RECORD-COURIER STAFF REPORT
Kent State University was locked down for several hours Wednesday night after reports of shots fired on campus. Shortly before midnight, KSU officials announced that the suspect had been apprehended off campus. The suspect's identity was not released.
According to KSU spokesman Eric Mansfield, law enforcement were searching for a suspect described as a black male in dark basketball shorts carrying a silver handgun.
Mansfield said one bullet was fired into the ground near Bowman Hall at about 8 p.m., near the intersection of Janik Drive and Summit Street in Kent. There were no other shots reported and no one was injured.
"At that time police responded to the scene, and immediately locked down the campus telling everyone to shelter in place," Mansfield said during press conference at 11 p.m. "Over the last few hours, several buildings have been searched. Our students and staff have been very cooperative staying in their buildings, calling police if they saw something."
Night-class students were being held in classrooms, and other students on campus were advised to seek shelter. The university's advisory to take shelter was lifted at 10:26 p.m., except for the area near Bowman Hall and the Business Administration Building, where the suspect was thought to be. Police wearing armor and carrying assault rifles, according to those at the scene, were sweeping the business building floor by floor. Later, police evacuated students, one floor at a time. The all-clear for both buildings was issued at 11 p.m.
Kent activated its emergency sirens because of the incident.
Mansfield said police from more than 10 agencies, including Metro SWAT, responded.
No details on the narrative of the event were released Wednesday night.
KSU President Lester Lefton said the university's top priority is student safety and praised police and university staff for their quick response.
"We have a plan when things go wrong. We have a communications plan. We have an emergency plan. We rehearse this plan on a regular basis," Lefton said. "The entire executive team of the university, the entire administration and faculty know what to do when there is an emergency. We haven't had an emergency in many, many years. We have one tonight. We responded according to the plan and we're keeping our students safe. That's our No. 1 priority."
The incident was the first involving a gunman on the Kent State campus since 1992, when Mark Cunningham, 35, a 1985 KSU graduate, was shot and killed during an exchange with Kent police. Cunningham had led police on a chase on and off the campus. He fled to North Willow Street, where he was killed in an exchange with Kent police officer on Feb. 10. He later was linked to the killing of a maintenance worker, who died on Dec. 12, 1991, at the Kent Student Center, and the shooting of another student at White Hall on Jan. 31, 1992.
Lefton sent this statement to the Kent State community Thursday morning via email:
"Last night, our campus community pulled together during an emotional few hours after someone fired a single shot into the ground near Bowman Hall. Our police force responded immediately by locking down the campus, aggressively searching for the suspect, protecting our students, staff and all of those on campus, and communicating the latest information via text alerts and other communications tools.
"I'm glad to report that the suspect was arrested off campus and there is no longer a threat to our community.
"I'm proud of the students and staff who rose to the moment by calming others during the lock down and by supporting police during the hours that they were searching for the suspect.
"The safety of everyone on campus has and remains my top priority. We will do whatever is necessary to provide that security so that our students can learn, our faculty can teach, and our staff can support us all in a positive environment. I'm confident we are providing a safe learning environment each and ever y day.
"I know what happened last night will weigh heavily on everyone's minds today, but the best thing we can do is get back to doing what we do best -- going to class, serving our students, and reclaiming the Kent State pride that makes this such a special place to call home."