The man police say killed three people at the University of Nevada Las Vegas on Wednesday, had a hit list that included faculty members at East Carolina University, where he taught for over a decade, The Washington Post reported Friday.
Officials in Nevada said Anthony James Polito, 67, killed three staff members at UNLV before dying in a shootout with police.
Polito received his master’s degree from Duke’s Fuqua School of Business in 1991, a Duke spokesman said Thursday.
He had been an associate business professor at East Carolina University from 2001 to 2017, teaching thousands of students how to make businesses run more efficiently.
The Washington Post reported Polito had a list of targets that included ECU staff members and that he had mailed envelopes to 22 university faculty members across the United States, some containing a white powder later found to he harmless.
“None of the individuals on the target list became a victim,” Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill said, the Post reported.
Online phone records indicate Polito had been living in Las Vegas. Investigators have said he had tried unsuccessfully to get a job at UNLV.
According to news reports, a gunman opened fire at about 11:45 a.m. Wednesday on the fourth floor of the building that houses the Lee Business School at UNLV, where final exams were scheduled for next week. In addition to the three killed, police said a fourth victim was wounded in the attack.
ECU spokeswoman Jeannine Manning Hutson said Thursday that Polito was hired there in August 2001 as an assistant professor in the Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management in the College of Business. He was a tenured associate professor at ECU when he resigned on Jan. 17, 2017, she said.
Hutson said state law and UNC System policy would not allow the release of additional information, including whether Polito had ever faced disciplinary action during his time at ECU.
Criminal records for Polito show only minor traffic violations: He was stopped for speeding in Wake County in 2006 and was cited for a parking issue in the town of Henderson, Nevada, just outside Las Vegas, in 2019.
Polito’s professional resume, history on the internet
Polito was an early and ardent adopter of the internet, using it as a teaching tool beginning early in his career in the mid-1990s and as a way to both feed and display his many interests in more recent years.
He had a personal web page, tonypolito.com, with several hundred links to sites, most of which he listed as sources under a range of categories.
Many were connected to his professional field: management books, business school websites, economic surveys, business and professional trade groups. Other headings include interesting web cams, with cameras at the Statue of Liberty listed first; people he identified as great minds of the 20th century; shopping, with an emphasis on clothes; and travel, with three subsections on Las Vegas.
On his website, Polito had at least three versions of his resume. Two were one-page summaries, the other, a 47-page document that listed every class he had taught, complete with the number of enrolled students; every paper and article he had published; each university committee he had sat on; and recommendations he had provided for students or colleagues with a note if they had been hired for the job.
Before LinkedIn removed it Thursday, Polito had a profile on the platform in which he spoke fondly of teaching and, as he did in his resume, said most of his students gave him good reviews.
“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,” he wrote, then provided a link and suggested anyone interested should “Feel free to read some of them.”
In a review from 2014, a former student said, “Dr. Polito teaches students about things that happen in the real world that we will be able to apply in our careers. He definitely knows his course material and every new class covers interesting topics. One of the best teachers I’ve had so far!”
Polito’s fascination with the Zodiac Killer
Under the category “vital signs” on his web page, Polito talked enthusiastically about his interests in different types of music, movies and cars.
One heading, “Theories Regarding Various Mysteries and Puzzles,” features Polito’s 15-page analysis of the published letters of the famed “Zodiac Killer” who was active in California in the late 1960s.
In the paper, Polito claimed to be the first person to decode the killer’s letters and identified him as the now-dead suspect police had named in the case but never charged.
The tone of the paper is less of a fascination with the serial killer himself or even the case, and more focused on deciphering the code the killer used to tantalize investigators. Repeatedly, Polito notes that the killer thought he was smarter than others, including his victims.
Polito explains his decoding work as he goes as if he were standing at a chalkboard in front of a class.
He starts the paper with an introduction, saying, “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! 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.”
Charles Brown, director of marketing and communications for MENSA, confirmed Thursday that Polito joined the high-IQ society in 1980 the same way as its other members: by achieving a threshold score on a standardized test. Polito would have been around 24 at the time.
Brown said Polito had let his membership lapse earlier this year, just a matter of unpaid dues.