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AP: Suspect in deadly UNLV shooting had unsuccessfully sought professor job

Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill said university police engaged and killed the shooter outside a campus building.
Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
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Howard Stutz
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Editor's Note: The Nevada Independent will no longer be updating this story as of 2 p.m. on Dec. 7. For the latest developments on the UNLV shooting, please view this updated story.

Las Vegas Metro Police say three people have died and one person remains hospitalized in stable condition after a shooting at UNLV Wednesday afternoon. The suspect also died.

Sheriff Kevin McMahill told reporters during a media conference Wednesday evening that Metro knew the identity of the suspect, but declined to release that information until after the next of kin had been notified.  Late Wednesday, The Associated Press, quoting law enforcement sources, reported the shooter was 67-year-old Anthony Polito.

The AP reported that Polito had unsuccessfully applied for a job at the university and had previously worked as a professor at East Carolina University in North Carolina. The outlet cited a “law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation” who spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to share the information. The Nevada Independent was not able to independently verify the information.

No victims were identified, though McMahill said one victim taken to Sunrise Hospital in critical condition was upgraded to stable. An additional four people were transported to nearby hospitals after suffering panic attacks, and two officers were treated at University Medical Center for minor injuries that McMahill said were sustained searching for victims.

McMahill took only three questions from the assembled press more than five hours after the shooting. He did not speculate on the motive of the shooter, and declined to release any information on the kind of weapon used in the attack when asked on Wednesday. The sheriff did say that the shooting began on the fourth floor of UNLV’s Beam Hall before the suspect was shot by university police outside the building.

He also defended the length of time needed by police to evacuate UNLV’s campus building by building, a process that stretched well into Wednesday evening even after the shooter was killed. 

“Just like in 1 October, numerous other calls were coming in about different shootings that were occurring,” McMahill said. “We're having to breach every single door. We're finding groups of students that were huddled; it took us a long time to evacuate and then recheck.”

A heavy police presence as seen near the UNLV campus after reports of an active shooter on Wednesday, December 6, 2023. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

University Police Chief Adam Garcia said Wednesday that UNLV’s campus would remain closed through Friday. Garcia also left the door open to “additional determinations” to close the campus into next week. Those closures would extend up to the end of instruction for the semester on Dec. 9, with finals week set to begin Dec. 11 and the semester set to end Dec. 16. 

The shooting unfolded a little before noon on the UNLV campus in central Las Vegas. Garcia said two detectives with university police engaged the suspect “immediately” after shots were reported around 11:45 a.m., during which the suspect was shot and killed. 

Police presence extended blocks away from campus. Hundreds of students were escorted away to nearby parking lots by police as a police helicopter buzzed overhead. 

The shooting took place just days before the end of the semester. In some classrooms, students were delivering final presentations. After the evacuation, hundreds stood in the dirt or empty parking lots just east of campus, some in full professional dress, waiting to be told when they could return to pick up laptops, book bags and even car keys that had been abandoned hours ago. 

UNLV student Marco Lau, 20, told The Nevada Independent that he was inside Beam Hall when the shooting began. He heard what he described as a single “pop,” a loud bang from somewhere inside the building. But it wasn’t until he heard six more bangs in quick succession that he realized what was happening.  

“That’s when I was like, ‘Oh, this is serious,’” Lau said. “And then I see the cops running down the hallway with guns.” 

Lau ran to the adjacent Wright Hall to reunite with his girlfriend, Georgia Barrett, 19, who was in the middle of class. They then joined hundreds of other students who turned off the lights and sheltered in place for the next hour. Huddled inside the classroom, Barrett said she felt helpless. 

“You’re stuck in there, there’s nothing you can do,” she said. “And it’s right next door to where the shooter was. So it’s like, at any moment he could walk into that building and then that could be you.” 

Evacuated students and faculty stand in a cordoned off parking lot near the UNLV campus after reports of an active shooter on Wednesday, December 6, 2023. (Daniel Clark/The Nevada Independent)

Lau said he was scared and that he “didn’t think it was real.” Barrett said she was confused — “It was a normal day, and then it wasn’t.”

“It’s one of those things that you always hear about happening, and you never think that it’ll happen to you,” she said. “And then you’re in this situation, and there’s nothing you can do about it.”

Hans Rawhouser is an associate professor of business at UNLV who was inside Beam Hall when the shooting began. Reached by phone Wednesday, he recounted a post he had first made on his personal Facebook, saying that he didn’t realize blaring alarms were initially anything more than a drill. 

After he had exited the building, still unclear about just what was going on, another man had exited Beam Hall, too. The man said he had been shot in the arm and called for help. 

Police later surrounded the building, where, Rawhouser said, the suspect appeared to trade fire with officers just beyond his view. Just minutes removed from what he thought was a fire drill, the scene was surreal. 

“I literally thought, is that real blood?” Rawhouser said. “I'm still thinking, ‘Well, maybe this is a drill for the police to work through the active shooter situation or something.’ So, it is kind of a surreal experience to think that that's the situation.”

All classes at Nevada System of Higher Education institutions in Southern Nevada were canceled for the remainder of the day. UNR’s main campus and all other operations in northern Nevada remain open. UNLV’s basketball game in Dayton, Ohio, was also canceled and officials with the Clark County School District canceled the school board’s work session meeting.

The Las Vegas Events and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association Board of Directors announced that the first performance of the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo, scheduled for Thursday at the Thomas & Mack Center, was canceled. 

Officials have set up a reunification center at the Las Vegas Convention Center’s North Hall and a phone number (702-455-AIDE) for students and family members to get in touch.

Harry Reid International Airport, in a 2:30 p.m. post on X, formerly known as Twitter, said roadways around the airport “continue to be closed due to police activity.” The 215 Beltway was open but traffic was heavy. 

“If you are heading to the airport, please check with your airline for flight status,” the airport posted.

An airport control operations officer said in a phone interview Wednesday afternoon that reports of a ground stop at the airport were inaccurate. The airport is fully operational.

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