Student Commits Suicide In UCF Dorm, Police Find Guns And Explosives
University of Central Florida officials have confirmed that the man found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound this morning was a student at the school and that there were also explosive devices in his dorm apartment.
FBI and other law enforcement officials are now making sure that the explosive devices found in the man’s room can be safely removed from the building and from campus.
UCF spokesman Grant Heston said a fire alarm call registered for Tower 1, a residence hall for about 500 students located in Knights Plaza near the arena and Bright House Networks stadium, about 12:20 a.m. Monday. While UCF police were on the way, officers received a 911 call for a man with a gun in the residence hall.
Police found the man dead from what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Authorities have since interviewed several witnesses and they have confirmed the man was a student. It’s not clear where his body was found.
Heston said they have not found any type of a written plan or manifesto in the man’s room. He said the man’s body, the weapons and the explosive devices were all found in one of the rooms in the man’s dorm apartment.
Law-enforcement officers investigating the incident found a handgun, an assault weapon and improvised explosive devices, a campus spokeswoman said.
UCF police, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI are investigating, said Communications Coordinator Courtney Gilmartin. The Sheriff’s Office’s bomb squad is on campus to examine the IEDs found at the scene, she said. The FBI’s Hazmat team, bomb techs and investigators are also on the scene.
“The safety of our students in Tower 1 and our entire campus community is our top priority,” Police Chief Richard Beary said.
Meanwhile, students who live in the residence hall where law-enforcement officers were investigating the apparent suicide and explosive devices found there early Monday have access to counseling on campus this morning.
None of the students leaving the area of the arena, where they were sent early this morning, were willing to speak with media as they left the building just before 8 a.m. Many of them appeared to be upset.
UCF junior David Lewis, who lives in the nearby Tower 3 dorm, said he was up early Monday morning and saw the police activity — several unmarked patrol cars and trucks, and officers armed with rifles.
At a campus that has had multiple recent reports of suspicious packages that turned out to be false alarms, as well as ongoing fire drills, Lewis and roommate Ben Bazata said it is possible some students didn’t initially take the issue seriously.
Asked how he feels knowing the details so far released by authorities, Lewis said, it is “crazy shock.”
Meanwhile, at least one Tower 1 student appeared to have slept through the ordeal. He declined to give his name to the Orlando Sentinel, but said he took sleeping pills and didn’t hear alarms throughout the night, or text and email alerts from UCF.
Another Tower 1 resident, Hank Kleinberg, was among hundreds evacuated early Monday.
“Everyone in the apartment thought it was a fire so we just grabbed whatever we could,” and headed out, Kleinberg, a senior majoring in English, told the Central Florida Future, the campus newspaper. “From what I’ve heard about what’s going on, I’m kinda glad they got me out of the building because I heard ‘explosives, assault weapons.'”
Tower 1 remains closed, but the adjacent parking garage, Garage G, has been reopened.
Police closed West Plaza Drive, where the residence hall is located, for their investigation. Several police cars are in the area and an Orange County Fire Rescue truck is outside the arena.
Heston said Beary is an expert on campus safety issues.
“Safety is the first and most important thing,” to UCF officials, Heston said.
All classes on UCF’s main campus that would start earlier than 12 p.m. are canceled, and UCF officials will update students and staff before then on what will unfold the remainder of the day.
Heston said students, faculty and staff are not to report to the main campus unless they are essential personnel.
However, some students didn’t receive that information before heading to campus.
Daniesha State, a health sciences student from Melbourne, never got the messages and was puzzled when she walked up to the library and discovered it was closed. She was frustrated to learn her 10:30 a.m. class was cancelled, as she’d driven more than an hour from home to get to UCF. She was taken aback to learn what had happened.
“It does worry me,” State said. “I don’t expect that to happen on a campus like this,” she added, as so many UCF students seem so focused and high-achieving.
The Central Florida Research Park adjacent to campus will be open for classes and regular operations.
The school is also asking commuters who use UCF as a cut-through to avoid the area.
Students who reside in the multi-story Tower 1 can go to the Arena this morning to speak with counselors. Those evacuated students also received food at the student union when they were first evacuated just after midnight.
University officials are saying that essential personnel should report to work, but other employees are asked to stay off campus until noon.
Updates about afternoon classes will be forthcoming and will be posted on http://www.ucf.edu and http://www.facebook.com/ucf.
Kleinberg, the student who lives in Tower 1, said he lives on the seventh floor and didn’t hear a gunshot or any other commotion before he and others were told to evacuate.
This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.