Man Charged in Shooting at College in Houston
HOUSTON — A man was charged late Tuesday in a shooting at a community college here that left four people hospitalized and touched off fears that the campus had been the site of another mass shooting.
The man, Carlton Berry, 22, was charged with aggravated assault but remained hospitalized for injuries sustained in the shooting.
A dispute between Mr. Berry and another man on Tuesday led to the shooting at Lone Star College’s North Harris campus, the authorities said. At least one of the men may have been a student or a former student at the college. Both were detained by the authorities.
Three people were wounded by gunfire, including the two men in the altercation and a maintenance worker who was shot in the leg. A fourth person, who was not shot, was taken to a hospital with medical problems.
School officials said the campus would reopen on Wednesday morning on a normal schedule.
On Tuesday, Joshua Flores, a senior, was standing outside the cafeteria with friends when they heard gunshots. “We thought it was fireworks, so we didn’t go anywhere,” said Mr. Flores, 21. “And then a bunch of people came running our way, yelling: ‘The guy has a gun! Run! Run!’ ”
The college, which has 19,000 students, was evacuated, and Houston police officers and Harris County sheriff’s deputies spent hours clearing the buildings and deeming them safe.
Officials with the Sheriff’s Office said they received the first call at 12:19 p.m. They said they did not know what the dispute was about. One of the men in the altercation had student identification, but officials had not confirmed that he was enrolled at the college.
An official with the Sheriff’s Office, Maj. Armando Tello, said there appeared to be only one gun involved. Major Tello was the acting sheriff because Sheriff Adrian Garcia was out of town.
The shooting shocked students, faculty members and administrators at the 200-acre campus. The school is in northern Harris County and about 30 minutes from downtown. It is so close to George Bush Intercontinental Airport that college officials said one can often look up and wave at the passengers.
Students said they did not realize that the shots were actually gunfire. Because the shooting occurred outdoors — in a center courtyard near the library and academic buildings, officials said — many heard the sounds. One student sitting at a table on the third floor of the library thought it was a book cart toppling.
“Later we heard people screaming, and we knew it was gunshots,” said the student, Jonathan Moreno, 19, a freshman.
Mr. Moreno hid with other students in a back room on the third floor of the library in the moments after the shooting. “It was a scary thing,” he said. “Some people were panicking. Some lady was about to have like an asthma attack. There were some people crying.”
Other students sat or crouched in classrooms in buildings with the lights turned off. Some fled classrooms and buildings so quickly that they left their belongings behind and planned on returning late Tuesday night to retrieve them.
Richard Carpenter, the chancellor for the Lone Star College System, said the North Harris campus, the system’s first, was celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. “In 40 years, this is the first kind of incident like this we’ve ever had,” Mr. Carpenter said. “The campus will be reopening tomorrow. It has been safe for 40 years. We think it’s still safe.”
One freshman, Whikeitha Thomas, 21, had been in math class for about 15 minutes when he heard loud bangs. “A teacher came in,” Mr. Thomas said. “She said: ‘There’s been a shooting on campus. Lock the doors. Turn off the lights.’ ”
Mr. Thomas and his classmates hid in the classroom. In those tense moments, one of the students, a 23-year-old woman, collapsed. Mr. Thomas and another student gave the woman CPR inside the classroom and called 911. “The lights were off at first until she passed out,” Mr. Thomas said. “When she passed out, they turned the lights back on so I could perform CPR.”
As Mr. Thomas was trying to revive the woman, she told him that she was more frightened than the others. She said she had survived the Virginia Tech shooting. “She said, ‘I went through this already at Virginia Tech, and I just don’t like this feeling.’ ”