A man armed with an AK-47 rifle committed suicide on the sixth floor of the University of Texas at Austin’s Perry-Castañeda Library (PCL) about 8:50 a.m. Central time September 28. No one else was reported hurt by gunfire and the library was shut down for the rest of that day. Witnesses who were being sheltered in the library basement were moved to police headquarters for questioning after an all-clear was sounded at about noon. The UT/Austin campus remained closed for the rest of the day to all but essential personnel. Classes resumed on September 29 and the library reopened except for the sixth floor, which remained a crime scene.
A mid-afternoon story by KXAN-TV in Austin identified the gunman as 19-year-old Colton Tooley, a UT sophomore majoring in math. “I extend my sympathy to the family, friends, and classmates of the young student who took his life. In the days ahead we will attempt to understand his actions and to learn from this tragedy,” UT/Austin President Bill Powers said in a prepared statement after the Travis County medical examiner confirmed the dead man as Tooley.
Student Andrew McWaters told KVUE-TV that Tooley was behaving jovially when McWaters saw him outside and that Tooley smiled and yelled, “Whoohoo,” and that he did not take aim at anyone despite having opportunities to do so. Tooley was chased into the library by authorities who were following tips of eyewitnesses. In the library, the armed man crossed paths with an electrician on the sixth floor, who described (1:37) Tooley’s actions as McWaters did. Although no motive has been established, the Austinist noted in a 9:30 a.m. posting that a student in the library reported to KTBC-TV having heard Tooley mention “layoffs at the PCL.”
City and campus officials assured the public at a lunchtime news conference that there was no second shooter despite earlier fears, the Austin American Statesman reported. The confusion seems to have stemmed from shots being fired at several campus locations.
Officials lauded the rapid response by law enforcement and campus administrators. UT Austin began sending emails, texts, and tweets to some 53,000 staff and students nine minutes after the first gunshots were heard. Campus administrators also sounded sirens and posted website and video-monitor alerts cautioning everyone on campus to take shelter indoors and stay there until further notice. Library staff quickly escorted patrons off the sixth floor through a back door, several witnesses told KVUE-TV.
Several weeks earlier city, county, and university law enforcement had coordinated a so-called active-shooter drill in a UT campus building slated for demolition. “There is no doubt training paid off in this situation," said UT Police Chief Robert Dahlstrom.
Among the September 28 campus activities canceled was a lecture that had been scheduled at the UT Law School by John Lott, author of More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws (University of Chicago Press, 1998). Jeff Shi, president of the student group Students for Concealed Carry on Campus, which sponsored Lott’s appearance, told the Statesman that the venue has moved to a bookstore just off campus. The subject of extending concealed-carry rights to academic campuses has been hotly debated by Texas lawmakers recently.