The University of Central Florida is the latest school to be embroiled in a near deadly shooting disaster. Lucky for the university and its students, the perpetrator’s plans were foiled as responders arrived on the scene almost immediately following a fire alarm.
The events unfolded quickly after midnight, as the perpetrator, James Seevakumaran, pulled the fire alarm seemingly to clear everyone out into the hallways in open shooting range. He had already pulled a gun on his roommate, who hid in the bathroom and called authorities, who were already on their way to the scene in response to the fire alarm. The 500 person 7-story dorm was quickly evacuated and Seevakumaran shot himself in the head before he was able to harm anyone else.
There was potential to inflict harm on the greater student population. Authorities found two guns: one .45 caliber handgun and a .22 caliber tactical rifle along with hundreds of rounds of ammunition. They also found a backpack containing four homemade bombs. The Florida bomb squad was brought in to dismantle the bombs and the dorm was entirely evacuated. Morning classes were canceled but most campus operations resumed by noon Tuesday.
Authorities paint a profile of the gunman that fits the usual description of perpetrators involved in school shootings: Seevakumaran was a loner who kept to himself. He had never raised red flags with school authorities, and according to the Huffington Post, he had never been in official trouble with the school. He maintained a job at an on-campus sushi restaurant and majored in business. One warning sign, however, that administrators were apparently in the process of sorting out, was that he was negligent in paying his dorm dues and he also had not enrolled for the Spring semester. He was 30-years-old.
Further evidence suggest that he was in fact planning to carry out a massive attack, saying they found a timeline showing his plans and notes that said he would “give them hell.” Investigators said that evidence showed he was acting alone. He had purchased the guns at a local store in Orlando. The state of Florida bans all firearms from college campuses. As UCF Police Chief Richard Beary acknowledged, “It could have been a very bad day here for everybody. I think we were very blessed here at the University of Florida.”
While authorities have acknowledged how lucky they were, they had also taken some precautions to ensure that first responders would arrive on the scene almost instantaneously, within three minutes of the initial call, according to the Huffington Post. Most importantly, they were able to evacuate the dorm very quickly in order to minimize multiple shootings. Most likely, the shooter was got off guard by the immediate response by authorities. His panicked response and subsequent suicide may have been a reaction to hearing those sirens coming towards the dorm.
Critics may fault the school for waiting nearly two months after the semester started to investigate Seevakumaran’s enrollment status and failure to oust him from dorms after he hadn’t paid for housing. But with such a large undergraduate enrollment students can also be thankful that a rapid response system was put into place. Some students criticized the administration’s ability to get the message out about the nature of the evacuation. Initially, students thought there was a routine fire alarm and had no idea there had actually been a shooting. The text alert system that has been enacted by most universities since the Virginia Tech shooting in 2007 did not update students or alert them to the situation until hours later. Perhaps, this was for the best so panic did not ensue. However, according to Floridatoday.com, students also attested that they felt reassured by the swift measures that authorities took. In any case, UCF proves to be a school that was thankfully spared from gun violence, at least for now.