NBC News and news services
updated 5/11/2011 8:21:03 PM ET 2011-05-12T00:21:03

San Jose State University students anxiously awaited details Wednesday about a shooting at a campus parking garage that left three people dead, including the suspected gunman. Police were investigating the incident as a murder-suicide.

Investigators had not released a possible motive or said if the victims and suspect were students at the school. The lack of information was making some students nervous.

"You just don't expect anything like this happening because we're on a college campus and it's supposed to be safe," sophomore Alex Johnson, 19, said as he stood outside the six-story parking garage where the slayings occurred Tuesday night.

'Several pops'
Erin Sterner, a San Jose State student and a production assistant for NBC Bay Area, told the station that she heard the shots, but did not initially realize what they were.

"I was getting ready to go back to work — I was on my dinner break — and I heard several pops. I didn't really know what it was and got in my car," she said.

As she was driving to work, Sterner said she saw six police cars drive past and on arriving at work she said "all my friends" were talking about it on Facebook.

NBC Bay Area reported the parking garage building also housed the student services center.

University police have said the victims and suspect knew each other, and the shooting was not random or gang-related.

The garage was in full use on Wednesday as vehicles entered and exited. Passing students could be heard murmuring about the shooting. About a block away, student Marc Gagnon said the killings were the talk of the 30,000-student campus.

"It would be a relief to know what happened exactly," said Gagnon, 27, an exchange student from Montreal. The garage is not far from the International House where Gagnon lives, and he said he saw as many as 20 squad cars outside the structure in the hours after the shootings.

The slayings are believed to be the first shooting deaths in the history of the Northern California campus, university spokeswoman Pat Lopes Harris said. The first officers on the scene recovered a handgun and quickly determined it was highly unlikely anyone else was in danger, she said.

But some students questioned why they did not receive text and email alerts until about 90 minutes after the shooting, NBC Bay Area reported.

The shooting happened at about 8:30 p.m. local time and some told the station they did not receive the alert until after 10 p.m.

The university told NBC Bay Area that it tried to put out an alert as soon as possible but had to ascertain what had happened first.

Harris said students and faculty who had signed up for an emergency notification system implemented after a troubled student at Virginia Tech massacred 33 people in 2007 received messages about the shooting within a half-hour of officers' arrival.

"The message we are trying to imply is this is a safe place and this is an isolated incident," she said.

Story: I'm the guy, shooting suspect tells journalists

Campus and city police were alerted to the shooting on the fifth floor of one of the campus's three parking garages just after 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, university police Sgt. Manuel Aguayo said.

Two people were pronounced dead at the scene. The third died at Santa Clara County Valley Medical Center. The coroner has identified the three, but their names were being withheld until relatives could be contacted, Harris said.

Sophomore Sergio Price, 20, said he was still in shock after hearing the unsettling news while preparing for next week's final exams.

"What timing, huh?" he said.

NBC News contributed to this report.

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