UNLV gunman who shot four faculty members, killing three, had a target list: Updates

The gunman who opened fire on the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, campus Wednesday − killing three faculty members and critically injuring a fourth one − had a list of people he wanted to target, though none wound up among the victims, authorities said Thursday.

Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill identified the suspect as Anthony Polito, a longtime business professor who died in a shootout with police. His list of targets was made up of educators at UNLV and East Carolina University, where the gunman had previously taught, McMahill said.

The gunman, who had applied for jobs at various Nevada colleges, including UNLV, and was turned down each time, mailed 22 letters to university faculty members across the nation, McMahill said. He added the content of the letters is not known and efforts are being made to contact the intended recipients.

The sheriff also said Polito, 67, was in financial distress, as indicated by a notice of eviction found taped to the front door of his apartment. A motive for his shooting rampage is under investigation.

Two of the persons killed were identified by UNLV as business school professors Patricia Navarro-Velez, 39, and Cha Jan “Jerry” Chang, 64. The school said it will identify the other deceased victim once relatives have been notified.

Police said the condition of the wounded faculty member, a 38-year-old man, has been downgraded to life-threatening.

The shooter did not seem to be targeting students, authorities said. The rampage began just before noon Wednesday on the fourth floor of the university's Frank and Estella Beam Hall. The gunman was killed by police a short time later.


∎ The suspect launched his attack with a legally purchased .9mm handgun and brought 150 additional rounds of ammunition to campus, McMahill said.

∎ All classes, academic-related activities, and performing arts activities on the UNLV campus were canceled through Sunday, the university announced. Faculty and staff were working remotely.

∎ Beam Hall remained inaccessible to the public but other buildings were accessible for students and staff who left necessities such as keys and medicine behind in their flight from the shooting, police said.

Emergency crews and law enforcement respond to a shooting at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, campus on Dec. 6, 2023.
Emergency crews and law enforcement respond to a shooting at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, campus on Dec. 6, 2023.

Who was Anthony Polito?

Polito was hired by East Carolina University in 2001 as an assistant professor in the department of marketing and supply chain management in the business college. He resigned in January 2017 as a tenured associate professor, Jeannine Manning Hutson, a spokesperson for the university, told USA TODAY. Polito described himself online as "semi-retired."

Polito earned a master’s degree in business from Duke University in 1991 and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Georgia in 2002, those schools said. He was also a member of American Mensa, which bills itself as an "organization for smart people,'' from 1980 until letting his membership lapse this year, spokesman Charles Brown said.

Polito operated a website in which he wrote about his academic endeavors, his favorite movies, and “theories” on various mysteries, including the Zodiac serial killer and a Malaysia Airlines plane that disappeared in 2014.

Investigators searched an apartment in Henderson, Nevada, late Wednesday as part of the investigation into the shooting, AP reported. Several electronic devices, including Polito’s cellphone, were obtained.

Professor rating site shows Polito had an infatuation with Vegas

Dozens of online posts from Rate My Professor, a popular internet forum for college students, provide a glimpse into how at least some of Polito’s business school students at ECU thought of him.

Many of the pre-2017 posts, which date back to 2003, describe Polito as an “awesome” and “hilarious” educator. They also indicate he had an unconventional way of teaching, a personality that some students found “eccentric” and an infatuation with Las Vegas.

“He’s great, we spent over 2 months just talking about Vegas,” says one post, dated Oct. 29, 2014.

“Different way of teaching,” says another, dated February 2014. “You literally go to class to listen to him tell stories of his life.”

One October 2016 post, which praises the professor and advises other students to take his course “over everyone else,” claims administrators at ECU were “constantly trying to get him fired for no reason except his teaching practices are different.”

Hutson, the ECU spokesperson, declined to comment on that particular post or provide any other disciplinary or personnel records for Polito, citing state law and university policy.

Paul Whittington, who took a class taught by Polito in 2014, said the professor seemed to have two obsessions: Las Vegas and negative student reviews. Whittington said Polito fixated on the few bad student assessments he received at the end of each semester, telling the class he knew who they came from.

“He always talked about the negative feedback he got,” Whittington said.

Former Polito graduate assistant shocked at news

T.J. Strickland, 37, said he was shocked to hear a professor he had worked with closely for six months was identified as the gunman.

Strickland was a graduate assistant for a class Polito taught on supply chain management at East Carolina during the 2011 fall semester. He said Polito was an exacting professor.

“He wanted papers stacked in a certain way on his desk, and there was this one pen that I wasn’t allowed to touch,” Strickland, a partner at an accounting firm in North Carolina, told USA TODAY. “He was a weird guy. But there was nothing alarming. … Nothing that would make you think he could do something so horrific.”

'Barricading the door, on the floor in the dark'

Annie Delgado, a PhD history student, told USA TODAY that she was with colleagues when someone alerted them that there was a heavy police presence on campus Wednesday. After receiving a text from the university about the shooter, Delgado said the group immediately ran to tell others about the attack and then barricaded themselves in their office.

“I’m really shaken by this incident. Words can't describe how I feel or how I was feeling in the moment,” Delgado said in an email. “My friends and I were just trying to survive. Barricading the door, laying on the floor in the dark is something that I never want to experience again.”

She said she and her friends held each other's hands while waiting to be released. Since the shooting, Delgado said she has been taking everything one step at a time and she is mourning for the lives lost in the attack.

“I’m lucky to have a really strong community at UNLV,” Delgado said. "Professors have been calling and texting me all morning and checking in to make sure I'm OK ... I'm grateful to have the support of my friends, family and the UNLV family."

'Some of us cried': Students hide, run from rampage

Alexis Rice was in a statistics lab next to a library at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, when she and her classmates received an alert. Rice said the group of about eight women locked and barricaded the classroom door and shut off the lights.

"We all hid far from the door under desks," Rice, 22, a PhD psychology student, told USA TODAY. "Some of us cried, were shaking, held hands, and texting our loved ones. With every sound we were hearing we were flinching."

Rice was one of numerous students who took cover as police swarmed onto the UNLV campus after a shooter sprayed bullets into crowds at two campus buildings during the lunchtime assault. Here are some of their stories.

National Rodeo Finals cancels Thursday event

The first night of the National Rodeo Finals, scheduled for Thursday, was canceled because of the shooting. The rodeo was to open at the Thomas & Mack Center on the UNLV campus and run through Dec. 16.

Further scheduling decisions were expected to be made Thursday, according to Las Vegas Events and the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. The event has been sold out for months at the venue, which has a seating capacity of almost 20,000.

“Today’s shooting on the UNLV campus was alarming and deeply troubling,” said association CEO Tom Glause in a statement that thanked first responders for their response to the tragedy. "Our thoughts right now are focused on the victims of this senseless act of violence.”

What happened at UNLV?

The shooter opened fire around 11:45 a.m. on the fourth floor of the university's Frank and Estella Beam Hall, which is home to the Lee Business School, then moved downstairs and outside, UNLV Police Chief Adam Garcia in a news conference late Wednesday.

Two campus police officers confronted the shooter before he could fire at students playing games and eating outside the student union, Garcia said. The gunman was killed in a firefight with the officers. Authorities gave the all-clear about 40 minutes after the first report of an active shooter.

In addition to the three people who were killed, a fourth person was taken to a hospital with critical injuries and was listed in stable condition late Wednesday, authorities said. Four other people were treated for panic attacks.

Students, faculty, and staff sheltered amid shooting

The gunfire sent people racing to hide, and many campus community members spent hours crying and sheltering in locked offices, classrooms and the Lied Library until police gave the all-clear. University administrators canceled classes for the rest of the week and were still deciding how to handle final exams scheduled to start Monday.

Ben Robinson, a UNLV law student, told USA TODAY he was sheltering at the university's Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints building where he was studying for finals.

"I was alerted that there was a shooting when a girl came in the building having just ran from the shooting," he said. "She was in shock."

Law enforcement officers escort people outside the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, campus following a shooting on Dec. 6, 2023.
Law enforcement officers escort people outside the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, campus following a shooting on Dec. 6, 2023.

Grim reminder of Route 91 Harvest music festival mass shooting

For many, Wednesday's shooting surfaced memories of the horrific Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest music festival, where a lone gunman killed 60 people – the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

Authorities said that while the UNLV attack was a grim reminder of the Route 91 shooting, lessons learned from that incident improved teamwork and cooperation among first responders Wednesday.

Thousands of Americans died in mass killings since 2006

A database kept by USA TODAY in partnership with the Associated Press and Northeastern University includes public U.S. mass shootings in which at least four people are killed, not including the shooter. By that measure, 2,989 victims have lost their lives in 574 mass killings since 2006. The 42 such incidents this year have killed 217 victims.

The Gun Violence Archive maintains a database of incidents in which at least four people – excluding the perpetrator – were killed or injured. By that count, there have been 632 mass shootings in the United States this year. In 2022, there were 647 mass shootings, according to the archive. Five years ago in 2018, there were 336 mass shootings, the archive's data shows.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: UNLV shooting updates: Gunman who killed three had a target list