Delaware State University was put on lockdown early Friday morning (September 21) after a gunman shot and wounded two students. Police are questioning a student they have identified as a "person of interest" in connection with the shooting, CNN reports, and are seeking a second person of interest, also a student at the university.
Classes at the 116-year-old school were canceled and students were told to stay inside as police searched the grounds for the gunman. The lockdown continued Friday afternoon, impacting approximately 1,200 students in dormitories and university apartment complexes.
"They've been directed to stay in their dorms," university spokesman Carlos Holmes said in an Associated Press report Friday morning. "We don't know where the shooter's at." The two students were shot near Memorial Hall gymnasium around 1 a.m., according to a news release on the university's Web site, which was time-stamped shortly after 5 a.m. Friday.
The alert and immediate lockdown were influenced by the lessons learned in the wake of the deadly April shootings at Virginia Tech, in which 32 students and staff were killed by gunman Seung-Hui Cho. A recent report on that shooting faulted V-Tech administrators for not shutting down the campus more quickly and for not sending out a campus-wide alert after the first two victims were shot in a dorm room as a preface to the massacre in an academic building several hours later (see "Virginia Tech Criticized For Response To Shootings").
Holmes told CNN that in addition to the Web site warning about the early morning incident, notifications were posted in dorms and sent to telephones so that students would receive them as soon as they picked up their phones. Holmes said the university had improved the speed with which such notifications go out in light of the Virginia Tech shootings.
"The primary priorities of the university at this point are the safety of the residential student population and the DSU Police investigation of the shooting," read the statement from school authorities. "Because the suspect is still at large, residential students are directed to remain in their residence halls for their safety until further notice."
CNN reports that the shooting took place at a pedestrian mall in the center of campus, near Memorial Hall, where a group of students — among the eight to 10 that left the school's Village Cafe between midnight and 1 a.m., according to school Police Chief James Overton — gathered early Friday morning. Four to six shots were fired.
The suspect is believed to be male, with no other identifying information released at press time. The injured are two 17-year-old students, who were taken to local hospitals; the male victim was shot once and is in stable condition, according to CNN, which reported that the female victim was shot twice and is suffering from more serious, potentially life-threatening wounds.
According to the AP, authorities do not yet know of a motive for the shootings, which are being investigated by the state police, FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives as well.
[This story was originally published at 12:22 p.m. ET on 9.21.2007]