Gunshots rang out at a Houston community college on Tuesday, leaving a maintenance worker severely wounded and two other people hurt, sparking panic across campus in what was the fifth school shooting in six weeks.
Two men were arguing near the library of Lone Star College in north Houston when one of the men pulled a handgun and fired off several shots, acting Harris County Sheriff Major Armando Tello said.
A maintenance worker was caught in the crossfire and stuck by a bullet in the leg. The victim, who is in his mid-50s, was in stable condition at Ben Taub General Hospital, medical officials said.
The two men involved in the altercation were in police custody, and both were hurt. A law enforcement official said that one of the men shot the other man he was arguing with several times and then accidentally shot himself in the buttocks.
The man shot multiple times is in critical condition at a local hospital. In addition, a woman with a student ID suffered a “medical condition” during the stressful incident, Tello said.
The gunshots elicited widespread panic across the busy college campus, with students rushing from buildings and huddling for safety in classrooms.
“All you could hear was like five or six shots, and we saw everybody running,” said student Jose Del Reyes, who was studying in the library.
“People were running and screaming. We tried to get out, but nobody would let us out,” he said. “We were just so scared,” he said.
Student Mark Zaragosa said he had just come out of an EMT class when he saw two people bleeding from gunshot wounds on the normally quiet campus. Cops had not yet arrived. “One gentleman had a gunshot to the knee and the (other) actually had an entry wound to the lower buttocks area,” said Zaragosa.
Keisha Cohn, who also is studying to be a paramedic, said she heard “no less than five” shots and started running. She holed up in the campus learning centre alongside other people fearing for their lives.
Daniel Flores, described the barrage as sounding “like someone was kicking a door.” What sparked the argument between the two men was still unclear, but ‘one individual did have a student identification,’Tello said.
Police would not say whether the incident was gang related. Dozens of heavily armed officers swarmed the campus and barricaded streets in the adjoining neighborhood.
“This hits close to home,” said a frantic witness. “What you see on TV is real ... you realise it could be me,” she said.
School officials said the school was placed on lockdown, issuing an alert that read, “Students, faculty and staff are advised to take immediate shelter where you are. Do not enter the campus until notified further.” Several students said they did not receive a text message about an emergency and instead relied on word of mouth from faculty and classmates.