COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — An emergency text notice of a shooting at the University of South Carolina led to locked and barricaded doors, but didn’t stop classes at the state’s flagship university.
Police officers quickly determined the shooting was a murder-suicide, isolated to one room in the five-story School of Public Health building. Students were told to stay inside, but even as police cars with sirens blaring rushed to the crime scene, people were walking around the sprawling campus.
Little information was released about the shooting, which took place about 1 p.m. Thursday. State Law Enforcement Division spokesman Thom Berry wouldn’t say who was involved, whether it was a student, professor or someone else.
One of Columbia’s main streets was closed, causing massive traffic problems. Security was increased at the Statehouse about two blocks away. The university planned a candlelight vigil and extended counseling hours.
Berry refused to release the names of the dead or their relationship. He also wouldn’t specify where the shooting took place beyond a room in the building, not saying if it was an office or a classroom.
University President Harris Pastides sent a letter to the university, thanking the police for their fast response and sending his prayers to everyone affected.
“Today, the USC family experienced a great tragedy,” Pastides wrote.
School officials told professors not to penalize students who failed to show up for afternoon classes, even if they missed exams.
Some students sent pictures out on social media of classes continuing. At least one of them showed a table used to block a door.
Student Hayden Dunn, a senior from Myrtle Beach, said he was in the building about 1 p.m., getting in an elevator to change classes, when a police officer also got inside. Dunn said the officer asked whether anyone had heard gunshots, but they hadn’t. Dunn said he went to class, then an alarm sounded minutes later, and people rushed outside. Another officer told him shots had been fired, he said.
“Otherwise, you wouldn’t have known anything happened,” Dunn said.
Workers and others fled the building after police told them to evacuate and they went inside other buildings wherever they could, said Barbara Reager, an administrative assistant who works nearby.
“They had no time to get their keys, to pick up their purses,” Reager said by phone.
The university texted alerts and also interrupted programming on its cable system to warn students and others to stay inside.