A student disguised with a ski mask and armed with an AK-47 assault rifle terrorized the University of Texas at Austin on Tuesday, firing a number of shots on campus before killing himself on the sixth floor of the main library, authorities said.
No other injuries were reported, but the event shook the sprawling campus, which was the site of one of the most notorious school shootings in American history. In 1966, troubled student Charles Whitman shot and killed 14 people and injured more than 30 from the observation deck of the university’s iconic tower.
Officials identified Tuesday’s shooter as Colton Tooley, 19, of Austin. He was found on the sixth floor of the main Perry-Castaneda Library with self-inflicted gunshot wounds, university and law enforcement officials said.
The motive is unknown, officials said. After the shooting, local media reported that detectives were searching what appeared to be the home of Tooley’s parents in south Austin.
Freshman Andrew McWaters was one of numerous students on the street when he heard gunshots about 8:10 a.m. Tuesday in front of the Littlefield Fountain, a war memorial near the center of campus. McWaters first thought the noise was a campus demonstration, but soon realized he was in danger and ducked into a nearby auditorium.
“I was running for my life,” he said. “I was so nervous.”
McWaters said he saw the shooter wave and smile through his mask.
Police initially searched for a second suspect based on witnesses’ descriptions but later declared that the student had acted alone.
Law professor Randall Wilhite told CNN that he saw the shooter in a dark suit, tie and mask fire three times into the ground while running. Wilhite saw students scatter, run and hide behind trees. But, he said, the masked man did not pursue them. “It appeared to me he was not inclined to shoot anyone,” he said.
Eventually, university and Austin police officers began chasing the suspect. As he bounded up the library’s interior stairway, students showed officers where he had headed, according to Robin Gerrow, a university spokeswoman.
The campus was locked down for hours and classes were canceled for the day.
Fausset reported from Atlanta and Santa Cruz from Los Angeles.