Gunman Opens Fire, Takes Hostages; SWAT Team Storms Building at Ohio University
CLEVELAND, May 9 -- Two people were reported dead Friday night after an unidentified man opened fire at the management school at Case Western Reserve University. Police stormed the building and began retrieving people who were trapped inside, and took the gunman into custody at about 10 p.m. Friday.
NBC AFFILIATE WKYC-TV quoted witnesses as saying the gunman took five to 12 hostages, while 40 to 50 other people hid in locked offices and under tables.
Authorities told The Plain Dealer of Cleveland that two men in the building were dead.
During the seige, people inside the building said by telephone that word was spreading that he may have escaped after changing into fresh clothing he was carrying in a backpack.
A third man, who was struck outside the building, was reported in stable condition with a gunshot wound in the buttocks, hospital officials said, while a pregnant woman was also being treated for a gunshot. No details on her condition were immediately available.
Police Chief Edward Lohn told reporters that officers were searching the building room by room in a rescue operation.
GLASS DOOR SMASHED
Police said the gunman used a sledgehammer to break a glass door to enter the Peter B. Lewis Building, an internationally famous architectural landmark, about 4:15 p.m. EDT and began firing randomly with an automatic weapon. Michael Moore, a university security official, told MSNBC-TV that the man was not believed to be a student.
The gunshots stopped about 5:45 p.m., but the gunman remained at large. Hostage negotiators, an FBI team and officers from other police departments around Cleveland arrived to provide support late in the afternoon.
About 6 p.m., the sound of a muffled explosion could be heard, Jim Carter, a disk jockey for WRUW-FM, the campus radio station, told MSNBC.
There was no immediate explanation, but police special weapons and tactics teams often detonate what is known as a "flash-bang" concussive device to disorient a suspect before undertaking a tactical assault. Twenty to 30 SWAT officers, their weapons drawn, stormed the building shortly thereafter, WKYC reported.
GUNMAN MAY HAVE ESCAPED
A Cleveland man who asked that his name not be used told WKYC that his father, who was hiding under his desk along with two women inside the building, told him by telephone that gunfire could again be heard about 7 p.m.
As word spread that the gunman may have escaped, SWAT officers began entering neighboring buildings, and police asked television reporters to divert their cameras, WKYC reported.
Police canine units were brought to the scene to begin searching the surrounding area, and emergency crews in bulletproof vests began bringing a number of people out of the building.
A man trapped inside the building said the gunman may have escaped after changing into fresh clothing he was carrying in a backpack.
Three people were treated at the scene after the emergency crews retrieved them Friday evening, WKYC reported. Their conditions and the nature of their wounds were not immediately available, but one of them, a woman, was subsequently rushed away in an ambulance.
KEEPING TRACK BY COMPUTER
Dick Bennett, director of development at the Weatherhead School of Management, told The Associated Press that final exams were completed last week and that less than 10 percent of the school's 1,600 students were in the building.
It appeared that modern technology may have saved a lot of lives.
Paul Stork, a professor of information systems who was barricaded in his office with some of his doctoral students, told WKYC by telephone that building security almost immediately sent a building-wide broadcast e-mail alerting faculty and staff to collect students and hide.
The gunman would have been met with five floors of locked doors, he said.
Although trapped, those in the building were able to communicate with the outside world by cellular telephone, e-mail and instant messaging, Stork said. They were able to follow developments and receive instructions from police by watching local television coverage on live streaming Web video.
STRIKING LANDMARK BUILDING
The $62 million Peter B. Lewis Building was designed by Frank Gehry, the internationally renowned architect who also created the titanium-covered Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain.
Case Western is at University Circle, a parklike setting of cultural, medical and educational institutions on the eastern edge of Cleveland. The school has 9,500 students.
The Lewis building is about five stories high. Instead of walls on the south side, it has a curving roof, made of 20,000 stainless-steel shingles, that seemingly tumbles to the ground.
Lewis, an art collector and the billionaire chairman of Progressive Insurance, gave Case $37 million toward construction of the building, which opened in the fall.
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