An apparent murder-suicide at the University of South Carolina's (USC) Arnold School of Public Health left a professor and one other dead on Thursday, police say.
Authorities have not yet released the names of those involved, but sources told The State that Raja Fayad was shot to death. The 45-year-old was a graduate director, colon cancer expert, and head of the applied physiology division.
The shooting took place as students were switching classes at about 1 p.m. on the fourth floor of a downtown research building, witnesses told the Charlotte Observer. At 1:16 p.m., the university sent a text alert stating shots were fired at the new school of public health and directing students to "seek safe shelter."
Students in the Arnold building stayed in locked classrooms until someone pulled a fire alarm and police led them across the street to debrief them. Officers from the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED), USC police, U.S. marshals, Richland County police, and Columbia police shut down multiple city blocks near the west part of campus as the urban college locked down.
A 2:15 p.m. alert ended the shelter order, and 15 minutes later a SLED spokesman said there was no active shooter, and two had died.
USC enacted its Carolina Alert system, sending three texts and four emails to 54,000 users to keep students, faculty, and staff aware of the situation. It also interrupted its cable system programming to spread the news.
"Our school was proactive about this," said senior Cole Mumpower. Another student praised the university's handling of the situation.
However, some stressed that the school needed a better plan for professors to follow when such alerts come through.
Although classes were not cancelled Thursday, university officials told professors not to penalize absent students, even if they had an exam scheduled. Extended counseling hours and a candlelight vigil were held as well.
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In a letter texted to students and others, University President Harris Pastides thanked police for their rapid response, called the events tragic, and sent his prayers to those affected (Collins, AP/ ABC News, 2/5; The State, 2/5; Leblanc et. al, The State/Charlotte Observer, 2/5).
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