Two killed in shooting at Arkansas university

Central Arkansas cancels classes as police search for gunman


CONWAY, Ark. -- Police officers patrolled the University of Central Arkansas campus Monday and classes were canceled after a shooting in an alleyway left two students dead and a third person wounded.

Shots were fired in the heart of the campus Sunday night near a male dormitory and behind the campus police station. No arrests had been made by 7 a.m. Monday.

"This is just an awful tragedy. It's the worst thing that can happen on a college campus," interim university president Tom Courtway said. "We have start looking at everything."

After the shooting, one man fell to the sidewalk along a narrow alley between the dormitory and a fine arts center and died. Police said the two others rushed into the dorm, where paramedics later found them.

University police spokeswoman Lt. Rhonda Swindle had no explanation for the shooting, though she said police questioned one "person of interest" into the early morning hours. She said detectives believed four people were involved in the attack, though no arrest or search warrants had been issued in the case.

"We have really good leads we're following up on right now and we feel the campus is safe," Swindle said.

Swindle declined to identify the victims, saying officers were trying to reach their families.

The campus was quiet Monday morning. Police cruisers circled its quiet streets and officers roaming the grounds in flak jackets and blue jeans.

"The UCA campus itself is not locked down, although officers are posted at every campus entrance, and access to campus is limited to residents and authorized personnel," UCA spokesman Warwick Sabin said in an e-mail early Monday.

Courtway canceled classes Monday at the university, which has 12,500 students. He said every precaution was being taken to ensure the safety of the students who remained in their dormitory rooms.

"It doesn't matter where this happens in the country - it's awful," Courtway said.

Police used crime scene tape to keep people out of a large area around where the shootings occurred. Firefighters' foam sprayed over the alleyway to clean away traces of the attack congealed with the blood, turning to an orange froth.

Student Aprille Hanson, 20, of Mountain Home said the shooting was "definitely an eye-opener" in the quiet city of Conway, about 26 miles north of Little Rock.

"This campus is very safe. I've never felt afraid on this campus," Hanson said. "Everyone's going to be a little more tense."

Faculty and students received phone calls and e-mails through an automated system shortly after 9:30 p.m. Sunday warning them of the shooting and encouraging them to stay inside behind locked doors. Sabin said it was the first use of the university's new emergency e-mail and phone call system, purchased last year after the Virginia Tech massacre.

Swindle said video captured by surveillance cameras also installed at the campus after the massacre would be examined.

Sunday's shooting is the second at an Arkansas college this year. On Feb. 27, a man was shot and wounded at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Two suspects were charged. The victim, James Earl Matthews, was hospitalized and had surgery before being released.

Courtway said he thought police officers and the university's emergency alert system performed well in the minutes after the shooting. However, he promised to conduct a thorough examination of shooting to ensure students' safety in the future.

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On the Net:

University of Central Arkansas: http://www.uca.edu


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