LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — One student is retelling a story all too familiar to those on the campus of UNLV Wednesday, as he says the trauma of the active shooter situation has left its mark.
Joseph Chen, a UNLV student, recapped his experience in the Beam Hall building as police say Anthony Polito, 67, fired gunshots that killed Patricia Navarro Velez, 39, of Las Vegas, Cha Jan “Jerry” Chang, 64, of Henderson, both UNLV professors and another yet-to-be-identified faculty member. A fourth faculty member was injured and was listed as facing life-threatening injuries Thursday.
Chen, in Beam Hall to meet with a professor, said he initially identified the sound ringing in the building as a fire alarm and stayed in his seat. Quickly, however, Chen says two other professors sprung into action.
“Two professors came and grabbed me,” Chen said, adding that they fled to another room to hide. That’s when Chen said he heard gunshots, confirming that an active shooter was in the building.
“I was like, ‘Well, that’s that’s real,’ — like I thought it was a joke,” Chen said. The college student barricaded inside the room and waited, sending messages to his family as he prayed.
“I texted them right after I heard the gunshots. I was like, ‘There’s a shooter in my building. I don’t know if I’ll survive. I love you guys.’”
Chen said he waited for nearly an hour before police came in and directed them to evacuate the building. The college student said the situation left its mark on him.
“I didn’t think that it was going to influence me that much but I think it’s it’s given me a lot of traumatized feeling,” Chen said. “You know — hiding in the room under a table for 30 or 40 minutes, and you don’t know what’s going on outside just kept hearing shots.”
On Thursday, students were allowed to reenter the campus to retrieve personal items abandoned when the chaos began on Wednesday. With final exams approaching, students like Chen might have to get back to work soon, although he said he was unsure if he would be in the right frame of mind for tests. How the tragedy will affect the end-of-semester schedule and graduation festivities is yet to be determined.