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4 Dead, Including Suspected Gunman, in Shooting at University of Nevada in Las Vegas

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Updated: | Originally published:

A 67-year-old lone suspected gunman was killed by police after he fatally shot three faculty members and wounded a fourth at the campus of the University of Nevada in Las Vegas (UNLV) on Wednesday.

In a Thursday press conference, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Sheriff Kevin McMahill revealed the suspected gunman to be Anthony J. Polito, a business professor who lives in Henderson, Nevada. The motive is still being investigated, but McMahill noted that Polito had applied for jobs at several universities and colleges in Nevada and was rejected each time. The suspect also appeared to be facing eviction from his apartment.

According to the Associated Press, Polito was previously a professor at the business school at East Carolina University in North Carolina from 2001 to 2017, and he had an adjunct faculty contract teaching two courses at the Roseman University of Health Sciences’ Master of Business Administration program from October 2018 to June 2022.

Polito was armed with a handgun he legally purchased in 2022, McMahill said, adding that Polito also had a list of people he was looking for at UNLV, as well as faculty members at East Carolina University. Police said all of the people on the list have been contacted and none were among the victims.

McMahill said that before the shooting, Polito also mailed 22 letters to university faculty members across the U.S., according to reviewed dashcam footage. At least one of the letters, which was intercepted by authorities, contained an unknown white powder substance, he said, but the LVMPD confirmed later that the substance was harmless.

Who are the victims?

Two of the slain victims have been identified as Patricia Navarro-Velez, 39, an assistant professor in accounting, and Cha Jan “Jerry” Chang, 64, a professor of business. The third deceased victim has yet to be identified.

The surviving, injured victim is a 38-year-old unnamed male who was admitted to Sunrise Hospital under critical condition before being later described as “stable,” though he is in “life-threatening” condition as of Thursday, McMahill said.

McMahill said at a briefing on Wednesday after the incident that authorities’ swift response to the shooting prevented additional casualties. “If it hadn't been for the heroic actions of one of those police officers who responded, there could have been countless additional lives taken. Armed confrontation of the suspect by law enforcement stopped the suspect’s further actions.”

President Joe Biden expressed sympathy in a White House statement for the families of the victims, and he also cited a pair of shooting incidents in Texas the day before to renew calls for a bipartisan congressional ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines as well as other “common sense” measures “that will help stem the tide of gun violence.”

What happened at UNLV?

According to McMahill, Polito arrived in a vehicle on campus at around 11:28 a.m.

The university alerted students to shots fired at around 11:54 a.m. local time, but during a Wednesday press conference, police said they first received calls of an active shooter at 11:45 a.m. McMahill said the shooting began on the fourth floor of Frank and Estella Beam Hall, which houses the business school, with the suspect moving through floors.

“This is not a test. RUN-HIDE-FIGHT,” the school’s alert said. Shortly after, the university’s X account said that university police were also responding to additional reports of shots fired in the Student Union. 

Read More: How Mass Shooting Advice Places Responsibility on the Victims

UNLV professor Kevaney Martin told the AP that the shooting was terrifying. “I was trying to hold it together for my students, and trying not to cry, but the emotions are something I never want to experience again,” she said. 

“One second I'm joking around with two of my students before class, the next we are under desks in a pitch black room behind a locked door. Just an unfathomably sad day for our UNLV community,” Martin shared via social media on Wednesday. “Tell your people you love them. You literally never know when it will be too late.”

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department posted on X at 12:37 p.m. local time that the suspect had been located and was deceased. McMahill later added that the suspect had been “neutralized” outside the hall. Adam Garcia, the university police chief, said two detectives engaged in a shootout with the suspect.

Administrative operations at the UNLV campus remain closed, except for student support services, according to the school’s website, and classes and academic activities remain canceled through Dec. 10, while students and faculty have been encouraged to work remotely.

“Tragic and heartbreaking news coming out of @unlv. Praying for everyone on campus as law enforcement responds to the situation,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman wrote on X Wednesday afternoon. The city was previously home to one of the deadliest mass shootings in history in 2017, when a gunman killed 60 people and injured hundreds more at Mandalay Bay Casino.

The Gun Violence Archive—a non-profit tracker that defines a mass shooting as one that involves four or more people killed or injured, not including the shooter—has counted at least 630 mass shootings in the U.S. so far this year.

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