The father of a man accused of fatally shooting a professor at the University of Arizona on Wednesday said his son is “disturbed” and has a violent criminal history.
Dolgun Dervish, 76, of Marion, South Carolina, is the father of Murad Dervish, 46.
Authorities in Arizona said Wednesday the younger Dervish fatally shot Thomas Meixner, the head of the department of hydrology and atmospheric sciences, at the Tucson campus before he was arrested 120 miles away by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.
Dolgun Dervish told NBC News on Thursday he has been estranged from his son for more than a year and was unaware he was accused in a deadly shooting. Before he was told his son was in jail, he said: “I’m afraid of my life now."
“He’s a very disturbed young man,” the elder Dervish said. “He tried to kill me. He tried to kill his mother in San Diego.”
"We have reached out to Dr. Meixner’s family, and ask that their grief and privacy be respected," university President Robert C. Robbins said in a statement.
University Police Chief Paula Balafas identified the suspect as Dervish.
“It’s a tremendously tragic event. We feel so incredibly bad for the professor’s family, friends and colleagues, and our hearts really just go out to them,” Balafas said at a news conference.
A staffer called the university just before 2 p.m. and said a former student was in the John W. Harshbarger Building and should not be there, Balafas said.
The caller asked police to escort the former student out, but the shooting occurred before officers arrived, Balafas said. A handgun was used, she said.
The shooter then ran from the building through the main doors, she said.
The Arizona Department of Public Safety arrested Dervish near Gila Bend, about 120 miles away, during a traffic stop at 5:10 p.m., Balafas said.
There were no other injuries.
It was not clear whether there was any relationship between the suspect and the professor, and Balafas said she did not know of a motive.
Robbins declined to go into details on the investigation, referring questions to school police.
The university of around 47,000 students issued public safety alerts, canceled classes for the day and instructed everyone to leave campus or go to their dorms.
The university said counseling services were available to support students.
The incident is under investigation.
Records showed Murad Dervish was arrested by San Diego police in July 2011. Bond was set in the case at $500,000.
Additional records showed Murad Dervish was arrested by the probation department in June 2012.
He also had a record in Northampton County Pennsylvania. Records showed he pleaded guilty and was sentenced to between 90 days to 12 months for DUI an unauthorized use of a vehicle in 2005. That same year, he was sentenced in the same jurisdiction to between two months and 11.5 months in custody after pleading guilty to simple assault in July 2005, records showed.
Dolgun Dervish said he has sought mental help for his son, who a professional once said he thought he may have Asperger syndrome. He said his son never sought treatment.
It was not clear whether Dervish had been charged or whether he had an attorney Wednesday night. A spokesperson for the Pima County district attorney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Dervish was listed Thursday as an inmate at the Pima County Adult Detention Center, according to jail records. There was no bond set for him and no charge was listed, records said.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted that the state was ready to assist the university in any way.
“Arizona is praying for the family and friends of the professor and those affected by today’s tragedy in Tucson,” Ducey wrote.