CHARLOTTE • Police have charged a man with murder after a gunman opened fire in a University of North Carolina (UNC) building during final exams, killing two people and wounding four.
Police in Charlotte said they have charged Trystan Andrew Terrell, 22, who is in custody, with two counts of murder and four of attempted murder early yesterday. Three of the four wounded were in critical condition.
Police offered no hints as to the suspect's motive and did not identify the victims.
Students on the campus spent a harrowing night as police searched door to door for any other suspects, not giving people the all-clear to move around till almost dawn.
"This is the saddest day in UNC Charlotte's history," the school's chancellor, Dr Philip Dubois, said in a letter to the community posted on the school's website.
"Families of the deceased victims are being notified and university staff are with those who are injured."
The shooting started in a classroom at about 5.40pm on Tuesday, the police said.
A chair fell in front of the door, so people were tripping over that, trying to climb over it. Some people fell down. It was like water through a funnel but wasn't fast enough.
STUDENT TRISTAN FIELD, who witnessed the shooting, on how some 50 students tried to escape through two doors.
Student Tristan Field, who witnessed the shooting, told CBS News that as many as 50 students tried to escape through two doors.
"A chair fell in front of the door, so people were tripping over that, trying to climb over it," he said. "Some people fell down. It was like water through a funnel but wasn't fast enough."
The gunman was disarmed by two or three campus police officers who entered the building after responding to an emergency call, campus police chief Jeff Baker said.
Ms Sandy D'Elousa, a spokesman for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, which is leading the investigation, said the gunman was believed to have acted alone.
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper called the incident a tragic day for the university and the state just a few days before graduation.
"But I know the people in this community, and they will be here for each other," he said at a news conference.
The attack was a situation campus police had trained for, just as officers do at colleges across the country at a time when such shootings feel all too frequent.
Mr Baker said his officers responded swiftly and were able to stop the suspect.
"Our officers' actions definitely saved lives," he added.
He said officers were able to get quickly to the building where the shooting happened because they were already converging for a Waka Flocka concert on campus.
It was the last day of classes for the school year, one that many students had expected to finish off with a concert, but that ended with gunfire and barricades.
According to its website, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte has more than 26,500 students.
The deadliest mass shooting on a higher education campus in the United States took place at Virginia Tech University in Blacksburg, Virginia, in April 2007, when a student killed 32 people and then himself.
The North Carolina shooting comes just days after a teenage gunman opened fire on a synagogue in Poway, California, killing one person and injuring three others.
John Earnest, a 19-year-old man accused of the shooting spree, pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to murder and attempted-murder charges in an attack prosecutors are treating as a hate crime.
Earnest, arrested shortly after last Saturday's bloodshed, also pleaded not guilty to a single count of arson on a house of worship stemming from a nearby mosque that was set on fire in March.
According to government figures, 40,000 people were killed by firearms in the US in 2017 - two-thirds of them suicides - the highest annual toll in five decades.
REUTERS, THE WASHINGTON POST