Carolina Locked Down for Second Time

Just two weeks after a professor was shot and killed on campus, students, faculty and staff were placed on lockdown after a report warned of a man wielding a gun at the Frank Porter Graham Student Union.

According to UNC Police Chief Brian James, a man entered Alpine Bagel, a sandwich shop inside the student union, and displayed a weapon while threatening an employee.

“My roommate and I were at the booth next to the window right near the register and this guy came in and started yelling at the worker ‘you know me, come around [the counter], you know me,” read a screenshot of a posted message on X, formerly known as Twitter. The author of the message is unknown. “When the guy pulled the gun people started running and my roommate and I got under the table near the window because we couldn’t leave the booth (the guy was right there).”

Chapel Hill police arrested Mickel Deonte Harris in the 300 block of Formosa Lane behind the Sheraton Hotel on Europa Drive. Harris was arrested on an outstanding warrant, and charges against him are pending in lieu of Wednesday’s incident.

After activating sirens on Sept. 13, police issued an alert at 12:55 p.m. of “an armed and dangerous person on or near campus.” Those on campus were advised to go inside immediately, close windows and doors, stay put until further notice and follow directions from emergency responders or University officials.

The lockdown was lifted after University officials issued an all-clear message at approximately 2:10 p.m. No shots were fired and no one was injured.

What happened on Wednesday was not related to the Aug. 28 shooting that claimed the life of Professor Zijie Yan, officials said.

“It’s sad and alarming that there have now been two lockdowns over the past 16 days where we have apprehended individuals who have violated the safety and wellbeing of our community,” UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said in an afternoon press conference in Gerrard Hall. “I want to be clear that guns are prohibited on this campus and every campus in the state of North Carolina.”

“We are again disheartened by the incident that happened today on Carolina’s campus,” James said. “According to witnesses, the suspect confronted an employee of Alpine Bagel … and displayed a firearm and threated the employee. He then fled the scene in a vehicle.”

James said authorities are trying to determine the relationship between Harris and the employee and acknowledged there was a nearly 10-minue lapse between when some students knew of the incident and the first campus alert was issued.

“When we respond to a situation, we have to confirm it first before we go into a full lockdown,” James said. “That is a concern I would say also throughout the country where people have made false calls. Those particular students may have witnessed something.”

Ira Wilder, a senior who is interning at the Carolina Alumni Review, said about 10 minutes before the first Alert Carolina message was sent, two students ran into the classroom he was in to tell the professor that someone had a gun in the student union. A few seconds later, he said, at least 100 students rushed into the room.

By the time the alert was issued, students were already hunkered down in the classroom, with the lights off, he said.

The University canceled afternoon classes.

For students and others on campus, the wailing of sirens and subsequent lockdown were all too familiar. On Aug. 28, a gunman shot and killed Yan, 38, a father of two who taught in the applied physical sciences department and joined the UNC faculty in 2019 after coming to Carolina from Clarkson University in Potsdam, New York, where he was an assistant professor.

Graduate student Tailei Qi was arrested and charged with first-degree murder and possession of a weapon on educational property, both felonies, in connection with Yan’s death. Qi is being held in the Orange County Jail without bail.

Laurie D. Willis ’86, with reporting from Cameron Hayes Fardy ’23

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