Two dead in murder-suicide at UCLA; LAPD says ‘campus is now safe’ – Los Angeles Times
When they awoke Wednesday morning, most UCLA students headed toward campus expecting to take on routine end-of-school-year tasks: final exams and presentations.
Maria Shafer, 22, was trying to finish her Spanish final in the Public Affairs building. Nick Terry was driving to Westwood from Silver Lake expecting to deliver a presentation to his architecture class.
All of those concerns became moot around 10 a.m., when cellphones buzzed to life across campus with alerts that a shooting had taken place.
”We need to get out of here,” Shafer’s professor told the class.
The 20 students fled, joining thousands of others who found themselves racing for cover and attempting to barricade classroom doors with desks, projectors and anything else they could find as information about the shooting, much of it false, spread across campus via text messages and social media.
In the end, police confirmed that two men had been killed in an engineering building near the campus’ south side in what Los Angeles police Chief Charlie Beck described as a murder-suicide.
But with reports of mass shootings dominating the news at an increasing and alarming rate in recent years, many UCLA students feared that one or more gunmen were roaming their campus.
“It’s unfortunate it happened here,” said Andrew Avelino, 23, a senior history major. “You see school shootings happening on the news at high schools, on other campuses, at other places. But you never thought it would happen here until it does.”
The shooting took place in a small office in the campus’ engineering complex, Beck said during a news conference around noon.
Beck confirmed that the shooter was one of the dead.
“The campus is now safe,” he said.
Authorities did not identify the dead and a motive was not immediately clear. Police confirmed a note was found at the scene but had not determined where it originated or if it was connected to the shooting.
A law enforcement source told the Los Angeles Times that, based on the appearances of the two men, police believed that a professor was shot by someone young enough to be a student, who then turned the gun on himself.
At 12:05 p.m., UCLA officials lifted a lockdown that had lasted for two hours and canceled classes for the day. Classes will resume Thursday, the university said.
The shooting prompted a massive response from local and federal law enforcement.
“In this day and age … we would much rather respond in an abundance of caution,” LAPD spokesman Andy Neiman said.
Police officers in riot gear, some carrying battering rams, ran across campus with guns drawn, while students exited buildings with their hands above their heads.
Students hid in buildings across campus after the shooting. Many said they struggled to lock the doors of the classrooms where they sought shelter and resorted to using their belts to hold doors closed and nearby projectors and furniture to barricade themselves against any potential threat.
While Beck said there were no other suspects in the shooting, many students said they received mass text messages and social media blasts announcing that as many as four shooters may have been loose on campus at one point.
”There’s a ton of information spreading over social media and group messages, and it’s hard for everyone to sort out what is true and what isn’t,” Rafi Sands, vice president of UCLA’s student government, said as he hid with 30 other students inside Haines Hall while the lockdown was still active. “They are saying there are multiple shooters, one near here.”
Christos Kampouridis, 23, found the door to his engineering class in Boelter Hall locked at 9:50 a.m., then turned to see a man with a gun walking through a nearby hallway. The man, who held a rifle at his side and appeared to be wearing a tactical belt, yelled, “Come here.”
Instead, Kampouridis fled immediately, and shouted at nearby students to run. He burst out of the building and called 911, then began sending messages to friends and posting social media updates urging them to “Stay away from Engineering.”
He was unsure if he had seen a police officer or the gunman, but wanted desperately to warn friends. either way.
“It was really stupid in retrospect” to post social media updates about the shooting without knowing more, Kampouridis said around 1 p.m., after the lockdown was lifted. “I just messaged as many people as I could.”
While some students rode out the lockdown hidden behind makeshift barricades, others tried to flee the campus after they were unable to find shelter.
Shafer, the student who was forced to run out of her Spanish final, said she and a group of about 20 students encountered several locked doors as police sirens blared and helicopters roared overhead. They ended up climbing over bushes and sprinting across Sunset Boulevard before they found safety in the yard of a Bel-Air home.
“We didn’t know where to go; we were trying to get as far away from campus as possible,” she said. “The scariest part was running through the campus after we had gotten that alert.”
Student Mehwish Khan, 21, said she ran to the Charles E. Young Research Library, where many other students were hiding. At around 10:45 a.m., she and others had barricaded themselves in a restroom where they texted family and friends who were all giving different information about possible shooters, she said.
“We are getting messages from all over,” she told a Times reporter in a text message.
Asked how she was doing, Khan said, “Okay. Just scared. And scared for all of my friends.”
Sands, the student government vice president, said he and about 30 other students used their belts to secure their classroom door in Haines Hall after news of the shooting spread.
Sands, 20, of Oakland, said it took several minutes for the campus community to realize the seriousness of the situation.
“We get a lot of Bruin Alerts for small things,” he said. “It took a while for everyone to realize this is serious.”
Terry, the 29-year-old architecture student who was driving to UCLA from Silver Lake, said he was more angry than scared after he learned of the gunfire.
“It just seems so pointless,” he said. “Two days left of school and it’s going to end on this note?”