The gunman who killed three people and wounded a fourth in a mass shooting at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, (UNLV) has been identified in multiple media reports as a career college professor who had applied for – but failed to be accepted for – a job at the school.
Anthony Polito, 67, was named by law enforcement sources to ABC News, CNN and NBC News on Thursday morning hours after the shooting, which ended with his own death. Police still have yet to release his identity.
The sources said Polito had unsuccessfully applied for a college professorship at UNLV sometime prior to embarking on the deadly rampage.
He also previously worked as a professor at colleges in Georgia and North Carolina, and kept a personal website where he proudly documented his academic achievements – and claimed to have solved the Zodiac Killer case.
The shooting unfolded at around 11.45am on Wednesday morning when gunfire rung out from Beam Hall, where the college’s Lee Business School is located.
UNLV Police Chief Adam Garcia said that the gunman first opened fire on the fourth floor of the building before he moved through several other floors.
An “active shooter” alert was sent to students, staff and faculty, plunging the campus into terror and sending people fleeing to safety or hunkering down in classrooms.
Meanwhile, on- and off-duty police officers rushed to the location.
Two university police detectives then encountered Polito outside of Beam Hall armed with a handgun and a shootout unfolded, police said.
Polito was shot dead in the exchange of gunfire.
The active shooter alert was lifted and an all-clear given around 40 minutes after the first reports of gunfire came in.
Three victims were killed in the attack while a fourth was wounded and taken to hospital where they are in critical but stable condition, according to authorities.
Las Vegas police are yet to release the identities of the victims.
However, sources told ABC News that the victims were faculty or staff, and not students.
It is not clear if there is a connection between the victims and the gunman or if they were specifically targeted in the mass shooting.
Several other victims suffered panic attacks while a number of officers were treated for minor injuries sustained during the chaos, Sheriff Kevin McMahill said in a Wednesday night press conference.
The motive for the attack remains a mystery, with police seizing the suspect’s cellphone and professional papers to look for possible clues as to the motive for the attack
Las Vegas police were also on the scene searching Polito’s apartment in Henderson, Nevada, late on Wednesday, ABC News reported.
On Polito’s LinkedIn page, which had been changed to a “remembrance” page in the aftermath of the shooting, he described himself as a semi-retired university professor living in Las Vegas.
The short bio spoke of his fondness at the “kind & positive comments” from students he had taught over the years.
“The greatest gifts and takeaways I possess from my many years within higher education are the many kind & positive comments students made regarding my instruction and disposition toward them,” it reads.
According to Polito’s personal website, he earned a PhD in management from The Terry College of Business at The University of Georgia.
He also earned an MBA from The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University and an undergraduate majoring in Mathematics and Statistics from Radford University.
He writes that he has lived in Georgia, Iowa, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Virginia and Wyoming.
But, Polito singled out Las Vegas as a place he had a lot of “pleasure” in visiting – the same location he chose to carry out Wednesday’s shooting.
“Hard to believe, looking back, but I had the pleasure of making more than two dozen trips to Vegas over the last fifteen years,” he wrote.
“I don’t gamble that much, but there is plenty to do there, that’s for sure !! Over those years, my steel trap mind collected more information and trivia about Vegas than probably anyone in this state east of I-95 (at least)!”
On a section of the website titled “Theories Regarding Various Mysteries & Puzzles”, he shared a 15-page article – dated 2014 – in which he claimed he had cracked the secret of the identity of the infamous Zodiac Killer, who terrorised Northern California in the late 1960s and taunted police with codes.
In asserting his apparent solving of the case, Polito insisted he was not “a total crackpot” or a “dumb guy” but had used his MENSA skills to reach his conclusion.
“Just so you won’t initially write off my solution as that of a total crackpot, let me first say that I have been a member of MENSA for 35 years, I hold a double undergraduate degree in Mathematics & Statistics (two skills closely associated with successful cryptographers) … and I hold a masters degree and a doctoral degree from top-tier universities as well. So I am not a dumb guy!” he wrote.
“To be fair, I must state that I do NOT have any special expertise or experience in the field of cryptography, only a general and basic knowledge of it … and neither am I an expert or especially accomplished mathematician and/or statistician.”
In a Q&A section at the bottom of the memo – where Polito answers questions he suspects would arise from his theory – he boasts about being “smart” but not paid as well as he would like at work.
“If you are so smart, you must be rich,” read the question.
His reply came: “No, but I am currently very interested in finding a new job that pays better. I’m that smart. Can you hook me up?”
Among Polito’s other writings about “Theories Regarding Various Mysteries & Puzzles”, he also put forward his theory about what happened to doomed flight MH370.
“This theory posits that MH370 was a failed radical terrorist hijacking, with the intent of using the plane to destroy the twin Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur,” he wrote.
“Replicating the destruction of twin skyscrapers by hijacked passenger aircraft was intended to demonstrate to the world, in a manner that could not be subject to government/media disinformation, that the power of radical terrorism had not been diminished since 2001.”
He also wrote pieces about the “search for intelligent extraterrestrial life” and what he believed to be the real meaning behind the Leonardo DiCaprio movie Inception.
In other sections of the website, he shares pieces on “Dr. Polito builds his own computer“ and “Dr. Polito’s 21 Cars!!”.
It is not yet clear what motivated Polito to carry out Wednesday’s shooting which brought back memories of the deadliest mass shooting in American history.
The 2017 Route 91 Harvest music festival massacre where 60 lost their lives took place just a few miles from the college campus.
Sheriff Kevin McMahill said at a press conference on Wednesday night that law enforcement had learned lessons from that attack – lessons that helped them respond and take out the gunman rapidly this time round.
“After 1 October and all the time and effort and energy that we’ve put in together – in training with the men and women of law enforcement, the fire service and EMS – watching how seamlessly they worked together today made me very, very proud to be their sheriff,” he said.