Killings

Police investigate killings at Casper College, Hawthorne Avenue

2012-11-30T19:00:00Z 2012-12-03T11:04:49Z Police investigate killings at Casper College, Hawthorne AvenueBy JOSHUA WOLFSON, ADAM VOGE and KYLE ROERINK Star-Tribune staff writers Casper Star-Tribune Online

A man with an edged weapon killed one person in Casper and another at Casper College before apparently taking his own life on campus, police said today.

Police found the suspect and one of the victims in a third-floor classroom in the school’s physical science building while responding to a traumatic injury call shortly after 9 a.m., said Chief Chris Walsh. The second victim was found on Hawthorne Avenue near 39th Street.

One of the victims was a Casper College faculty member. 

Authorities believe the killing at Hawthorne Avenue preceded the attack at the college, which took place while a class was in session.

“It's a troubling day,” Walsh told reporters at a press conference four hours after the attacks. “This is a day you hope never comes into your community.”

Walsh declined to identify the dead, pending notification of their families. He did say all three were adults and that the suspect wasn’t a current student at the school.

No one else was injured in the attacks.

Police believe the three people who died knew each other, but Walsh did not offer any details. He said a motive for the attacks wasn't clear. The attacks don't appear to be "school-motivated," according to a press release from city officials.

No firearms were used in the killings. Rumors circulated among students that the suspect used a bow and arrow. Walsh would only say that “edged weapons” were involved.

“We’re still working the crime scene and we are still trying to uncover details,” he said. “So right now, there aren’t a lot of specifics."

Investigators believe the suspect acted alone. Authorities said they did not receive any warnings before the attack.

The community was not in danger of random violence stemming from the event, Walsh said.

Calls came within minutes

Police received the initial traumatic injury call from the college at 9:06 a.m. Within two minutes, dispatchers received a second call from the Hawthorne Avenue location.

An estimated 33 officers responded to the college. The first officers arrived on scene about 9:10 a.m., although the exact time was unclear because police were trained to immediately enter the building, rather than radio in their position, Walsh said.

Police suspected a shooter was possibly inside the Wold Physical Science Center. Officers began a sweep of the building, looking for suspects or injured people.

They found two people – including the suspect –inside a classroom on the third floor. When officers arrived, the suspect showed signs of life. Medics were called, but the man died at the scene.

“It was a rapid response from the medical personnel, but there was just nothing they could do,” he said.

Walsh said he couldn’t give details of how the students who were in the class evacuated the room.

College officials locked down the campus and police performed a systematic search of the building. Even after the lockdown was lifted, authorities barred anyone from entering the physical science center or the adjoining life science center until their investigation has concluded.

Students were evacuated to a nearby building. Some eventually left with law enforcement officers.

The college canceled classes for the day and called in grief counselors for students and staff.

“I can say without a doubt this is the worst day of my career,” college President Walter Nolte said.

Students evacuate

College student Delina Barbosa was in chemistry class on the third floor of the physical science building at the time of the attack. At about 9:10 a.m. a college secretary pounded on the door and then gestured to students, she said.

"You guys need to evacuate right now. This is not a drill," the secretary said, according to Barbosa.

Barbosa said she didn't hear any commotion prior to the secretary's notice. Barbosa and the others left class and made their way to a student lounge inside Liesinger Hall.

Roommates Courtney Suko and Shannan Pyer, both freshmen, were in a biology lecture hall in the physical science building when a woman came into the room and told the class to leave.

Suko and Pyer grabbed their bags and ran for the door. They both thought it was a drill.

"I didn't think it was anything shocking or anything like that," Pyer said.

When they got outside, they saw that police had already assembled.

"You're wondering if someone would jump out and have a gun or something," Suko said.

The class planned to assemble in a nearby building, but later moved to the Liesinger building, further from where the incident happened.

As Pyer and Suko waited to be released, they said they saw a girl crying in the same room. The girl told them that she'd been in the room where everything happened. She said she saw someone shoot a professor with a bow and arrow and then repeatedly stab him with something.

Natrona County School District officials put the district's schools on lockdown after news of the incident, and the Wyoming Medical Center was put on lockdown for 30 minutes this morning. The district lifted the lockdown on all schools at 10:30 a.m.

Second crime scene

Police blocked off a part of Hawthorne Avenue and late morning radio scanner traffic and on-scene reports indicated a dead body was on the street.

Stephanie Knight lives a few doors down from where the body was discovered. Police knocked on her door at about 9:15 a.m. and asked if she’d seen anything. Knight said she didn’t see the killing.

A body was visible from her home for a time. It was barefoot and clad in pajamas, she said.

A county coroner transport vehicle and a hazardous materials team arrived at the scene at about 1 p.m.

Contact Joshua Wolfson at 307-266-0582 or at josh.wolfson@trib.com. Visit http://trib.com/news/opinion/blogs/wolfjammies to read his blog. Follow him on Twitter @joshwolfson.

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