University News

Armed suspect causes second lockdown

Sept. 13 incident at Alpine Bagel ends without injury and with suspect in custody.

A man, UNC-Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz, speaking into a microphone at a dais in a news conference. Standing in the background is another man, UNC Police Chief Brian James.
Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said the University's second lockdown in 16 days underscores “the importance of everyone working collectively to know our safety protocols, follow our emergency operations plan and support one another because incidents such as this are all too common.” (Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

For the second time since the start of the fall semester, Carolina went on lockdown because an armed and dangerous person was on campus. Fortunately, the Sept. 13 incident ended more quickly and without injury, unlike the Aug. 28 shooting that resulted in the death of faculty member Zijie Yan.

“It’s sad and alarming that there have now been two lockdowns over the last 16 days on our campus where we have had to apprehend individuals who have violated the safety and well-being of our community,” Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz said at a Sept. 13 media conference in Gerrard Hall.

In the Sept. 13 incident, a 911 call to UNC Police at 12:45 p.m. reported that a man brandished a gun at Alpine Bagel in the Frank Porter Graham Student Union. UNC Police immediately went to the scene to confirm the report.

“According to witnesses, the suspect confronted an employee of Alpine Bagel and displayed a firearm and threatened the employee. He then fled the scene in a vehicle,” said UNC Police Chief Brian James.

When the information was verified, police activated Alert Carolina for a campus lockdown at 12:54 p.m. The sirens sounded and emergency text, email and social media messages went out instructing people to shelter in place away from windows.

At 2:10 p.m., when UNC Police had “good information that the suspect was not on campus,” James said, police sent out an “all clear” message. At 2:45 p.m., Chapel Hill Police took the suspect, Mickel Deonte Harris, into custody in the 300 block of Formosa Lane. They arrested Harris on outstanding warrants related to a separate incident, a Sept. 5 assault.

Classes were canceled for the rest of the day and resumed Sept. 14.

“Today’s events further underscore the importance of everyone working collectively to know our safety protocols, follow our emergency operations plan and support one another because incidents such as this are all too common,” Guskiewicz said.

The University made changes in its emergency response procedure since the Aug. 28 incident, including sending out more frequent updates during the 76-minute lockdown and asking the community to silence their phones. Minutes before the Sept. 13 alert, a campus email invited the community to use a newly created feedback portal for “comments on what worked and what could work better based on your firsthand experiences” during the Aug. 28 lockdown. Feedback will be accepted through Sept. 20.

Based on this feedback and internal reviews, the University will continue to make improvements. “We will learn from today as well,” Guskiewicz said. “We’re going to do everything possible to reassure everyone that visits this campus — lives, learns and works here — that this is a safe place to be.”

Both the chancellor and police chief thanked all the local law enforcement agencies who responded so quickly to the alert and praised the actions of UNC Police.

“Everyone responded as they were supposed to,” James said. “We continually train and we review our response and do everything we can to keep this campus safe. However, we stand here again hoping that this never happens again.”

Story update: Harris, a former temporary, part-time employee in Housekeeping Services, was charged on Sept. 14 with a felony and multiple misdemeanors related to the incident.