MIAMI: Terror gripped a major university in Florida on Thursday when an alumnus opened fire with a semi-automatic handgun, wounding three people before he was shot and killed by police.
The latest episode of America’s epidemic of gun violence happened just after midnight at Florida State University in the capital city Tallahassee.
Police identified the shooter as Myron May, 31, a 2005 Florida State graduate who went on to become a practicing lawyer in Texas and New Mexico before recently returning to the area.
Tallahassee police chief Michael DeLeo said May was “in a state of crisis,” and that he had written journals and recorded videos in which he spoke of “being targeted” by the government.
Two of the wounded were students, while a third was a university employee. Earlier reports had stated that all three victims were students.
Up to 500 students were inside the university’s Strozier Library, pulling all-nighters ahead of pre-Thanksgiving exams, when several shots rang out.
Many scrambled for cover, hiding between aisles of books and huddling in study rooms. One student got home to discover that a bullet to his back had been stopped by books in his backpack.
Police officers responding to 911 calls confronted the gunman outside the library. When he refused an order to put down his weapon, a .380 semi-automatic handgun, they opened fire.
At least 30 rounds were fired during the incident by both police and the gunman, DeLeo said.
Of the three people wounded, two were in hospital and one in critical condition, health care officials said. A third was treated at the scene.
With classes cancelled for the day at the 40,000-student institution, several dozen students knelt in prayer outside the library during a mid-day vigil.
“I want to encourage everybody to take time and process the tragedy,” said Florida Governor Rick Scott, a Republican who in June enacted a raft of fresh pro-gun laws.
Florida State University president John Thrasher, in a statement, said investigators had assured him that the shooting was “an isolated incident.”
But it was the 23rd shooting at a US college this year in which at least one person was wounded or killed, according to a running tally by the Everytown for Gun Safety lobby. AFP
With midterms scheduled before next on Thursday’s Thanksgiving holiday, the Strozier Library was open round-the-clock to accommodate students trying to cram for the exams.