By Terence Chea and Lisa Leff
BERKELEY, Calif. — An undergraduate student shot by campus police after brandishing a loaded gun inside a University of California, Berkeley computer lab died at a hospital hours after the confrontation, a university spokesman said Wednesday.
Christopher Nathen Elliot Travis, 32, had just started his first semester at Berkeley after transferring from another school, and had been attending classes at the prestigious Haas School of Business, spokesman Dan Mogulof said.
University authorities said a staff member first saw the man carrying what appeared to be a gun in an elevator at the business school after 2 p.m. on Tuesday. The staffer called police at 2:17 p.m., saying she saw the man take the gun out of his backpack.
Police officers tracked Travis into a Haas computer lab, where he raised the loaded weapon and was shot by an officer at about 2:22 p.m., roughly five minutes after the initial call, officials said.
At the time, four students were between Travis and the officer, UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said. None of the students was hurt, and Mogulof said there was no evidence to suggest Travis had any intentions to harm others.
"Our heart goes out to the family of this young man," Birgeneau said Wednesday.
Bill Travis, the suspect's father, sobbed during a brief telephone interview with The Associated Press from his home in Lodi, Calif. He said he learned his son had been shot Tuesday night, and didn't wish to make any further comment.
Gaiby Nkruma, a producer and director in the media services department, said he and three others were in an office inside the computer lab when they heard the gunshots, and immediately hit the ground.
It was disheartening for the school's tight-knit community learn that Travis had been an undergraduate, he said.
"Nobody knew what was going on. It could have been another Virginia Tech, you never know," Nkruma said.
As Twitter lit up with concerns and rumors about what had happened following the shooting Tuesday afternoon, news helicopters arrived on the scene and began buzzing overhead.
At 2:53 p.m., campus authorities sent out the first alert to the Berkeley community, saying there had been a shooting at Haas Business School and that police had the situation under control but that the area should be avoided, said Claire Holmes, an associate vice chancellor for public affairs. Another warning went out at 2:59 p.m. saying the only suspect was in custody.
A third alert went out nearly an hour later, said there was no longer a threat and that campus activities had returned to normal. The official UC Berkeley Twitter account later posted a link to an official university statement describing the incident and saying that Haas had reopened.
When asked whether the school's emergency alert system was effective given the reporting delay, Holmes said she felt the school had done an admirable job.
"I think that given the situation, you're balancing the urgency to get something out with the knowledge that you currently have, and not creating a situation where people are overly concerned," she said. "It went out as soon as it was possible."
It was the first on-campus shooting since 1992. In that earlier incident, an Oakland police officer fatally shot a machete-wielding activist from nearby People's Park who had broken into the former chancellor's mansion on the leafy north side of campus.
Mogulof said Wednesday that the suspect was taken to an Oakland hospital, where he died later Tuesday.
"It's a very fast-moving investigation," he said. "There were an enormous number of witnesses who police had to interview so that's why it's taken this long to get the information out."
The Clery Act requires colleges and universities to report timely information about campus crimes, but only if there is a continuing threat. To receive federal student financial aid, the schools must report crimes and security policies and provide warning of campus threats.
S. Daniel Carter, director of public policy for Security On Campus, a nonprofit organization that monitors the Clery Act, said Berkeley officials appeared to have followed its protocols. Because police apprehended Travis within minutes of getting word he was armed and quickly contained any threat he could have posed, campus authorities weren't obliged to notify students in any particular time span, he said.
"You certainly understand that the campus community wants to know what happened, but it's far less serious once an incident has been resolved," Carter said. "The main concern is in this age of instantaneous communication, it's critical to stay out front of misinformation that may be circulating among the campus community."
Staff, students and administrators gathered at the business school Wednesday morning for a meeting about the shooting, and to offer grief counseling to those traumatized by the incident. Those who attended said numerous students were crying, and administrators promised safety upgrades at the school.
Administrators also issued a statement directing students where to find any belongings left behind Tuesday afternoon after the temporary evacuation of the school, where classes resumed a normal schedule Wednesday.
Mark Elbadramany, a first year MBA student, said he was in a class in another building when two students came running from the computer lab and told him about what had happened. He said he raced to tell three other classrooms that there was an emergency and they had to evacuate.
"There is a lot of anxiety still today," he said, adding that the school's normally bustling courtyard was nearly empty Wednesday. "It was really troubling,"
The shooting occurred as anti-Wall Street activists were preparing another attempt to establish an Occupy Cal camp after a failed effort last week led to dozens of arrests. More than 1,000 students, campus employees, faculty and other demonstrators filled an outdoor plaza Tuesday after many took part in morning teach-ins.
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Copyright 2011 Associated Press