CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The deadly shooting at UNC-Charlotte on Tuesday afternoon may have been contained to one classroom, but students in buildings across campus found themselves in a chaotic scene as the school was placed on lockdown while police worked to evacuate students.
Morgan Karlok was in a senior honors class at the Colvard Building near the school’s main entrance when word spread about an active shooter at nearby Kennedy Hall.
“Two students came into the room asking if they could stay with us because they heard there was an active shooter and they had seen police running towards Kennedy," recalls Karlok.
Karlok and other students turned out the lights and stacked desks and tables in front of the classroom door, waiting for hours before police evacuated her building and led the students out, single file with hands over their heads.
This single file evacuation method was used for buildings around the school and brought students to the front of campus, away from the scene.
Haziina Butler, another UNCC student, provided her own account of the scene on campus, where she was in the fitness center when the active shooter alert came through.
“I was in the SAC Fitness Center when the initial text was sent out and that’s when the two student employees who were there started shutting everything down and locking the doors and telling us that we needed to stay away from the windows and get in the corner immediately," she said.
"We were in the gym on lockdown for what felt like hours, just sitting in the dark, figuring out what we would do if the shooter found us. I genuinely have never been more scared and panicked in my life. I could barely breathe.”
Butler was evacuated to the Student Union where she was kept for another two hours before CMPD allowed students to begin returning to their residence halls.
Tristan Field, a sophomore at UNCC, was in the classroom during the shooting and provided his own description of the events as they unfolded to WBTV’s Brigida Mack.
Field explained that there were ‘no warnings, no shouts or anything’ and that he initially thought the gunfire was, “maybe a firework or something."
He stated that the suspect was at the opposite side of the room when the shooting began and that he was watching a presentation at the time that the shots were fired.
“I realized (that it was gunfire) once everybody started running and screaming. I definitely realized once I heard some screams I never heard before. I realized someone had got hit," said Field.
Field described the 'panic’ that set in as students tried to flee the classroom but was able to find his professor and follow him to safety at his office in a neighboring building.
UNC-Charlotte Police Chief Jeff Baker explained that the lockdown put in place was able to effectively allow law enforcement to enter the classrooms and ensure that students were safe before guiding them out to safety.
As students received alerts about the lockdown being placed on campus, many sought safety as they fled from the scene. Several students told WBTV that when they saw other students running, they began doing the same.
“One student, she ran by me and she was in complete hysteria," explained one student to WBTV’s Ron Lee. “I grabbed her for a second and then she told me that someone had been shot.”
Another student, Annie Burchill was just about to sit down for dinner at the South Village Crossing dining area when she saw a group of students running from the path leading to Cone Deck. That’s when the alert came in on her phone: ‘Run, Hide, Fight’.
“We joined the group of students rushing out of the dining hall and made it to my residence hall, where we stayed locked in my room for hours.”
While the residents in her hall were eventually given the clear to leave the building, Burhill is still recovering from the incident. "I had literally never experienced such frantic pandemonium. My heart dropped out of me to the floor when I read the first message from a coworker... and hasn’t returned to me since.
Other students made their way to a ‘family reunification point’ at the Town Center Plaza across the street from campus.
Parents and other family members experienced an emotional reunion as they met back up with the students at the shopping center.
Concerns about the safety of their children remained, however, as one parent described the situation as ‘terrifying’.