How the University of Texas avoided a tragedy

Police followed the suspect to the library, where he turned the assault rifle on himself without the officers firing a shot


The Alcalde
The Alumni Magazine of The University of Texas

AUSTIN, Texas — Training helped, students helped, but The University of Texas also got lucky today. A gunman opened fire in the open air on campus but did not hit anyone. In the end, he killed only himself.

"We're very fortunate," Austin mayor Lee Leffingwell said, "that there were no other casualties other than the perpetrator."

The shooter, an apparent UT student who has not yet been identified, was spotted carrying a gun just after 8 a.m. He shot off at least four rounds of 7.62mm ammunition from an AK-47 on 21st Street, near the Littlefield Fountain, Austin police chief Art Acevedo said at a press conference just four hours later.

Police followed him into Perry-Castañeda Library, Acevedo said, where the man turned the assault rifle on himself without the officers firing a shot.

Students kept pointing police in the direction the shooter had gone, Acevedo said.

SWAT teams and helicopters continued to search for a possible second gunman for hours afterward because witnesses gave different descriptions of the shooter, UT police chief Robert Dahlstrom said. But by noon, he said, police felt "very comfortable" that buildings had been swept and there was no more threat.

Drills that UT police had conducted as recently as two weeks ago helped them respond quickly, Dahlstrom said. "There's no doubt that training paid off in this situation and prevented what no doubt would have been a much more tragic situation," he said.

UT president Bill Powers discussed the communication by the University's Crisis Management Team. Text messages (which are sent to some 43,000 people) and social media helped get the word out to students straightaway, he said.

By the time Acevedo arrived on campus, he said, "It became readily apparent to me that The University of Texas at Austin was prepared for this situation."

Campus, which is still strung with yellow tape, is closed for the day.

Read more about the shooting on The Alcalde.

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