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UNLV shooting: Students describe terror and panic after gunshots broke out

Students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas recalled the frenetic minutes after someone opened fire on campus. "It didn’t even feel real at first," one said.
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LAS VEGAS — Students at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and community members described their terror and shock Wednesday after a person opened fire on campus and rattled the city, which has already suffered the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

Jose Lopez, an 18-year-old freshman, said he was watching YouTube videos on the fourth floor of the UNLV business school building when he heard shots ring out. He heard a loud boom, then another.

"I was scared and my legs started shaking," Lopez said. He briefly "froze like a statue" before bolting away.

He ran to the third floor and hid in an academic advisory office, where he barricaded with other people. They all waited there until police came, pried open the doors with a crowbar and escorted the group to safety.

Jose Lopez.
Jose Lopez, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.Deon Hampton / NBC News

Connor Friedman, 20, a junior who is studying finance, recalled hearing what he believed to be construction noise. But then, after a few minutes, he realized somebody was firing a gun nearby.

"That's when I started running," Friedman said. "It didn't even feel real at first. It felt like they were lying about the shooting."

He said the reality of what happened is just beginning to sink in: "People died at my school, in my building, and I was there just a few minutes ago."

In an interview with a TV news reporter at the scene, the mother of a student said her daughter was "hysterical" when she called with news of the shooting.

"She heard the gunshots, she heard the screaming," the mother said.

Three victims were killed and the shooter is also dead, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department said. The gunman has not yet been identified by police. A fourth shooting victim was initially listed in critical condition at a hospital but was later stable, police said.

Police were called at around 11:45 a.m. on reports of an active shooter. Two responding university police detectives "immediately engaged the suspect in a shootout," striking the suspect, university Police Chief Adam Garcia said.

The attack comes six years after the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history took place in Las Vegas, during a country music festival in October 2017. Fifty-eight people were killed and hundreds more were wounded.

Relatives and friends of UNLV students lined up across the street from the campus as they waited for word about their loved ones.

Jayden Rol, 26, said his sister Nicole was safe and hiding in a closet somewhere on campus, waiting for police to arrive.

"You hear about shootings all the time," he said, "and none of it makes sense."

Jesus Medina, 28, said his wife, Stephanie, 26, who works in an administrative role in the English department, got an active shooter alert and hunkered down inside her building. He was anxious for her to be evacuated and described the panicked thoughts that raced through his head as he sped to campus to pick her up.

"Lord, please don't let anything happen to my wife," he said.

Deon J. Hampton reported from Las Vegas, Sarah Guevara from Washington and Daniel Arkin from New York.