Florida School Shut after Apparent Suicide, Bombs Found

Monday, 18 Mar 2013 12:26 PM

 

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The University of Central Florida closed its main campus in Orlando on Monday morning while police investigated an apparent suicide and a number of bombs found in a residence hall, the school said.

Campus police received a fire alarm and then a 911 emergency call "regarding a man with a gun" early Monday morning, according to the university, which is one of the largest in the United States.

When police officers arrived, they found the body of a male student with an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound and closed the seven-story residence hall. Police found a handgun, an assault weapon and a bag containing explosives in the student's room, said university spokesman Grant Heston.

At 2:09 a.m., police sent students a text message alert that the residential Tower 1 dormitory, home to about 500 students, would be evacuated due to a "suspicious death."

Another text alert at 2:46 a.m. reassured residents that there was no threat.

"It was clear at that point that there was no imminent threat from a live shooter, which is the first thing you worry about," Heston said.

Classes were canceled on Monday morning but were set to resume at noon, university officials said. Monday was the first scheduled day of class after spring break, students said.

The Orange County Sheriff's bomb squad was on campus, and the FBI was assisting the university's police department.

Heston said the dead student lived in a suite with three roommates and that it was unclear what he planned to do with the weapons.

Residents, some wrapped in blankets or in sleepwear, were sent to another building on campus for food and counseling. Other dormitories were not evacuated.

Kathryn Wood, a 21-year-old junior from West Palm Beach, said she heard the fire alarm shortly after midnight, grabbed some money and went next door to a pizza restaurant to eat and wait the situation out.

A police officer with the biggest gun she had ever seen dashed into the restaurant and ordered everyone to leave immediately, Wood said. "It scared us all."

Students were first sent a block away across the main campus loop road, then told to move back farther, to the student center, Wood said.

Sophomore Justin Love, 19, said he was about to fall asleep when he heard the fire alarm, but took the disturbance in stride.

"The way I look at it is, it didn't blow up," Love said. "We're still here."

The university has an enrollment of about 60,000 students, including those at satellite campuses and online.

A student, Laura Vickers, posted a message on the school's Facebook page, calling the incident a tragedy.

"I am sad to say a UCF Knight took their own life today in Tower 1," Vickers wrote in a post that appeared around 8 a.m. "Despite the ... devices found in the student's room this loss was a tragedy.

"This week I encourage all UCF students to lend a helping hand to a roommate or friend or contact someone you haven't spoken to in awhile. Life is precious and it can end in the blink of an eye."

© 2014 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

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