On Wednesday morning shortly before 10 AM, a murder-suicide claimed the lives of two men on the campus of the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA). According to the LAPD, the gunman was likely a student, and the Los Angeles Times reports that his target was biomechanics professor William S. Klug, who worked at the "interface of mechanics and biology."
The shooter's identity and motive are still unknown as of this writing, but the LAPD says a note has been found at the scene.
As details of the shooting slowly emerged on Wednesday, UCLA and the surrounding neighborhood of Westwood were plunged into chaos. Law enforcement ordered a campus-wide lockdown, and deployed armed officers to secure classrooms and other campus facilities until the all-clear was given at 12:05 PM.
It was also meant to be the start of UCLA's finals week.
"We were supposed to be doing our final presentations in [our] class today," a UCLA senior named Nicole Turkson told VICE. But news of the shooting arrived, and the students dropped everything, barricaded themselves inside, and "sat up against the wall so we couldn't really see the outside windows."
Nicole Tadros, 20, a junior in the chemistry and material science program tried to work despite the confusion. Between classes, she noticed someone shouting, and people took off running, so Tadros said she ran with them, "because I didn't know what to do." But when she got to her next class, she carried on preparing for a final.
Then she and her classmates finally found out the situation was "much more serious than we thought."
"When the officers responded here, initially, it came as a shooting in progress. They don't know at that point. They don't know if there's an active shooter on campus, or it's an isolated incident," said LAPD public information officer Chris Ramirez.
In addition to UCLA's campus police and the LAPD officers and SWAT teams, several additional law enforcement agencies sent officers, according to Ramirez. Members of the FBI, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, and the California Highway Patrol all made appearances. Members of the LA Fire Department, and campus police vehicles from nearby University of Southern California could also be seen.
Ramirez explained that responders' jobs included, "finishing up the evacuations, finishing up the clearing out of the campus, making sure there was no additional victims, and providing aid, if anyone needed it," adding, "My understanding is there weren't any reports of anyone needing aid."
But 20-year-old UCLA student Bernardo Gonzalez said the presence of such a large number of officers had the side effect of adding to the confusion. "[We] were kicked out of classrooms, saw someone running around with a gun, and were like 'Oh, there's another shooter running around!'"
Gonzalez said he and his acquaintances confused tactical law enforcement gear for commercially available body armor, and heard hysterical reports about a vast killing operation with a body count as high as seven. "It wasn't cleared up until the police gave their statement," he said.
According to Tadros, during the two-hour lockdown, nearly everyone in her classroom received frantic texts from friends and family, including her own family who had learned of the shooting all the way in her home country of Jordan, "They were freaking out," she said.
"I think people are gonna be shaken up about this for a while," said Cole Tegner, a 22-year-old political science major. "I talked to some friends already who told me they're afraid to go to class tomorrow. It's very scary," Tegner said, pointing out that the campus is ostensibly "a gun-free zone."
At a press conference late Wednesday afternoon, Scott Waugh, UCLA's vice chancellor and provost told the press that most classes will resume Thursday, but that the engineering department, including Boelter Hall where the shooting took place, remains closed indefinitely with the planning of a candlelight vigil still pending.
Alan Garfinkel, colleague of professor Klug in the engineering program told the Los Angeles Times that he was "absolutely devastated" at this loss, adding, "You cannot ask for a nicer, gentler, sweeter and more supportive guy than William Klug."
Waugh also pointed out that UCLA has "a lot of very distressed students and staff" right now, and that mental health services are available, and will "have extended hours tonight, and over the next few days."
At the press conference, Waugh expressed concern over reports that doors couldn't be locked during the lockdown, forcing students to improvise solutions and post them on social media. One group of students reportedly tied a belt around the hydraulic mechanism at the top of a door to secure it. Another forced heavy objects against an inward-opening door to form an ad-hoc barricade.
Tadros said she has always felt safe at UCLA, but she certainly didn't rule out another tragedy like this one, saying, "I don't feel like there's much they can do."
"It's a huge campus," Tadros said. "Things happen. That's life."
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