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Updated: Wednesday, 29 Sep 2010, 10:18 AM CDT
Published : Tuesday, 28 Sep 2010, 1:27 PM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) - After being trapped for four hours inside her classroom in a building attached to the Perry-Castaneda Library at the University of Texas, Hannah Trippett said the gunman's scare took everyone by surprise .
"It sounds weird. Why would someone want to do that?" asked Trippett.
"I never thought this would happen here," said the journalism student from Houston.
Authorities said the incident began at 21st Street and University Drive before 8:30 a.m. when the gunman, in all-black clothing and a ski mask, began shooting randomly in the air.
Martina Trevino was on her way to work on the UT campus when she heard the gunman fire right behind her.
"She took off running, tripped and sprained her ankle," said Martina's father, Oscar Trevino.
She was able to scramble inside a building with some peoples' help. She texted her father throughout the morning, saying she is very shaken up.
"I just thank God she's fine," said Oscar.
Austin police had her and others in the basement of the Perry-Castaneda Library and were moving them by bus to police headquarters.
Responding just minutes after the first report, the University of Texas Police and Austin Police departments followed students' lead in pointing them in the gunman's direction. Officials chased the gunman off the street and into a building, veering him away from those who happened to be outside.
Another UT student said she walked out to the second floor with her classmates to exit the library, but they quickly retreated to the emergency exit on the first floor when they heard a bunch of screaming.
A resident inside the private dormitory Dobie Center at 21st and Guadalupe streets said he heard the shots clear as day.
"The shots sounded like they were right outside my window," said Matt. "They were very loud."
That's when he saw the students in a whirlwind of activity, scampering about, when he peered outside.
"The people on the street looked confused," he said. "Five minutes after the shots, police arrived."
A second-shooter rumor was laid to rest after a multitude of agencies meticulously swept through every building on campus, eliminating the possibility of a second suspect. Differences in descriptions of the gunman led to the belief of a second person, though that is now confirmed false.
Sheltered in her seemingly soundproof classroom, Trippett said she and her classmates heard none of the loud bangs that came from the minimum of four shots fired from the 7.62-mm weapon.
However, she said students came into the classroom saying they'd heard gunshots. Dismissing the comments, the professor simply locked the door and proceeded into the day's lecture but was jolted to reality once others knocked and banged on the door to notify of the gunman.
That's when the flurry of text messages began to bombard Trippett's cell phone.
"I was scared when this first happened," she said.
Other students were in the middle of an early morning exam when the incident happened and had their cell phones off. They were alerted to the situation when their professor told them to evacuate.
The number of police on campus took Trippett by surprise once she did emerge from the safety of the University Teaching Center building - which is connected to the PCL .
The area at 21st Street and Speedway Avenue looked like a war zone, with armored vehicles, weapons and K-9 officers swarming that area.
Still, Trippett said she welcomed the freedom after hours spent inside her classroom texting with those outside and communicating about just what had happened.
"I'm so glad to be out of that room," said Trippett.
The student said that while Tuesday's event was definitely terrifying, she doesn't see it impacting her college life.
"I'm not too worried for the future to come to class," said Trippett.
Amy Price said her large class was "silently freaking out" when the announcement came, but calmed by their professor. Because the class doors wouldn't lock, she said, two students stood guard.
"It was a bizarre feeling to turn around whenever the doors creaked and see these boys standing there ready to try to protect a bunch of people they don't really know," Price said in an email.
Here's her account:
"My class finally got the 'all clear' around 11:45. When I got home, I watched the news briefing by the police, and by that time even more details were available. ...
"My first class I (was) in was in a large auditorium, so we didn't hear any of the shots, nor did we hear the sirens. And since we were in lecture, we hadn't received the texts since our phones were off. Our TA received the information around 8:30 as our professor was finishing up the first half of the lecture.
"After we finished the quiz we all checked our phones, email and watched the news until we were released, but as usually happens in these situations, the details were sketchy,
lots of rumors and all we could really go on were the eye-witness accounts and the only solid fact that the guy killed himself in the PCL.
"We were also told there was a 2nd shooter, which is why we had to be on lockdown so long. Our building was one of the last to be released since we were on the perimeter.
"When our TA made the announcement it was somewhat unreal. Initial disbelief followed very quickly by fear when he told us where it was happening. At that point there was no information other than there being "an armed subject last seen at Perry Castaneda Library".
"We were all silently freaking out, but we all looked scared as hell. Our prof was cool and collected, as usual, and sort of chilled us out. The doors to our room do not lock so we had to hope for the best. Throughout the time we were stuck in there, two guys from our class stationed themselves by each set of doors. it was a bizarre feeling to turn around whenever the doors creaked and see these boys standing there ready to try to protect a bunch of people they don't really know.
"This guy had every opportunity to take a bunch of people out with a spray of his AK-47. We are very, very lucky that this didn't turn into a Virginia Tech or a Columbine, or a Whitman repeat."
Outside the doors of the classrooms and dorms, tornado-like sirens blared throughout the morning, keeping students safe and up to date with information.
In addition, text messages and e-mail alerts were sent out throughout the day. UT President Bill Powers said 43,000 people are subscribed to the text messaging service on campus.
"We are very fortunate in the fact that no one else was injured, other than the lone gunman," said UT Police Department Chief Robert Dahlstrom.
"No shots were fired by members of law enforcement," said Acevedo.
During an afternoon press conference, Austin Mayor Lee Leffingwell wanted to assure everyong that the city of Austin is safe.
Meanwhile, the all-clear has been issued for University of Texas faculty and students, meaning they can leave campus but cannot go in the investigation area where the shooting took place, which is the contained at the moment.
Campus is safe, though closed for the rest of the afternoon - except for critical services. Classes and normal activities will resume first thing Wednesday morning.
UT shuttle routes will continue departing from campus until 2:30 p.m. After that time, it will not run since the campus is closed.
Shuttle service will resume regular schedules Wednesday morning.
All non-UT Shuttle routes are running regular schedules and are no longer detoured. MetroRail connector route No. 465 will continue departing from campus until 2:30 p.m. to take customers back to their originating stations. Route No. 465 will not run on its regular schedule later Tuesday afternoon.
The Blanton Museum of Art, which neighbors the PCL, is also closed.
For more information, people are directed to call 1-866-657-9400 or (512) 471-2255. Dahlstrom said there will also be resources inside the Student Services Building on Dean Keeton Street .
Wednesday, Austin Stone will have a prayer vigil at noon at the UT Tower.
In addition, the University Catholic Center will host an interfaith prayer service at 8:30 p.m.