LAS VEGAS (AP) — Terrified students and faculty sheltered in classrooms and dormitories as a gunman roamed the floors of a University of Nevada, Las Vegas building, killing three people and seriously wounding a fourth before dying in a shootout with the police.
The gunman in Wednesday’s shooting was a teacher who had unsuccessfully sought a job at the school, a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press. He previously worked at East Carolina University in North Carolina, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information publicly.
Another law enforcement official identified the suspect as 67-year-old Anthony Polito. Investigators searched an apartment in Henderson, Nevada, on Wednesday night as part of the investigation and recovered several electronic devices, including Polito’s cellphone, the official said. The official was not authorized to discuss details of the investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
The attack was the worst shooting in the city since October 2017, when a gunman killed 60 people and injured more than 400 after opening fire from a room window at the Mandalay Bay casino on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip, just a couple of miles from the UNLV campus.
Lessons learned from that shooting, the deadliest in modern U.S. history, helped authorities work “smoothly” in reacting to the UNLV attack, Sheriff Kevin McMahill said at a news conference.
At approximately 11:45 a.m., the gunman opened fire on the fourth floor of the building that houses UNLV’s Lee School of Business, then went to several other floors before being killed in a shootout with two university police detectives outside the building. building, the UNLV police chief said. Adan Garcia said.
Authorities gave the all-clear about 40 minutes after the first report of an active shooter.
Three people died and a fourth was hospitalized in critical but stable condition, police said.
It was not immediately clear how many of the school’s 30,000 students were on campus at the time, but McMahill said students had gathered outside the building to eat and play. If police had not killed the attacker, “countless additional lives could have been lost,” he said.
“No student should be afraid to pursue their dreams on a college campus,” the sheriff said.
Police did not immediately identify the victims, the attacker or the motive and did not say what type of weapon was used, although some witnesses reported hearing up to 20 gunshots.
UNLV professor Kevaney Martin took cover under a desk in her classroom, where another faculty member and three students took shelter with her.
“It was terrifying. “I can’t even begin to explain it,” Martin said. “I was trying to stay calm for my students and trying not to cry, but the emotions are something I never want to experience again.”
Martin said he was texting friends and loved ones, hoping to get word that a suspect had been detained. When another teacher came to the room and told everyone to evacuate, they joined dozens of people running out of the building. Martin had his students get into his car and drove them off campus.
“Once we pulled away from UNLV, we parked and sat in silence,” he said. “No one said a word. “We were in complete shock.”
Selena Guevara said she received a phone call from her daughter, Markie Montoya, who was in class in the building and heard “shots, screams and screams,” but was not injured.
“She’s hysterical, she tells me ‘I love you’ and very scared,’” Guevara said.
Another student, Jordan Eckermann, 25, said he was in his business law class in a second-floor classroom when he heard a loud bang and a piercing alarm sounded, causing students to stand up. Some fled the room in panic, while others followed their teacher’s instructions to remain calm, Eckermann said.
He walked out and stared at a law enforcement officer in a bulletproof vest holding a long gun. Clothes, backpacks and water bottles lay scattered on the ground.
Eckerman said he told the officer, “Where am I going?”
The officer pointed to an exit.
Minutes later, when he was outside, Eckermann said he heard bursts of gunfire, totaling at least 20 shots. The air smelled of gunpowder. He said he continued to walk away from campus, even though he didn’t know where to go.
Classes were canceled until Friday at the university and UNLV basketball game at the University of Dayton, Ohio, was canceled Wednesday night because of the shootings.
Associated Press reporters Terry Tang in Phoenix; WG Ramirez in Las Vegas, Russ Bynum in Savannah, Georgia, Michael Balsamo in Washington and Robert Jablon in Los Angeles contributed to this report.