ORLANDO, Florida (Reuters) - A former student of the University of Central Florida shot and killed himself early on Monday in a dormitory apartment where police found guns, four bombs and writings suggesting he had been planning a campus attack, authorities said.
The dormitory was evacuated and classes at the Orlando school were canceled on Monday morning, but resumed at midday after the explosives were removed.
The university identified the shooter as James Oliver Seevakumaran, a 30-year-old business major who had been enrolled from fall 2010 through fall 2012.
Seevakumaran had not paid tuition or his housing bill for the spring semester, which began on January 7, but had not yet been evicted, university spokesman Grant Heston said.
Campus police received a fire alarm at 12:20 a.m. on Monday and then a 911 emergency call “regarding a man with a gun,” at the school, which is one of the largest in the United States.
The shooter himself pulled the dormitory fire alarm, apparently to get students out of their rooms and into the open, then went to his apartment and pointed a gun at his roommate, campus Police Chief Richard Beary said.
The roommate ran into the bathroom, locked himself in and called 911, Beary said. Officers arrived three minutes after the fire alarm was pulled, rescued the roommate in the bathroom, and found the shooter in his bedroom, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot to the head, Beary said.
The dead man left writings and a timeline suggesting he had been planning an attack, which apparently was thwarted when his timeline was disrupted, Beary said.
He also left a handgun, a semi-automatic tactical rifle, hundreds of rounds of ammunition and four bombs, Beary said. He had bought the guns and ammunition from a local dealer, starting in February, the police chief said.
“It could have been a very bad day,” Beary said.
Seevakumaran had never been seen by university counselors or psychological services and had no misconduct records, university officials said.
His roommate told police that Seevakumaran was a loner and anti-social but had not seemed violent, Beary said.
Police sent students a text message at 2:09 a.m. to alert them that the residential Tower 1 dormitory, home to about 500 students, was being evacuated due to a “suspicious death.”
Another text alert at 2:46 a.m. reassured residents that there was no threat.
“It was clear at that point that there was no imminent threat from a live shooter, which is the first thing you worry about,” Heston said.
Residents, some wrapped in blankets or in sleepwear, were sent to another building on campus for food and counseling. Other dormitories were not evacuated.
Kathryn Wood, a 21-year-old junior from West Palm Beach, said she heard the fire alarm shortly after midnight, grabbed some money and went next door to a pizza restaurant to eat and wait out the situation.
A police officer, with what Wood described as the biggest gun she had ever seen, dashed into the restaurant and ordered everyone to leave immediately, she said. “It scared us all.”
Students were first sent a block away across the main campus loop road, then told to move back farther, to the student center, Wood said.
Sophomore Justin Love, 19, said he was about to fall asleep when he heard the fire alarm, but took the disturbance in stride.
“The way I look at it is, it didn’t blow up,” Love said. “We’re still here.”
The university has an enrollment of about 60,000 students, including those at satellite campuses and online.
A student, Laura Vickers, posted a message on the school’s Facebook page, calling the incident a tragedy.
”I am sad to say a UCF Knight took their own life today in Tower 1,“ Vickers wrote in a post that appeared around 8 a.m. ”Despite the ... devices found in the student’s room this loss was a tragedy.
“This week I encourage all UCF students to lend a helping hand to a roommate or friend or contact someone you haven’t spoken to in awhile. Life is precious and it can end in the blink of an eye.”
Additional reporting by Chris Francescani; Editing by Jane Sutton, Grant McCool, Lisa Von Ahn and Leslie Adler