ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Students whispering into phones and hiding behind barricaded doors. Panicked parents calling on behalf of their children, feeding information from text-message updates. Faculty members requesting help, unsure whether their classrooms could be the next target.
The four-dozen 911 calls placed in relation to the University of North Carolina at Charlotte shooting Tuesday paint the picture of a campus in chaos moments after a gunman wielding a pistol opened fire in a large lecture hall, killing two people and injuring four more.
Student Riley Howell, who in his last seconds fought to subdue the gunman, died not far from a professor who called to report the shooting seconds later.
"A student went out to make a copy, and he came running in saying he saw people bleeding," she told one of several 911 operators fielding calls about the shooting. "I have a room full of students ... these doors don't lock ... look, we need help."
Several of the 911 calls came from faculty members working in buildings close to Kennedy Hall, where police say Trystan Andrew Terrell entered a room during an anthropology lecture and began shooting. One male teacher told an operator that he could see students running around all over campus from his window but that he hadn’t been alerted of an emergency by the university.
“We don’t really know the status of anything,” he said.
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That was the case for about a dozen parents who called 911 asking for updates or trying to relay information they’d received in text messages.
One man called to tell police that his daughter was hiding in the bathroom of the Chick-fil-A in the student union. There, she was taking shelter with her roommate and with members of the fire department providing first aid to one of the shooting victims.
“She’s hiding in a bathroom right now,” the man told the operator, talking about his daughter. “The fire department is with the girl who was shot there, and they’re hiding her, too.”
Though many of the calls came from people who had witnessed only the panic and not the shooting, a handful of student callers were able to identify the suspect, describing his light skin, dark hair, black clothes and the pistol with which he was armed.
One of the callers told an operator she had escaped from the class in which the shooting unfolded.
“It seemed like he was shooting at one person,” she said. “It was a lot of shots. He was still shooting when we left.”
For those students who weren’t close to the shooting, only text messages and the shouts of others informed them of what was happening. One such caller told an operator he was in the library – located just across the street from Kennedy Hall – when he learned of the shooting.
“I was sitting at the computer when someone came in yelling, and I ran,” he said. “I didn’t even see who yelled it. I just got up and ran.”
Some of the people who called 911 to report the shooting didn’t even have that much information.
One woman who called on behalf of her sister, who was hiding and unable to call for herself, cried as she tried to pass her sister’s location on to the operator. During their discussion, she received a troubling text.
“Oh gosh; she said people are running outside in the hallway,” she told the operator just before breaking down and sobbing.
As she was still on the line, the operator got word that Terrell, 22, had been taken into custody. She told the woman on the other end that her sister was no longer in danger.
“Thank you,” the woman said, struggling to get the words out between sobs.
This article originally appeared on Asheville Citizen Times: 'It was a lot of shots': 911 calls from UNC Charlotte shooting describe campus in chaos