Police name two DSU students 'persons of interest'
By Randall Chase
The Associated Press
2 students shot at Delaware State; gunman at large
DOVER, Del. — Two students were shot and wounded, one seriously, at Delaware State University early Friday, and the campus was locked down as police searched for a gunman, officials said.
Police had identified two students as "persons of interest," and were questioning one of them, university police Chief James Overton said.
Campus officials said they applied lessons from the tragedy five months ago at Virginia Tech, when a gunman opened fire and killed 32 people before shooting himself. After the shootings were reported to campus police, the university immediately notified dorm leaders to keep students inside, officials said.
"I think the biggest lesson learned from that whole situation at Virginia Tech is don't wait. Once you have an incident, start notifying the community," said university spokesman Carlos Holmes.
The students were apparently returning from a cafe with a group of other students just before 1 a.m. when they were shot, Overton said.
A 17-year-old male student was wounded in the ankle and refused to answer questions by police about the shootings, raising the likelihood that he knew his attacker, according to a federal law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.
Classes were canceled for the day and students were being kept inside. Gates at the university's main entrance kept motorists out.
"We cannot assume that he's not on campus," Holmes said. "As long as he's at large, we cannot assure the security of anyone on campus."
The two students were shot on the Campus Mall, between the Memorial Hall gymnasium and Richard S. Grossley Hall, an administrative building. Campus police said they were notified about the shooting at 12:54 a.m.
Holmes said the female student, also 17, appeared to have suffered serious wounds. "They could be potentially life-threatening," he said. The male student's wounds were not as serious and he was hospitalized in stable condition, Holmes said.
The woman was taken to Christiana Hospital in Newark, Del., with a traumatic wound to the abdomen, said John Wilson, the deputy chief of Kent County Emergency Services. She was in serious condition, Overton said. The man was taken to Kent General Hospital in Dover.
Authorities, with the campus police in charge of the investigation, hoped to get more information once the victims were able to talk. They don't yet know about the possible motive.
"We haven't had a chance to talk to them yet, and that's probably a big reason why the suspect is still at large," Holmes told KYW-TV of Philadelphia.
He said he was not aware of any big parties Thursday night, although there was a rally organized to honor the so-called Jena Six, six black teenagers charged in a high school fight in Louisiana.
"It was a very peaceful, very nice rally, very positive," Holmes said. There was no reason to believe the rally was connected to the shootings, but Holmes contrasted the atmosphere of the event with the attack, saying, "It's kind of shocking that this happened afterwards."
Alex Bishoff, 20, a freshman from Washington, D.C., said he heard five gunshots and looked out his dormitory window to see people scattering. He said he immediately thought of the Virginia Tech shootings last April.
"Everybody's very upset," Bishoff said.
Timmara Gooden, 20, of Philadelphia, said in a phone interview from her dorm room that she and her suite mates were keeping each other calm and making sure that their parents understand that they're OK.
"We've been locked in here since 1 o'clock this morning," she said. "Right now, we're pretty hungry and waiting so we can go to the cafe, or something."
Students weren't even going into their dorm hallways. "We don't want to walk out there, because we don't know what's going on," Gooden said.
University officials informed students about the shooting with phone calls, a notice posted on the campus Web site and notifications in each dormitory. The notice also was posted at off-campus apartments, officials said. The biggest lesson from the tragedy at Virginia Tech, Holmes said, was to notify the campus right away.
"We directed the students not to leave the dormitory from the outset last night," he said. "They were very obedient. They understood the lessons from the tragedy earlier this year."
The Dover campus was surrounded Friday by groups of recreational vehicles belonging to NASCAR fans in town for weekend races at the Dover Downs Speedway.
A commuter student who arrived Friday morning was barred from campus. Eduardo Rivera, 25, of Milford, said he hadn't known about the shootings and was surprised by the media gathered outside the main gate.
"I thought it was about racing, or NASCAR, or something like that," he said. "I'm shocked. I don't expect to hear something like this when I'm trying to go to class — it's weird."
Rivera, a sophomore studying physical education and sports management, said he had felt the campus was safe.
At the start of the semester, the campus community held a memorial service for three students and an incoming student shot execution-style Aug. 4 as they hung out at an elementary school in their hometown of Newark, N.J. Natasha Aeriel, 19; her brother, Terrance Aeriel, 18, and Dashon Harvey, 20, were students. Iofemi Hightower, 20, had planned to attend Delaware State this fall. Natasha Aeriel, the only survivor, helped police identify six suspects who have been arrested.
One student said friends of hers were near the shooting Friday when it started. "They were pretty shook up," said Samantha Williams, from Orange, N.J., who is taking a leave from school.
She said students on campus were excited about an upcoming appearance by rappers during homecoming festivities in mid-October.
Delaware State was established in 1891 as the State College for Colored Students. It had about 3,690 students last year. The 400-acre campus is in the northern section of Dover, across the street from the racetrack.