Suspected UNLV shooter had sought job at university

LAS VEGAS -- The gunman in a mass shooting that rocked the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, on Wednesday was identified as an academic who was seeking work at the university, according to law enforcement sources familiar with the investigation.

Investigators searched the apartment of Anthony Polito, 67, in Henderson with the aid of a SWAT team Wednesday night, hours after the shooting that left three dead, as well as the gunman. He is believed to have targeted at least some of his victims, said one of the sources, who was not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.

Classes at UNLV were canceled through Sunday as students, faculty and neighbors mourned the tragedy, which came six years after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, less than five miles from campus on the Las Vegas Strip.

"This is Route 91 all over again," said 22-year-old student Olivia Stabile, referencing the 2017 Las Vegas shooting at a music festival in which 59 died. "Why Vegas again, out of all places, and then in one of the most defenseless places?"

As the incident played out, students ran for safety or sheltered in place, locking doors and building barricades, as shots rang out.

The shooting was reported around noon at the Frank and Estella Beam Hall, home to the Lee Business School, police said.

The assailant died around 12:30 p.m. after a massive tactical response by Las Vegas Metro police and its SWAT vehicles along with federal law enforcement, sources told the Times. Within a few minutes of the first shot being fired, Las Vegas Metro police officers fired on the shooter, sources said.

The identities of the three victims also were not made public. The condition of a fourth victim, who was critically injured with a gunshot wound, had stabilized as of Wednesday night, according to authorities. Four other people were transported to a local hospital after suffering panic attacks. Two police officers suffered minor injuries while conducting a sweep of the campus.

Dr. Chris Fisher, the Sunrise Hospital Trauma Center's medical director, confirmed Wednesday the unit was treating three patients for injuries sustained during the UNLV shooting.

Once notified of the shooting, Fisher said the unit activated its mass casualty protocol and had staff prepared to treat many more patients than received.

All UNLV classes and performing arts activities were canceled through Sunday, university President Keith Whitfield said in a website post Wednesday night.

"We will forever remember and honor those we have lost and who were injured," Whitfeld said. "I'm grieving for the victims of today's senseless shooting, and my heart breaks for the many students, faculty, staff, parents, loved ones and community members who suffered through hours of painful uncertainty while officers ensured that our campus was safe and secure again."

Shaken students are encouraging peers to send a letter to university leaders urging them to cancel final exams -- scheduled to start next week -- move them completely online or give students "a pass for bereavement considerations."

Larissa Geilen, the social media director at UNLV's student newspaper, the Scarlet and Gray, worried about her friends at the newsroom on the third floor of the student union. Messages in their WhatsApp group started flowing after the campus alert of the shooting, with students trying to account for one another.

"It's just such a gamble every single time you go out because with the prevalence of these things, it's just bound to happen," she said. "It's such a horrible, horrible reality."

On Thursday, Geilen said she still felt shaken. After the shooting, she had scheduled a therapy session for Thursday night. She also emailed one professor, asking for extension on a four-page paper due over the weekend.

Cesar Marquez, 33, was helping train student political organizers when he got the warning of an active shooter.

"We locked the front doors, turned off the lights," he said, "and then everybody just kinda barricaded behind some tables."

Half an hour later came "the update that the shooter was in the Student Union."

"At some point after that, we heard somebody trying to open the door," he said, and those in the room were not sure whether it was police or the shooter.

They heard an officer screaming instructions, then a SWAT team "came in and asked us to raise our hands."

During the chaos of the evacuation, some students told Marquez they saw a body that "appeared to have been shot in the head." It was a bigger, older man surrounded by blood, they said.

Brandon Sanchez, 20, was sitting in front of Frank and Estella Beam Hall, where a free food event for "study week" was happening. About 200 people were in the plaza, he said, when he heard about six loud bangs directly behind him.

"We started walking slowly away, and then when we saw a police car pull up, then we started running," he said.

Sanchez raced across the street to a store where students began gathering inside, calling friends and family. Police flooded onto the campus, and Sanchez said at least four cruisers were on the scene within seconds of the last gunshot.

"I'm not going back at least until more security measures are being taken," Sanchez said.

"How are people supposed to feel comfortable going back to school?" said 22-year-old student Olivia Stabile, adding it's "supposed to be a place of safety, learning and making memories and building yourself as a human."

"Now we have to go to school," she said, "with the fear in the back of our head that, oh, we could potentially die today."

Carlos Eduardo Espina, a UNLV student with more than 7 million followers on TikTok, went live on the platform while still on lockdown. He said he was in the middle of a test when the first alert came in. From a classroom, he tracked coverage and reacted on camera.

Espina, who studies law at UNLV, said students were confused by the messaging about the shooter's location, leading them to believe there was a second gunman on campus.

"The messages that they sent us, it made it seem that way," said Espina, 24. "Where they say, 'First, he's here,' so we're like, 'OK.' Unless he somehow got from one place to the other without getting detected. It just didn't make much sense."

He said that aside from texts telling students to shelter in place, UNLV did not update students about the attack, including messaging that the shooter was dead.

UNLV, less than two miles east of the Las Vegas Strip, has an enrollment of about 25,000 undergraduates and 8,000 postgraduates and doctoral candidates. According to the university's academic calendar, this is the last week of regular instruction, with final exams scheduled next week.

By Wednesday evening, the scene had quieted as students lugged their suitcases away from a campus where many said they no longer felt safe.

After cowering in the dining hall for hours with the sound of helicopters whirring overhead, Amerie Collins, an 18-year-old pre-nursing student, was looking to get far away from campus.

She said she planned to spend the night at her cousin's house with her roommate.

"A lot of people are not here," said Collins, adding many of her friends had made the same decision to spend the next week with relatives. "Everyone collectively just decided it's not a safe place to be right now."

Many students praised the response of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, which they said arrived on campus within minutes of them realizing anything was awry.

"If there's anything positive about today, it's that they were really on it," said Jaden Nii, 19. "Pretty much as soon as we get notifications on our phone, we could already hear the sirens coming."

Janiyah Faison, an 18-year-old freshman, said for most students, much of the training on what to do in the event of a school shooter had come from their high schools.

"Everybody clowned on our high school principals and superintendents and stuff for the lockdown drills and everything -- but we need to have those here," Faison said. "It's been ingrained into everybody like, 'OK, if there's a fire, you should leave through the stairs.' But when something like this happens, nobody knows what to do."

LeBron James, talking with reporters Wednesday, spoke out about gun violence ahead of the Lakers' game Thursday in Las Vegas. "We keep dealing with the same story, this same conversation every single time it happens, and it just continues to happen," he said. "The ability to get a gun, the ability to do these things over and over and over, and there's been no change, is literally ridiculous. It makes no sense that we continue to lose innocent lives, on campuses, schools, at shopping markets and movie theaters."