In a scene of terror and tears, students at Florida State University library cowered behind stacks of books and dove under desks as an assailant — identified as a graduate of the school — opened fire with a handgun early Thursday before being killed in a shootout with police, officials said.
At least three students were wounded, one critically.
Tallahassee police identified the gunman as Myron May, an FSU graduate who later attended law school at Texas Tech University.
*FSU ALERT!* Dangerous Situation! Main Campus – Tallahassee,” read a message about 12:30 a.m. posted by FSU’s emergency alert system. “Seek shelter immediately, away from doors and windows.”
Students huddled in the rows of books. Others barricaded themselves in rooms — some leaving their cell phone video running along the way to record the scene of the latest shooting at a U.S. university.
One wounded student was seen crying out — “I’ve been shot” — and clutching his leg as blood spread over his pants.
The gunman was killed by Tallahassee police after he opened fire on officers fr0m an access ramp outside the Strozier Library, filled with at least 300 students studying for end-of-semester exams.
“He was challenged by the officers and given commands to drop his weapon, but the male fired at the officers,” said a police statement. “The officers returned fire, killing the gunman.”
One of those wounded was grazed by a bullet and treated at the scene. The others were taken to Tallahassee Memorial HeathCare hospital. One was listed in critical condition and the other was stable, the AP reported.
By 4:15 a.m., the all clear message was issued for the school, where classes were canceled Thursday and police continued with interviews and investigations. The gunman was slumped face down. A gray baseball cap lay near his head.
Tallahassee’s police chief, Michael DeLeo, described it as an “isolated incident and one person acting alone.” But he offered no additional details of the gunman or possible motives during a predawn news conference.
“This person for whatever reason produced a handgun and then began shooting students in the library,” Florida State University Police Chief David Perry told reporters at a morning news conference.
Beyond the identity of the assailant, other major questions loom including how did he enter the library with a weapon and were campus security measures sufficient.
“It was a consecutive bop, bop, bop, bop, bop,” said FSU freshman Nikolai Hernandez, who was in his dorm room across from the library.
The school’s newspaper, FS View, reported the gunman opened fire around 12:30 a.m. Student Alexandra Magoulas was about 50 feet from the lobby of the library when she heard the shots, she told the paper.
“People immediately started running and screaming and running to the stairwells and to the edges of the room against walls,” she said. “It was chaos.”
“It seemed to take students and faculty at least that I’ve heard by complete surprise,” Matthew Paskert, photo editor of the student paper, told The Washington Post. “No one expected this to ever happen here. You see it happen at other schools.”
“We are too frequently and too often waking up to incidences like this around the country,” said Tallahassee’s mayor-elect, Andrew Gillum. Similar comments were made by officials last month on the other side of the country after a 15-year-old student opened fire in the cafeteria of a high school near Seattle. Three students were killed and a fourth later died from injuries. The teen gunman killed himself at the scene. Strozier is the university’s largest library, Perry Kostidakis, editor of the student newspaper, told CNN. “It’s not unusual for 100 students to be there this time of year,” he said, as finals are fast approaching. The shooting was described on Twitter.
Shooting on FSU campus. Gunman wouldn’t drop his weapon. Cops shot and killed him. Apparently two students have been injured. — TeamJaguarBen (@TeamJaguarBen) November 20, 2014
Cops with rifles pointed — Solange Knowles (@alxlrn) November 20, 2014
About to walk out with hands up — Solange Knowles (@alxlrn) November 20, 2014
This post has been updated.