A law student opened fire near the University of North Carolina on Thursday, killing a student and a bicyclist and wounding at least two others as he peppered the street with rifle shots, police said.
The man began shooting randomly as he walked along a downtown street around 2 p.m., striking a police officer and a student who escaped unharmed when a bullet ricocheted off his keys.
The gunman was shot in the legs by police, then tackled by a bystander who was shot in the struggle. All three of the wounded were taken to a hospital; none suffered life-threatening injuries, authorities said.
One man was gunned down in front of a sorority house and a bicyclist was killed a half-block away on the steps of the rooming house where he lived.
Police said the man near the sorority house was a student and it wasn’t immediately clear if the other victim also was. Police weren’t releasing victims’ names pending notification of their families.
“He was shooting at me, he was shooting at random, and he was shooting at anybody he saw,” said attorney Bob Epting, 50. “He looked like he was on his way to his own death.”
The gunman worked his way up to the post office building across the street from the 200-year-old University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Orange County District Attorney Carl Fox said the man fired 10 to 15 rounds from a semiautomatic M-1, including several into the back of the post office building.
Authorities offered no motive.
“What happened up there is not something that any reasonable person could understand,” Police Chief Ralph Pendergraph said.
“This is not what you would expect in our community, but where would you expect it?”
Wendell Williamson, 26, a third-year law student, was charged with two counts of murder, police said.One of the oldest parts of the college campus borders the main road, Franklin Street, a block away from the shooting. The school has about 24,400 students.
Jason Howard, a doctoral candidate in microbiology, said he encountered the gunman walking down the street. The gunman was carrying what appeared to be a high-caliber rifle and a camouflage jacket, he said.
“He looked right at me,” Howard said. “I was scared.”
Howard said the gunman fired, but the bullet went through his pants and ricocheted off his keys. He was not hurt.
The gunman shot dead the bicyclist trying to get out of harm’s way, said witness Matt Mesmer. His body lay sprawled on the steps of the rooming house.
The student’s body fell in front of a sorority house.
Two police cars were hit by bullets three or four times each, and a female officer in one car was shot in the left hand. Two civilian cars also were hit.
After the killings, the gunman hid in a doorway, then came out and started firing at police, said Chris Pierson, a university senior and a bartender at the nearby Tammany Hall bar.
The gunman fell after being hit in the legs by police, but he continued firing.
The bar’s manager, William Leone, then sneaked up on the gunman, tackling him when he stopped shooting to change the clip, Pierson said.
In the process, Leone, a former Marine, was shot in the shoulder, said Brian Rathjen, owner of the Anchor Bar. “He’s the hero,” Rathjen said.
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe to the Coronavirus newsletter
Get the day’s latest Coronavirus news delivered to your inbox by subscribing to our newsletter.