University of Nevada, Las Vegas shooting: Details emerge about gunman whose motive remains unknown

Photo of author



The 67-year-old college professor who shot and killed three faculty members this week at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, kept a “hit list” of professors at the school and elsewhere, authorities said seeking a reason.

Investigators found ammunition in Anthony Polito’s apartment, along with an eviction order, and have identified nearly two dozen letters he mailed in the hours before the shooting to university staff across the country, they said. He was also fascinated by conspiracy theories and Las Vegas, according to his online writings and former students of his.

Polito was shot and killed by police on Wednesday after his attack near the scene of the deadliest mass shooting in American history, when in 2017 a sniper killed more than 50 people and injured hundreds at an outdoor concert on the Las Vegas Strip. Wednesday’s violence marked the 80th school shooting in the United States this year, including 29 on college campuses, a CNN analysis shows.

Polito, armed with a 9mm pistol and nine loaded magazines, also wounded a visiting professor in a building that is part of the business school. That man was being treated for life-threatening injuries, Las Vegas Sheriff Kevin McMahill said Thursday.

None of the professors shot Wednesday were on Polito’s “target list,” which included “people he was looking for on the university campus, as well as professors at East Carolina University,” McMahill said. The sheriff did not explain what led investigators to believe it was a hit list or where they found the document.

It was unclear why Polito, who lived in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, targeted UNLV or whether he had any connection to the school. He had unsuccessfully applied for several higher education jobs in Nevada and appeared to be struggling financially, McMahill said.

An eviction notice was found on the door of Polito’s Henderson apartment, the sheriff said. And in the hours before the shooting, Polito had sent 22 letters to university staff across the country with no return address, he said. At least some of the envelopes contained a harmless white powder, according to Las Vegas police. saying Further details about the contents of the letters were not immediately released Thursday night.

Detectives are asking people in academia who receive a letter with no return address to “proceed with caution,” McMahill said.

The shooting, just days before the start of finals, was “the most difficult day in the history of our university,” said UNLV President Keith Whitfield.

Patricia Navarro Velez

Business school professors Patricia Navarro-Velez and Cha-Jan “Jerry” ChangWhitfield said Thursday. in a letter to the school community. The name of the third slain faculty member will be released after that person’s next of kin are notified, she said.

“I won’t sugarcoat it. “We are all hurting right now,” Whitfield said. “But it is in these difficult times that we need to lean on each other.

Cha-Jan “Jerry” Chang

“It is still difficult to find words as we are just beginning to process the pain, loss, anger and fear associated with Wednesday’s tragic campus shooting that took the lives of three of our beloved faculty members,” Whitfield wrote.

Navarro-Vélez, 39, an assistant professor of accounting, had been teaching at the school for nearly five years and had “dedicated her career to educating the next generation of accountants,” Whitfield said.

Chang, 64, had been teaching UNLV business school students for more than 20 years about “management information systems,” Whitfield said.

The gunslinger: ammunition and conspiracies.

Investigators found several computers and hard drive components while searching Polito’s apartment and are reviewing Polito’s devices and social media for a possible motive, the sheriff said.

Authorities also found ammunition such as shell casings at the scene of the shooting, as well as a box that matches the gun police believe Polito used, McMahill said. On a chair, investigators also discovered a document similar to a “last will and testament,” he said.

Polito’s online writings show interest in the gambling capital and in Conspiracy theories. His personal website includes a section dedicated to “Powerful Organizations Bent on Global Domination!” and includes links to common conspiracy theory fodder such as Freemasonry, the Trilateral Commission, and “The Rothchild Family (sic).” Billionaire hedge fund manager George Soros, a common target of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, is listed as one of the “great minds of the 20th century,” along with Albert Einstein.

Meanwhile, three of Polito’s former students say he frequently talked about Las Vegas and visited the city as much as he could while teaching in other states. His website notes that he had made “more than two dozen trips to Las Vegas over the past fifteen years,” although it was unclear when the statement was posted.

Polito had an unorthodox teaching style and often opened classes with stories from Las Vegas, said Jonathan Peralta, who was in one of Polito’s classes at East Carolina University in 2013 or 2014.

“This was surprising,” Peralta told CNN of the UNLV shooting. “The Las Vegas connection is what makes him so crazy, because he talked about Las Vegas a lot.”

Polito worked at East Carolina University’s business school from 2001 until he resigned in 2017, when he was a tenured associate professor, a university spokesperson told CNN. He had ties to Roseman University of Nevada from October 2018 to June 2022, and he attended the school and worked as an adjunct professor, a school spokesperson said. He had also worked in academia in Georgia, his now-deleted LinkedIn page showed.

John Locher/AP

Sean Hathcock, right, kisses Michelle Ashley Wednesday after the two candles left for the victims of the UNLV shooting.

Polito arrived at the university shortly before 11:30 a.m. Wednesday, just minutes before the shooting broke out in Beam Hall as professors prepared their classes for upcoming exams and students outdoors enjoyed games, food and other activities. activities.

Police began receiving 911 calls around 11:45 a.m., prompting officers to rush to the campus, McMahill said.

Officers entered Beam Hall, which lacks interior cameras, the sheriff said, and the first officer arrived within 78 seconds of the first 911 call, said Adam Garcia of University Police Services.

Polito walked through several floors of the building, where Navarro-Vélez worked on the fourth floor and Chang on the third floor, the sheriff said.

The gunman left the building around 11:55 a.m., he said.

University police confronted Polito outdoors, who was shot several times and collapsed, arrested and died there, McMahill said.

“Officers then assembled action teams and began a systematic search for additional suspects and victims,” he said. “Those teams went through several buildings and several floors. Many times we had to force entry into rooms where students and teachers were sheltering in place.”

CNN’s Cheri Mossburg, Jillian Sykes, Andy Rose and Evan Perez contributed to this report.

Leave a comment