NC college holds classes, gunman at large

In August, another situation involving a gunman on campus raised concerns


Associated Press

WILMINGTON, N.C. — Classes were held Tuesday morning at the University of North Carolina Wilmington as the search continued for a gunman who ran toward the campus after a holdup overnight.

Instructions for students to remain in secure locations that had been issued after the holdup shortly before midnight Monday were lifted at 5 a.m. Tuesday, school spokeswoman Dana Fischetti said.

The suspect in the robbery of four people at a nearby fast food restaurant was still at large early Tuesday, but extra police officers were on campus as the search continued, Fischetti said. Students were free to move about the campus, but should be alert and report suspicious activity to police, she said.

The school had issued alerts via email, text message, voicemail and on the university's website after the robbery. Those on campus were warned to find a secure location, lock doors and stay away from windows.

Wilmington police used a helicopter and K-9 unit to try to find the man, who was wearing a red cloth over his face, Officer Kenneth Reichard told The Associated Press.

Campus Police Chief David Donaldson told the AP on Tuesday that dogs followed the suspect's scent to a road on campus, where the trail ended. It was possible the suspect got in a car there and left, he said.

The alert for the suspect, who was carrying a small-caliber handgun, was issued as a precautionary measure, he said.

Donaldson urged people to remember the nature of the crime — a robbery with no shots fired. "We think the campus is just as safe today as it was yesterday," he said.

Located on North Carolina's coastline, the university has about 13,000 students and has grown significantly since a 2002 bond issue that paved the way for more than $508 million to be spent on capital projects at the campus. Although well-known for its ocean and marine research programs, the school offers dozens of majors and has also been used as the preseason training camp of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats.

In August, another situation involving a gunman on campus raised concerns from university officials who said the school's emergency alert system failed to properly notify the campus as police searched for a man accused of a shooting in a nearby apartment complex.

After the shooting, Donaldson ordered a campus-wide alert via phone, text message and email to warn the community about the armed man on the loose. The alert was never sent.

Officials said at the time the lapse appeared to be a case of human error rather than a technical problem, and Fischetti said updates were being sent to the campus via text message, email and voice message late Monday night and early Tuesday morning.

The alert system at UNCW encompasses not only phone calls, emails and text messages, but can include everything from social media to the interruption of cable television on campus. The system was adopted by the university after the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech as a way of getting emergency information out in as many formats as possible in a short amount of time.

Copyright 2011 Associated Press

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