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Suspect in Las Vegas university shooting named as college professor

The four people shot at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, campus on Thursday were all faculty members, the university has said.

Three people died and one person was critically wounded in the shooting. The suspect in the attack, which took place at approximately 11.45am, has been named as a college professor who had failed to win a job there, according to police officials.

The suspect, who died in a shootout with police, did not appear to be targeting students, unnamed law enforcement officials told the Associated Press.

Students and professors were forced to barricade themselves in classrooms and dormitories across the 332-acre (135-hectare) campus after getting an alert about a shooter. At approximately 12.30pm local time, the police department said the suspect had “been located and is deceased”.

The gunman was a professor who had unsuccessfully sought a job at the school, a law enforcement official with direct knowledge of the investigation told the Associated Press. He previously worked at East Carolina University in North Carolina, said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to release the information publicly.

Citing multiple sources in law enforcement, ABC News identified the suspect as Anthony Polito, 67, and said he was also linked to a college in Georgia.

The school identified two of the victims who died as the business school professors Patricia Navarro-Velez and Cha Jan “Jerry” Chang. Navarro-Velez was an assistant professor of accounting who joined the university nearly five years ago, the campus president said in a statement, while Chang had spent more than 20 years teaching “a generation” of business school students.

The third victim, also a faculty member, will be identified after relatives have been notified, the school said. The fourth victim remains hospitalized.

“Yesterday was the most difficult day in the history of our university,” Keith E Whitfield, the UNLV president said in a statement to the university. “My heart breaks for the families, friends and loved ones of Dr Navarro and Dr Chang, and for all of the victims of this senseless act of violence that has physically and emotionally affected so many.”

Terrified students and professors cowered in classrooms and dorms as the gunman roamed the floors. The UNLV police chief, Adam Garcia, said at an evening news conference that two university detectives immediately got into a shootout with the killer. He was reportedly armed with a handgun and began his attack on the fourth floor before being killed outside the building.

Officials said there was no ongoing threat and that police had set up a hotline for people affected by the shooting.

The Associated Press reported that a Swat team that appeared to be with the FBI was seen moving on to campus just before 1pm after the police reported that the suspect was dead.

Vincent Perez, a UNLV English professor who was sheltering in place, told MSNBC that he heard a series of repeated shots and what “sounded like a high-powered weapon – just echoing, echoing in a way that … makes you realize this is somebody out to kill people”.

Three students told NBC News they were giving a presentation when they learned of a shooter and had to be evacuated. They said they were in a building with many windows, with one student saying her first thought was, “Get down, make sure you’re safe, make sure everyone else is safe.”

After announcing that the suspect had died, the university said police were continuing to evacuate buildings, and that all UNLV and Nevada system of higher education facilities would remain closed for the rest of the day.

The public university, home to more than 30,000 students, is located about a mile and a half from the Las Vegas strip. The campus is not far from the site of the 2017 massacre at an outdoor musical festival which killed 60 people and injured hundreds more.

Related: Three people killed and one critically wounded in Las Vegas university shooting

Lessons learned from that shooting – the deadliest in modern US history – helped authorities to work “seamlessly” in reacting to the UNLV attack, Sheriff Kevin McMahill said at a news conference.

Wednesday’s reports came a day after a series of shootings in Austin killed six people and injured three others. A reported former military member was charged.

Earlier this week, the US broke its own record for the most deadly mass shootings in a single year.

A series of murders took the figure to 38 incidents in which four or more people, not including the shooter, were shot and killed. The previous high was 36, set last year.

Associated Press reported that the UNLV professor Kevaney Martin took cover under a desk in her classroom, where another faculty member and three students took shelter with her.

“It was terrifying. I can’t even begin to explain,” Martin said. “I was trying to hold it together for my students, and trying not to cry, but the emotions are something I never want to experience again.”

Martin said she was texting friends and loved ones, hoping to receive word a suspect had been detained. When another professor came to the room and told everyone to evacuate, they joined dozens of others rushing out of the building. Martin had her students pile into her car and drove them off campus.

“Once we got away from UNLV, we parked and sat in silence,” she said. “Nobody said a word. We were in utter shock.”

The Associated Press contributed reporting