WILMINGTON, N.C. (AP) — Police hunted early Tuesday for a man who allegedly robbed four people at gunpoint before running toward the University of North Carolina-Wilmington campus, prompting an immediate safety alert from the school.
Wilmington police were using a helicopter and K-9 unit to try to find the man, who was wearing a red cloth over his face, Officer Kenneth Reichard told The Associated Press.
The school issued two safety alerts on its website, advising that a gunman may be on campus and warning that people should immediately find a secure location, lock doors and stay away from windows.
Campus Police Chief David Donaldson told AP that the alert was issued as a "precautionary measure" after an armed robbery was reported at 11:57 p.m. EDT Monday at a Hardees parking lot near campus. The suspect was carrying a small-caliber handgun, Donaldson said.
Located on North Carolina's coastline, the university has about 13,000 students and has grown significantly since a 2002 bond issue that paved the way for more than $508 million to be spent on capital projects at the campus. Although well known for its ocean and marine research programs, the school offers dozens of majors and has also been used as the preseason training camp of the NBA's Charlotte Bobcats.
In August, another situation involving a gunman on campus raised concerns from university officials who said the school's emergency alert system failed to properly notify the campus as police searched for a man accused of a shooting in a nearby apartment complex.
After the shooting, Donaldson ordered a campus-wide alert via phone, text message and email to warn the community about the armed man on the loose. The alert was never sent.
Officials said at the time the lapse appeared to be a case of human error rather than a technical problem, and university spokeswoman Dana Fischetti said updates were being sent to the campus via text message, email and voice message late Monday night and early Tuesday morning.