'A Tragic Day': 3 Killed, 1 Critically Injured in Las Vegas Shooting

Dec. 7, 2023
A suspect killed three people and wounded another in a shooting spree on the UNLV campus in Las Vegas before being fatally shot by law enforcement.

By Ray Brewer

Source Las Vegas Sun

Students and faculty at UNLV got the warnings Wednesday via social media, email alerts, sirens and loudspeaker messages blasted out across the campus.

"University Police responding to confirmed active shooter in BEH. This is not a test. RUN-HIDE-FIGHT," a message on the social media platform X said.

BEH is a reference to Beam Hall, home of the Lee Business School.

The message was sent at 11:46 a.m. at the campus on the 4500 block of Maryland Parkway, where a suspect killed three people and injured another in a shooting spree before being killed by law enforcement in a shootout, Sheriff Kevin McMahill said after at early evening news conference.

"A tragic day," McMahill said in his opening remarks.

Officials haven't released a motive for the shooting, the weapon used or the names of the victims. The fourth victim was transported to Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center and their condition was upgraded to stable. Additionally, four people were transported from the scene to University Medical Center after suffering panic attacks, McMahill said.

The incident closed roads near the university for hours, put neighboring elementary schools on a soft lockdown and brought a tremendous sense of fear to those rushing off campus.

Many were hustled across Maryland Parkway to safety, where they consoled one another and let their loved ones know they were safe.

Student Andre Polidoro said he had just bought lunch at the Student Union when he saw someone run by. He cracked a joke with the cashier that the man must have been late for class. Then about 20 more people followed, and he realized it wasn't something to joke about.

Polidiro got a text alert from the university saying shots had been fired at the union, and he escaped to safety across the street.

Student Lily Luo was in a history class at nearby Wright Hall when the shots rang out. Classmates removed their belts and looped them around the mechanisms on the classroom doors to jam them, locking the doors from the inside, she said.

Later, the police "came in and asked us to put our hands up," Luo said. Officers lined up the students, counted them and told them not to look around as they escorted them out, she said.

Luo said she heard the bangs of what sounded like battering rams as officers pushed open doors while clearing the building.

Sam Decker, a faculty member in charge of the school's film studio, said he didn't hear too many shots, but a number of students sheltered in his office. "I wasn't worried, because that's a really secure area," he said.

Decker said he couldn't get to his car, so he was walking home. He called his family to let them know he was safe, he said.

A faculty member at the Lee Business School said they heard the warning siren from their office and thought it was the fire alarm. They rushed to evacuate classrooms but quickly stopped when they saw law enforcement enter the building with assault rifles.

They rushed out of the building to safety across Maryland Parkway, but without their phone or wallet. They were able to get water from the staff at Einstein Bagels and borrowed someone's phone to contact their family. The employee asked to not be identified.

Some residents in the apartments east of UNLV were unable to get back to their buildings. Others watched as scores of police vehicles and first responders arrived on the scene. Neighbor Dillard Jackson said he heard the sound of helicopters from his apartment and quickly realized a tragedy was unfolding.

He became emotional talking about the students, many of whom he sees daily, and said they are great neighbors.

"It's a damn shame," Jackson said. "The kids are trying to go to school and get an education to have a better life. These guns are in the wrong hands. The people with guns shouldn't have them, because they do this."

Zach Kutz, 39, stood patiently along Maryland Parkway waiting for guidance from Metro Police as he tried to bike back to his home west of the university on Paradise Avenue.

A handful of students crossed the street to safety, prompting him to say, "I bet they feel great to be alive."

President Joe Biden acknowledged the shooting, saying UNLV is "the latest college campus to be terrorized by a horrific act of gun violence" and offering prayers for the victims and their families.

Biden also called for more action to combat gun violence.

"For all the action we have taken since I've been president, the epidemic of gun violence we face demands that we do even more," Biden said. "But we cannot do more without Congress. Republican lawmakers must join with Democrats in Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, pass a national red flag law, enact universal background checks, require the safe storage of guns, and advance other commonsense measures that will help stem the tide of gun violence."

Police cleared buildings on campus one by one. All public colleges and universities statewide were closed for the remainder of the day, and UNLV will remain closed through at least the end of this week, officials said. Additionally, UNLV's basketball game Wednesday at Dayton was canceled.

McMahill said students had gathered outside the building to eat and play games. If police hadn't killed the attacker, "it could have been countless additional lives taken," he said.

"No student should have to fear pursuing their dreams on a college campus," the sheriff said.

Many students spent late Wednesday looking for a place to sleep because the dorms remained close. Others left their computers opened and unattended.

Las Vegas is no stranger to gun violence, having suffered through the worst mass shooting in modern American history Oct. 1, 2017. A shooter killed 58 that night and left hundreds injured.

And just like 2017, the community is rallying together.

Hotels on the Strip used their marquees to display messages of support, counseling services were made available through Clark County and the university, and neighboring business opened their doors to those seeking shelter.

Strangers were letting others use their cellphones to message loved ones, multiple neighbors walked around with bottles of water, and there were plenty of hugs.

"I'm devastated to see our home of Las Vegas once again hurting from a violent shooting. Paul and I are keeping UNLV in our hearts, and we will pray for the victims' families. I'm grateful to Metro Police, campus police and all first responders who worked so quickly to save lives," U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D- Nev., said in a statement.

Gov. Joe Lombardo, who was the Clark County sheriff during the 2017 shooting, praised law enforcement for their swift response. McMahill shared a similar sentiment.

"I'm proud of the courage of these officers and of UNLV campus police and how they demonstrated that today," McMahill said. "We watched a lot of fear across the faces of those young men and women at UNLV today, and it's unfortunate that they had to live through that. But again, I'm proud of that first responder community for getting over there."

Students were shuttled from campus to a reunification center at the Las Vegas Convention Center. The center has assistance such as transportation, food, counseling and temporary housing, Clark County officials said.

Student Carlos Casillas and his younger brother, Andres, both found their way to the convention center. The brothers joined hands with two strangers and prayed.

"It hurts me to know that there are a lot of families that won't be able to experience the joy, the emotional moments I had seeing my brother and embracing him," Andres said.

A few hours earlier, Carlos Casillas was fearing for his life.

He working out in the campus gym after class when he got the text alert. He looked up, through a picture window, and saw students sprinting past.

"I'm panicking, so the first person I call is my mom," he said. "I FaceTime her and I flip my camera. I show her the people running for their life, and I don't know what to do."

He and a few other people hid in a closet, then a locker room, for three or four hours until police came to them.

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(c)2023 the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.)

Visit the Las Vegas Sun (Las Vegas, Nev.) at www.lasvegassun.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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