Another mass shooting was attempted Thursday morning as a raging gunman entered a Florida State University library and started popping off rounds, sending hundreds of students utilizing the building to study for finals fleeing from any exit they could find. Those who couldn’t find their way out simply hid and cowered behind bookshelves. Three students were wounded in the incident, but luckily only the gunman was killed.
Calls began coming in to authorities regarding an “armed subject” at the university’s main campus Strozier Library, in Tallahassee, just after midnight, around 12:30 a.m. Florida time. According to witnesses, some shots were fired inside the library, and others were fired outside. Students were promptly warned to “seek shelter immediately, away from doors and windows” as authorities handled what they called a “dangerous situation.”
One student, Blair Stokes, tweeted:
Cops with big guns running around outside.
I thought I was gonna die tonight.
— CNN (@CNN) November 20, 2014
Nineteen-year-old freshman and biology major Steven Dawson said he was up on the third floor studying when people began shouting about a gunman in the building. He said:
Everyone just dropped everything and started running.
Dawson stated that he fled down a fire escape with several others and made it outside successfully. He estimates it was about 20 seconds later that he heard rapid, multiple gunshots approximately 100 feet away, by the library’s front entrance.
Everyone took off running. I’ve never seen more people screaming and running.
According to FSU Police Department Chief David Perry, the library was “packed with students studying for final exams.” He estimated maybe 300 to 400 students were inside at the time of the incident.
Another student witness who wished to remain anonymous said:
Everyone started running to one side of the library, then to the back. People were saying, ‘Gun! There’s a shooter! Go! Go! Go!
That witness said a group of students she was with hid behind bookshelves for a long time, maybe 20 minutes, until authorities gave the “all clear.” They were then escorted out of the library to a building next door, where they remained until 4 a.m.
Other students, such as international affairs major Devon Ford, used tables and chairs to barricade themselves into a stairwell once they got wind of a shooter on the loose. They stayed there until police announced that the gunman was “in custody” and “no longer a threat.”
When confronted by officers, the gunman was ordered to “drop his weapon,” according to police spokesperson Dave Northway.
The suspect did not comply with the commands and shot at the officers. They returned fire and the suspect was killed.
Twenty-one-year-old business major Chad Huling said that he’d witnessed the entire confrontation between the gunman and police that resulted in the gunman’s death. He’d been watching from a second-story window from above.
The gunman was stood right under us. There were about four or five cops there, with more arriving, and they all aimed their weapons at him and shouted, ‘Get down!’ about six times. But he did not do anything so they opened fire, I would say at least a dozen times. It was very loud. The whole thing was over in about 10 seconds.
I was just thinking, ‘Is this for real?’ I called my mom and just told her I loved her. We thought there were two shooters at that point, that’s what everyone was saying, so my heart was going so fast.
Local authorities delivered a press conference at 6 a.m. EST, where Police Chief Michael DeLeo spoke of the incident as “isolated” and stated that he believed the man was “acting alone.” It is still unclear whether that late gunman was a student at the university.
One of the three victims suffering gunshot wounds was listed in critical condition at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare as of Thursday morning, according to spokesperson Stephanie Derzypolski. Another victim is now in stable condition and the third was simply grazed, treated at the scene, and released from care.
FSU president John Thrasher confirmed in a statement that all three shooting victims are students at the university. Counseling services are being offered to staff and students alike as they try to “make sense of what is a senseless incident.” Thrasher offered praise to police for their valor, stating that they did an “extraordinary job taking quick and decisive action to prevent further tragedy.” He added:
Our thoughts and prayers are with the families and loved ones of all those who have been affected.
Chief DeLeo stated that five officers from two different forces took part in the response and are now on administrative leave in lieu of a pending investigation. DeLeo said it is too early in the process to know whether all five officers fired upon the suspect.
All in all, it looks like FSU narrowly escaped what could have been a much worse situation. Students are gathering with hugs, tears, and prayers to make sense of what just transpired.
— Setareh (@heysetareh_) November 20, 2014