Authorities are investigating a murder-suicide Thursday inside a University of South Carolina research building on Assembly Street in the first multiple shooting death at USC in more than three decades.
The State Law Enforcement Division would not identify the shooter, the victim nor say whether they were part of the university’s on-campus community.
SLED spokesman Thom Berry would only say at 2:30 p.m., “There was no active shooter other than the two deceased.”
The university at 1:16 p.m. sent a schoolwide text alert that stated: “SHORS (sic) FIRED AT NEW SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH. Seek safe shelter.”
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The urban college went into lockdown, though some students were walking casually as close as a block from the Arnold School of Public Health as city, county and state police were closing off streets around the building.
Immediately after the alert, Cameron Razzaghi, 22, a USC student standing in a bank parking lot across from the school, said he was concerned some friends might still be in the building.
“I’m worried,” Razzaghi said.
University President Harris Pastides declined to comment at 3 p.m. Thursday. University spokesman Wes Hickman subsequently said the building had been secured and an all-clear issued. Pastides and trustees were going into a board meeting.
In October 1979, an 18-year-old student killed two other students and wounded five more at an on-campus fraternity party at Bates West dormitory on Whaley Street.
As Pastides was reached by reporters, the disrupted campus was slowly returned to a new normal.
But confusion persisted.
USC police were saying not to release students from the nearby Darla Moore School of Business, even though the threat had passed.
Campus officials said all public health classes and any classes in the Arnold School had been canceled for the remainder of the day.
SLED spokesman Berry said he had no information about where in the research building the shooting happened, other than it happened in a room. Several students, however, said it was in a room on the fourth floor.
The shootings happened very quickly, Berry said.
Students, faculty and employees learned of the danger through Carolina Alert, the university’s emergency notification system.
As the system was activated, people were asked to seek a safe shelter. All USC buildings also were put on lockdown, and police blocked Park, College and Pendleton streets. Traffic was closed at Park at College and College at Assembly, where yellow crime scene tape was strung across the major north/south corridor of the city, which divides the campus.
The manager of Subway across from the public health school said police ordered the shop and gas station to lock its doors about 1:30 p.m. Six employees were inside.
“The road is blocked,” said a woman, who declined to give her name. “Nobody in and nobody out.”
“We see in the window a bunch of police officers on the road, fire trucks and everything,” she said.
Gov. Nikki Haley cut short a news conference for security concerns. Some state government workers, who work close to campus at the Capitol Complex, also were notified by security officers of the shooting.
Officers in SWAT gear, armed with AR-15s, moved students across Assembly Street from the school of public health.
Columbia Police Chief Skip Holbrook was on the scene as well as the Columbia Fire Department.
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