CASPER COLLEGE SHOOTING

Students and faculty mingle outside of the police line on the Casper College campus as police investigate a homicide in the Wold Physical Science Center on Friday, Nov. 30, 2012, in Casper, Wyo. (AP Photo/Dan Cepeda, Casper Star-Tribune)

DAN CEPEDA

Word about what happened Friday morning spread quickly through Casper College's campus.

Most reactions by students, staff members and faculty were the same -- hope as the incident progressed and disbelief when it ended.

Information about what was happening spread via campus text alerts and word-of-mouth. Early reports indicated a homicide on campus. The story evolved throughout the day, adding more detail -- three dead, including the suspect, after a sharp-edged-object attack. Part of the attack took place in the Wold Physical Science Center, during an in-session class.

Chris Henrichsen, a political science professor, was about to finish a class when he heard what happened. As he locked the classroom door and awaited official word on what to do, Henrichsen tried to keep his students calm. He told them to check their cell phones for updates.

"You just try to reassure them a little bit," he said.

Students elsewhere on campus gathered in locked classrooms and peripheral campus buildings, waiting.

Noelany Fredrick, a freshman, was in an English class when the news broke. A tardy student told the class there were police by the physical science building. Another student checked a phone and saw a text message about the incident. The group locked themselves in a classroom.

Fredrick texted her boyfriend, a fellow student at the college. He was in a class at the Thorson Institute of Business -- a building neighboring the physical science center. The two texted as frequently as they could, making sure the other was safe.

"You're kind of freaked out," Fredrick said. "My first reaction was, 'I really hope you're OK.'"

Sophomore Chelsey Lund waited for updates with a class on the other side of campus. Students checked their phones and Facebook accounts for new information about the incident, but details spread slowly.

"People were trying to figure out what was going on, why they couldn't get anywhere," she said.

Little information could be confirmed quickly. Ken Lowe, a custodian in the Strausner Student Center, kept to his work and tried not to get caught up in what he was hearing.

"You start with the rumors," he said. "You've got to find out what's the truth. We don't know yet."

The college sent out a text alert at 10:53 a.m. letting students know they could travel campus normally. Students and staff members left the rooms they'd been locked in -- some for two hours.

Some tried to resume their routines. Others went home. Most couldn't believe what happened.

Peter Van Houten, a journalism professor, sat in his office. He said he had felt fairly prepared for the incident, and that everyone in his building did what they were told.

Lund said the lack of reliable information made it difficult to be comfortable.

"You're just wondering what happened and hope everyone's OK," she said. "You don't know exactly what classroom it happened in and what was going through the person's head that did it."

Shannan Pyer, a freshman who was evacuated from the physical science center, struggled to fathom the event hours after it happened.

"It's something you don't witness every day," she said.

Henrichsen sat in a hallway in Liesinger Hall a few minutes after normal traffic resumed. He directed a student to not worry about an assignment due Friday, then took a moment to think about what happened.

"I think it's --," he said, then he paused. "Tragedies can happen anywhere."

Reach energy reporter Adam Voge at 307-266-0561, or at adam.voge@trib.com. Read his blog at http://trib.com/news/opinion/blogs/boom or follow him on Twitter @vogeCST.

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