News Column

UCF Campus to Reopen After Body, Explosives Found

March 18, 2013

Amy Pavuk and Denise-Marie Ordway, Orlando Sentinel

University of Central Florida officials have confirmed that the man found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound this morning was a student at the school and that there were also explosive devices in his dorm apartment.

The student who died was found in his dorm room in Tower 1, said UCF spokesman Grant Heston. The student had three roommates but Heston said he does not know where those three are.

The explosives found in a bag near the student "have been made safe" by law enforcement officers and are in the process of being removed, said Heston.

Meanwhile, university officials have announced that normal campus operations will resume at noon.

Heston said officials are looking into how and why the student had guns and firearms in his room. Fire arms are not allowed on campus, Heston stressed.

Tower 1 will remain closed until the FBI has "cleared" the building, said Heston. He said he expects the building to open sometime today but could not say when. The Veteran's Academic Resource Center is still open for the building's approximately 500 residents, university officials said.

Heston said a fire alarm call registered for Tower 1, a residence hall for about 500 students located in Knights Plaza near the arena and Bright House Networks stadium, about 12:20 a.m. Monday. While UCF police were on the way, officers received a 911 call for a man with a gun in the residence hall.

Police found the man dead from what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Authorities have since interviewed several witnesses and they have confirmed the man was a student.

Heston said they have not found any type of a written plan or manifesto in the man's room. He said the man's body, the weapons and the explosive devices were all found in one of the rooms in the man's dorm apartment.

Law-enforcement officers investigating the incident found a handgun, an assault weapon and improvised explosive devices, a campus spokeswoman said.

UCF police, the Orange County Sheriff's Office and the FBI are investigating, said Communications Coordinator Courtney Gilmartin. The Sheriff's Office's bomb squad is on campus to examine the IEDs found at the scene, she said. The FBI's Hazmat team, bomb techs and investigators are also on the scene.

"The safety of our students in Tower 1 and our entire campus community is our top priority," Police Chief Richard Beary said.

Meanwhile, students who live in the residence hall where law-enforcement officers were investigating the apparent suicide and explosive devices found there early Monday have access to counseling on campus this morning.

None of the students leaving the area of the arena, where they were sent early this morning, were willing to speak with media as they left the building just before 8 a.m. Many of them appeared to be upset.

UCF junior David Lewis, who lives in the nearby Tower 3 dorm, said he was up early Monday morning and saw the police activity -- several unmarked patrol cars and trucks, and officers armed with rifles.

At a campus that has had multiple recent reports of suspicious packages that turned out to be false alarms, as well as ongoing fire drills, Lewis and roommate Ben Bazata said it is possible some students didn't initially take the issue seriously.

Asked how he feels knowing the details so far released by authorities, Lewis said, it is "crazy shock."

Meanwhile, at least one Tower 1 student appeared to have slept through the ordeal. He declined to give his name to the Orlando Sentinel, but said he took sleeping pills and didn't hear alarms throughout the night, or text and email alerts from UCF.

Another Tower 1 resident, Hank Kleinberg, was among hundreds evacuated early Monday.

"Everyone in the apartment thought it was a fire so we just grabbed whatever we could," and headed out, Kleinberg, a senior majoring in English, told the Central Florida Future, the campus newspaper. "From what I've heard about what's going on, I'm kinda glad they got me out of the building because I heard 'explosives, assault weapons.'"



Source: (c)2013 The Orlando Sentinel (Orlando, Fla.) Distributed by MCT Information Services