As police officers searched the Kent State University campus for a man suspected of firing a gun Wednesday night outside Bowman Hall, texts and emails buzzed into thousands of cellphones and computers.
One such message stopped Arbrion Chambliss in her tracks.
Chambliss, a 20-year-old public relations student from Cleveland, said she and her friend, KSU junior Jazmine Woods, were about to leave Woods’ off-campus apartment, shortly after 8:30 p.m. They were headed to the Kent State library to work on a project when Chambliss received a text from a classmate already at the library.
It warned her not to come because the library was in lockdown mode.
“We instantly shut off the lights in the apartment, and we just got on the floor because you never know. You never know. The fact that they hadn’t caught the suspect yet, that definitely sent us into a fright,” Chambliss said Thursday as the sprawling campus returned to normal.
“My heart was beating so fast,” she said. “I mean, I was terrified. I was shaking all night, praying for the best.”
Chambliss said she and Woods stayed at the apartment until about 11:30 p.m.
About that same time, a few miles away, shooting suspect Quavaugntay L. Tyler was being placed under arrest.
Tyler, a 24-year-old KSU student from Cleveland, is in custody at the Portage County Jail. He is charged with carrying a concealed weapon, a fourth-degree felony.
More charges are likely after Portage County prosecutors review the incident, KSU Police Chief James Peach said Thursday.
Peach said Tyler was quarreling with two female KSU students, both apparently friends of his, when he pulled out a 9mm semiautomatic Ruger pistol and fired once.
The shot struck his left hand.
“Clearly, it was concealed,” Peach said of the gun. “He took it out rather quickly. But we are not able to determine a motive at the present time.”
Within minutes of the gunshot, university officials issued lockdown alerts for the entire campus through the thousands of text messages and emails to students, their relatives and faculty and staff members.
Announcements also went over speaker systems in campus buildings, Peach said.
Eric Mansfield, the KSU’s director of media relations, said university officials sent out a total of 53,728 “flash alerts” Wednesday night.
There are 26,000-plus students enrolled at KSU and 5,000 staff members, Mansfield said. When students sign up for the flash alerts, they also can provide contact information for relatives, he said.
Tyler’s arrest was made about three hours after the shooting, when officers responded to a call from Robinson Memorial Hospital staff that a man matching the suspect’s description had been admitted for emergency treatment of a gunshot wound.
Peach said Tyler was cooperative when taken into custody there.
Blood in parking lot
Initial reports that helped contribute to Tyler’s arrest came from a witness who saw someone matching the suspect’s description at the school’s Business Administration Building, Peach said. One of the women involved in the quarrel also called police and said the suspect was wounded.
Responding officers found a large pool of blood in the Bowman Hall parking lot, the chief said.
The school’s dean of students, Shay Little, said officers later recovered the Ruger. She said Tyler had the gun and ammunition in a backpack and asked an acquaintance at Johnson Hall to hide it, which she did.
Peach said that person could face charges.
Tyler is no stranger to law enforcement. He was on five years of probation, Peach said, in connection with a felony theft offense in Brimfield Township. Federal authorities could charge him with possessing a weapon while on probation.
Peach said Tyler was a suspect in several thefts on campus.
The lockdown order was lifted for all campus buildings, except Bowman Hall and the Business Administration Building, around 10:30 p.m. Those two buildings were cleared soon after that.
Chambliss said she felt university officials and police handled the flash alerts “fairly well.”
“I think they did a great job of shutting down campus immediately,” she said. “I wish notifications would have come out a little quicker, because like I said, I got my info via social media before I got it through my email and text.”
Freshman Nicole Jelinek, a broadcast journalism student from Pittsburgh, was on the fourth floor of the library when the lockdown alert came over the speaker system.
“Everyone kind of looked around to see everyone else’s reaction,” Jelinek said. “Everyone was confused. No one knew what to do, per se, because they just told us to stay where we were. And in a situation like that, where you’ve never seen something like that happen before, you don’t know how to react to it.”
All campus buildings were open Thursday with normal operations and class schedules.
University President Lester A. Lefton told faculty, staff and students via email Thursday morning that the “safety of everyone on campus has and remains my top priority.”
“We will do whatever is necessary to provide that security so that our students can learn, our faculty can teach, and our staff can support us all in a positive environment. I’m confident we are providing a safe learning environment each and every day.”
Freshman Tyra Elton, a marketing major from Akron, said she was in her dorm room at Prentice Hall when she received a flash alert via text.
Her dorm door locks automatically whenever it’s closed, so she stayed in her room all night, she said, and followed developments through social media.
Instagram photos of police actions on campus, one including a SWAT team sniper taking up a position definitely left an impression she said.
“You always hear about things like this happening,” Elton said, “but you never really think it’s going to happen here.”
By Ed Meyer - Akron Beacon Journal (MCT)
©2014 the Akron Beacon Journal (Akron, Ohio)
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