Sixteen days after a professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill was killed on campus, police once again issued a lockdown Wednesday due to an “armed & dangerous person on/near campus.” A man allegedly used a gun to threaten an employee of Alpine Bagel, located in the student union, officials said during a press conference. No shots were fired.
Campus police received a 911 call at approximately 12:45 p.m. Wednesday. About nine minutes later, the university sent an alert about the situation through its Alert Carolina emergency notification system, followed by two more alerts at 1:30 p.m. and 1:54 p.m., ordering those on campus to continue to shelter in place.
Officials eventually issued an all clear at 2:10 p.m., once police were able to confirm the suspect was no longer on campus, UNC police chief Brian James said at the press conference. Less than an hour later, Chapel Hill city police arrested a suspect, Mickel Deonte Harris, off campus. They had previously issued an outstanding warrant for Harris’s arrest in connection with a different incident, an alleged assault that took place on Sept. 5. Charges related to Wednesday’s incident are pending.
Police do not know Harris’s motive, nor the nature of his relationship with the employee he allegedly threatened, James said.
The incident marked the second lockdown at UNC since the semester began, though the two incidents were not related, according to officials. On Aug. 28, Zijie Yan, an associate professor of applied physical sciences, was fatally shot, allegedly by graduate student Tailei Qi, who was Yan’s advisee and has since been charged with first-degree murder. Many students and faculty were in the same class during Wednesday’s lockdown as they had been during the earlier incident; both took place around 1 p.m., on a Monday and a Wednesday, respectively.
Students expressed shock and anger on social media at having gone through two gun-related lockdowns in under three weeks.
“I am so sick of this. I deserve to feel safe at school. I shouldn’t have to associate my lecture halls with hiding,” one student posted during the lockdown.
Jake Sirlin, a chemistry Ph.D. candidate, responded to the university’s all-clear message on X, formerly Twitter, which told students and employees that they could “resume normal activities.”
“You try resuming normal activities after telling your loved ones you love them without knowing if you will ever again for the second time in two weeks,” he wrote.
Faculty and students have criticized the university for its response to the Aug. 28 incident. Students reported that some professors seemed unprepared for an emergency, in some cases continuing to teach during the three-hour lockdown and allowing individuals to enter and exit classrooms to use the restroom, according to The News & Observer.
The day before Wednesday’s lockdown, UNC students—including members of the institution’s chapter of March for Our Lives, a youth gun control advocacy group—had protested for an end to gun violence at the state capitol.
North Carolina’s governor, Roy Cooper, a Democrat, referenced the students’ advocacy when he spoke out in favor of gun control on X after Wednesday’s lockdown.
“It’s a tough look to see a second lockdown only a day after some Republican leaders mocked UNC students who were protesting at the legislature demanding action on common sense gun reform. Instead of turning your backs, how about actually listening to them?” he posted.
Security improvements on campus are apparently already in the works. At a Friday faculty meeting, UNC chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said the university is considering requiring more members of the campus community to undergo active shooter trainings; currently, faculty are not universally required to participate in such trainings, The News & Observer reported.
Classes were canceled for the remainder of the day Wednesday but set to resume as usual today.
“There’s likely to be anxiety and trauma for students; that’s why we decided to cancel classes for the rest of the day, so that people could take an opportunity to sit back, reflect on this,” Guskiewicz said in response to a student’s question at the press conference. “It saddens me that we’ve had two situations in a little over two weeks and so we’ve got a lot of support for the students, for the faculty, staff. I hope that they’ll access any resources that they may need as they’re processing this. And as I’ve said, we’re going to do everything possible to reassure everyone that visits this campus, lives, learns, works here that this is a safe place to be.”