'It’s horrifying': UNC Chapel Hill students and faculty react to campus shooting
First-year student Cogan McMichaels spent his sixth day at UNC-Chapel Hill locked in his dorm room. For several hours on Monday afternoon, he and his roommate sat in the dark, their eyes glued on Instagram, X (formerly known as Twitter), and Snapchat feeds.
The two weren’t just hanging out or scrolling to see if their friends were off doing something fun. They were sheltering in place from an active shooter on campus, scrolling to see if any sites could provide information to what the scene looked like outside Cobb Residence Hall.
“We had the lights off, the blinds were down, the door was locked. The hall lights were off, so it was very eerie outside,” he said. “Whenever we learned something new, we just kind of bounced it back and forth and tried to confirm it or deny it or just piece a narrative together. We didn't succeed.”
The two stayed locked in their dorm room for three hours.
Half a mile away, near the center of UNC’s Chapel Hill campus, the armed suspect shot and killed a faculty member in Caudill Labs.
Police arrested the suspect over three hours after the initial reports of shots fired came in from Caudill Labs, officials said at a news conference Monday evening. Charges were pending, and the suspect was not immediately identified. UNC officials did not immediately identify the staffer who was killed and said it was too soon to offer a possible motive.
While police were trying to find the shooter, they released a photo of the suspect online.
McMichaels said although he wasn’t in any imminent danger, the situation was frightening.
“You’re always in that position where you’re like it couldn’t be me and then when it is, you’re kind of shocked,” he said. “It’s horrifying.”
Another first-year student, Lynnsey Hoos, said she was also in shock when she heard the words “emergency, police report an armed and dangerous person on or near campus” announced over the school’s PA system.
Emergency sirens sounded about two minutes after a 911 caller reported gunfire around 1 p.m. at the laboratory in the heart of campus, UNC Police Chief Brian James said.
Students and faculty barricaded themselves in dorm rooms, offices and classrooms until the lockdown was lifted around 4:15 p.m.
No other injuries were reported.
Hoos was in the undergraduate library, less than a quarter mile from the shooting.
“Everyone gathered in the library,” she said. “It just kind of looked like everyone normal in the library. But we were there for two hours.”
In neighboring Davis library, the seventh floor was far from normal.
Students barricaded themselves in the library's study rooms. The floor, which student Madhavan Panchangam said is usually silent, was instead filled with a low rumble of chatter.
“Everybody talking and being nervous the entire time, nervousness of somebody coming in and banging in the door,” he said. “I never thought that this type of thing would happen to us.”
Panchangam said it was a relief when they sent the final message letting students know they were safe. But he also said he still needs time to process the situation.
During the news conference, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz apologized to students who are “feeling uncertain about your safety right now.”
James, the campus police chief, said it was unclear if the suspect knew the victim. He also said the weapon has not been found.
“We are looking for a firearm. It is too early to determine if the firearm was legally obtained,” he said.
During the lockdown, the university repeatedly sent alerts urging campus community members to remain sheltered in place.
Classes started at UNC, the nation's first public university, a week ago. The university, with about 20,000 undergraduate students and 12,000 graduate students, canceled Tuesday classes. In an announcement, Guskiewicz said the school will be providing “counseling services and other opportunities to grieve and process” for the campus community.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.