DOVER, Del. – Two students were shot and wounded, one seriously, at Delaware State University early Friday, prompting administrators mindful of the massacre at Virginia Tech to order a swift shutdown of the campus while police searched for the gunman.
Police identified two students as “persons of interest,” questioning both of them, while students remained locked in their dorms and officers lowered gates to keep anyone from coming onto the campus of the 3,690-student historically black university.
“The biggest lesson learned from that whole situation at Virginia Tech is don’t wait. Once you have an incident, start notifying the community,” said university spokesman Carlos Holmes.
The shooting, reported to police at 12:54 a.m., happened as a group of students were returning from an on-campus cafe. A 17-year-old male student was in stable condition; a female student, also 17, was shot in the abdomen and in serious condition.
The two students were shot on the Campus Mall, between the Memorial Hall gymnasium and Richard S. Grossley Hall, an administrative building. Investigators believed the shootings may have been preceded by an argument at the cafe, and officials said it did not appear to be random.
“This is an internal problem,” said Allen Sessoms, the university’s president. “There are no externalities … this is just kids who did very, very stupid things.”
“This not an act of terrorism,” said university police chief James Overton. “This was not a crazed gunman who found his way onto campus.”
Campus officials acted much more swiftly than officials at Virginia Tech did five months ago, when administrators delayed notifying students nearly two hours after gunman Seung-Hui Cho killed his first two victims. By then, he had already started shooting 30 other people in a classroom building across campus.
A report by a panel appointed by Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine concluded that lives could have been saved if alerts had been sent out earlier and classes canceled after Cho killed his first two victims.
At Delaware State, officials didn’t wait. Within about 20 minutes of the shooting being reported to police, even as the victims were being taken to hospitals, campus police and residence hall advisers were telling students to stay in their dorm rooms, although not all were told there had been a shooting.
By 2:11 a.m., Overton was meeting with another university official to discuss the school’s response. Notices were posted in dormitories and the school Web site by about 2:40 a.m., and the decision to cancel classes was made shortly after 5 a.m., well before the school day started.