Just over a week after Yale’s gun scare, the University of New Haven went on lockdown yesterday afternoon after police reported that a man armed with a rifle was spotted across the street from campus.
At 12:50 p.m. UNH administration sent a tweet and a text message to all students, faculty and staff issuing a “shelter in place,” requiring all students to remain where they were. Though police arrested the suspect within half an hour, the “shelter in place” remained until 5:30 p.m. as police searched each room of every building to ensure the safety of students, staff, faculty and visitors. All afternoon classes were canceled and the Shop Rite and the neighboring McDonald’s also closed down during the lockdown.
Though many students were confined to classrooms and dorms through the afternoon, those interviewed were pleased with the police and the administration’s cautious approach. Students said the administration followed up with more information throughout the afternoon with automated phone calls and emails.
“We were pretty anxious about the whole situation but the university did a good job of constantly updating us,” said Kerri Zbodula, a UNH junior. “I felt a lot better that they were taking such big precautions and checking everywhere.”
An emergency email sent to students, faculty and staff shortly after the gunman was spotted on campus read, “WHPD has reported an Asian male near the South Campus area with what appears to be a rifle.” Later in the day, NBC Connecticut reported that police had identified the suspect, now in custody, as UNH student William Dong, who commuted to campus from Fairfield, Conn. Police found two loaded handguns and ammunition for the rifle he was carrying in his car, which was parked at a Shop Rite across the street from campus.
Police told the Connecticut Courant that Dong has two legally registered firearms. They are currently searching his background for clues that would explain why he had a firearm on campus.
How Dong intended to use the gun is yet to be revealed, UNH spokeswoman Karen Grava said. However, Grava confirmed that there were no injuries.
None of the four students interviewed knew Dong before the incident.
Students reported that local police, along with SWAT teams, state troopers and the FBI, swarmed campus during the incident. Zbodula said police surrounded campus buildings to maintain the lockdown.
“I felt completely safe the whole time,” said Nathalie Hall, a UNH junior. “The way they handled it was amazing, I really liked how they kept us up-to-date the whole time.”
When the first reports came out, however, students took cover, hiding under desks and in closets, laying in between bookshelves and turning off their lights, according to Zbodula and Sagemarie George, a freshman at UNH. Many students became restless and hungry during their five hours of confinement, Hall said.
Zbodula said students were especially shaken by the incident because it came in the wake of Yale’s gun scare and last Monday’s incident in which a UNH student stabbed his roommate several times.
“[The police] received quite a lot of compliments,” Grava said. “A lot of people, students and others, were tweeting about the police, thanking them for their swift actions.”
UNH currently has 6,400 student enrolled.