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Officials: Gunman shot by UC Berkeley cops dies

An undergraduate student shot by campus police after brandishing a loaded gun at the University of California, Berkeley died at a hospital.
/ Source: The Associated Press

The University of California, Berkeley undergraduate who was fatally shot when he pointed a loaded gun at campus police officers had been acting strangely in recent weeks, investigators said Wednesday.

Christopher Travis, 32, died at a hospital hours after the Tuesday afternoon confrontation.

"We have received information from people who know him, from his family members, that over the past two weeks his behavior had changed," UC Berkeley police Capt. Margo Bennett said.

Bennett described the behavior as "unusual" but offered no further details on Travis' behavior and did not say why he might have brought the gun to the Haas School of Business computer lab.

Travis was gunned down by an officer who fired several shots after police say Travis ignored repeated orders to put the weapon down.

Travis started classes at Haas this fall after transferring from Ohlone Community College in Fremont, where he earned his associate's degree in business late last year.

State records show Travis also was a licensed security guard.

Police say there was no indication he had a concealed weapons permit.

University authorities said a staff member first saw the man carrying what appeared to be a gun in an elevator at the business school. The staffer called police at 2:17 p.m., saying she saw the man take the gun out of his backpack.

Police officers tracked Travis into the computer lab, where he was shot at about 2:22 p.m., roughly five minutes after the initial call, officials said.

At the time, four students were between Travis and the officer, UC Chancellor Robert Birgeneau said. None of the students was hurt, and university spokesman Dan Mogulof said there was no evidence to suggest Travis had any intentions to harm others.

"Our heart goes out to the family of this young man," Birgeneau said.

Bill Travis, the suspect's father, sobbed during a brief telephone interview with The Associated Press from his home in Lodi. He said he learned his son had been shot Tuesday night and didn't want to make any further comment.

'Nobody knew what was going on'
Gaiby Nkruma, a producer and director in the media services department, said he and three other people were in an office inside the computer lab when they heard the gunshots and immediately hit the ground.

It was disheartening for the school's tight-knit community to learn that Travis had been an undergraduate, he said.

"Nobody knew what was going on. It could have been another Virginia Tech, you never know," Nkruma said.

As Twitter lit up with concerns and rumors about what had happened, news helicopters began buzzing overhead.

At 2:53 p.m., campus authorities sent out the first alert to the Berkeley community, saying there had been a shooting at Haas Business School; police had the situation under control; and the area should be avoided, said Claire Holmes, an associate vice chancellor for public affairs. Another warning went out at 2:59 p.m. saying the only suspect was in custody.

A third alert sent nearly an hour later said there was no longer a threat and that campus activities had returned to normal. The official UC Berkeley Twitter account later posted a link to an official university statement describing the incident and saying Haas had reopened.

Asked whether the school's emergency alert system was effective given the reporting delay, Holmes said she felt the school had done an admirable job.

"I think that given the situation, you're balancing the urgency to get something out with the knowledge that you currently have, and not creating a situation where people are overly concerned," she said. "It went out as soon as it was possible."

'Very fast-moving investigation'
It was the first on-campus shooting since 1992. In that earlier incident, an Oakland police officer fatally shot a machete-wielding activist from nearby People's Park who had broken into the former chancellor's mansion on the leafy north side of campus.

Mogulof said Wednesday that Travis was taken to an Oakland hospital, where he died.

"It's a very fast-moving investigation," he said. "There were an enormous number of witnesses who police had to interview so that's why it's taken this long to get the information out."

The Clery Act requires colleges and universities to report timely information about campus crimes, but only if there is a continuing threat. To receive federal student financial aid, the schools must report crimes and security policies and provide warning of campus threats.

S. Daniel Carter, director of public policy for Security On Campus, a nonprofit organization that monitors the Clery Act, said Berkeley officials appeared to have followed its protocols. Because police apprehended Travis within minutes of getting word he was armed and quickly contained any threat he might have posed, campus authorities weren't obliged to notify students in any particular time span, he said.

"You certainly understand that the campus community wants to know what happened, but it's far less serious once an incident has been resolved," Carter said. "The main concern is in this age of instantaneous communication, it's critical to stay out front of misinformation that may be circulating among the campus community."

Staff, students and administrators gathered at the business school Wednesday for a meeting about the shooting, and to offer grief counseling to those traumatized by the incident. Those who attended said numerous students were crying, and administrators promised safety upgrades at the school.

Administrators also issued a statement directing students where to find any belongings left behind Tuesday after the temporary evacuation of the school, where classes resumed a normal schedule Wednesday.