published last year by the University of Colorado Press.
The book covers the relationships between Native American tribes and settlers in colonial America. It also discusses the role Native Americans played in the Revolutionary War and highlights perspectives from tribes including the Cherokee, Iroquois, and Seminole.
He told the American Historical Association that he became interested in history as a child watching his father collect Civil War memorabilia.
He said he became a historian to study “the very core of what it is that makes us human.”
“Our triumphs, our tragedies, our flaws, and our strengths are all laid bare by the scholarly study of history, and without this kind of inquiry there is little hope for mankind,” Schmidt told the AHA.
University Relations Vice President Michelle Roberts described it as a “tragic situation” and said the campus sends its “heartfelt thoughts and sympathy” to Schmidt’s family.
“We are grieving on this campus with this loss, and our condolences are with the family at this time,” Roberts said.
Amid a widespread manhunt for Lamb, police from the Mississippi Highway Patrol, Cleveland City and Bolivar County sheriff’s department were on campus, school officials said. Lamb’s vehicle was found on the Delta State campus Monday, police said, but he has not yet been located.
“So we’re investigating whether both incidents are related, but we believe they are at this time,” Hoggatt said.