Updated Aug 28, 2023 - News

UNC-Chapel Hill faculty member killed in shooting that left community locked down for hours

The bell tower on UNC-Chapel Hill's campus. Credit: Photo: Eros Hoagland/Getty Images

A gunman killed a UNC-Chapel Hill faculty member in a laboratory building in the center of campus Monday, setting off a confusing and anxious three-hour lockdown at the university and nearby K-12 schools.

The latest: Campus officials and police confirmed in a Monday evening press conference that a person was taken into custody, but they did not identify that person or the faculty member who died.

  • All UNC classes and activities were canceled for Monday night and all day Tuesday.

Zoom out: The shooting at Caudill Labs occurred on the first day of the university's second week of classes. It was also the first day for Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools.

  • The initial 911 call reporting shots fired came in at 1:02pm, UNC Police Chief Brian James said, and lockdowns throughout the community soon followed. UNC didn't issue an all-clear until nearly 4:15pm.
  • In between, students took to social media to post videos and pictures, police detained and released a person who wound up not being the suspected shooter, and parents and community members refreshed their phones for updates.
  • Meanwhile, false social media posts and other uncorroborated reports only fueled fear, as Axios' Katie Peralta Soloff noted.

Zoom in: UNC issued an initial alert saying an "armed and dangerous person" on or near campus at 1:03pm, one minute after the 911 call.

  • Alerts asking students to shelter in place and stay away from windows began at 1:21pm.
  • James, the campus police chief, said police detained the suspected shooter at 2:31pm, nearly 90 minutes after the initial 911 call.
  • Four minutes later they posted a photo of a person of interest on social media.
  • But the shelter-in-place remained in effect — and UNC alerts continued to say the suspect was at large — until after 4pm. James said the delay was because police needed time to identify the shooter.
  • Chapel Hill-Carrboro Public Schools system posted that it had received the "all clear" to dismiss at 3:40pm.

Between the lines: Police and university officials didn't confirm that a shooting took place until the 5:45pm press conference.

  • The only official acknowledgement of a shooting during the afternoon hours came from Gov. Roy Cooper, whose office confirmed to Axios that a shooting occurred after issuing a statement pledging all state resources "to capture the shooter."

The big picture: The alerts sent the campus and surrounding areas into a state of uncertainty.

  • A large police presence centered on several lab buildings on South Road near the school's bell tower, one of the most photographed landmarks in the state.
  • And for many, the events brought back horrifying memories of Feb. 10, 2015, when three Muslim students — two UNC dentistry students and one N.C. State student — were killed in an off-campus house.

What they're saying: "This is a time for the community to come together," UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in the evening press conference.

  • "These tragic events are sadly happening across the nation."

Axios' Katie Peralta Soloff contributed to this story.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with new details.

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