UNLV gunman, Anthony Polito, was professor at ECU, student at Duke

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Friday, December 8, 2023
UNLV gunman was professor at ECU, student at Duke
Former students spoke to ABC11 about what it was like in Polito's class years ago.

LAS VEGAS, Nev. (WTVD) -- The gunman suspected of killing three people and injuring a fourth at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas was once a professor at East Carolina University and before that a student at Duke University.

Anthony Polito, 67, was shot and killed by campus police within minutes of him opening fire on campus.

Authorities have determined that the victims who were killed in the shooting were faculty members, not students. ABC News learned Polito had a list of people he was targeting on UNLV's campus as well as the campus of East Carolina University. All but one of those people have been contacted and confirmed safe.

Polito began work as an assistant professor at East Carolina University on Aug. 13, 2001. He worked in the Department of Marketing and Supply Chain Management in the College of Business. He resigned on Jan. 17, 2017 as a tenured associate professor.

"He didn't really have a set curriculum. That made him pretty popular, but he was also a pretty weird guy," former student Paul Whittington said.

He was also a pretty weird guy.
Paul Whittington

Whittington was in Polito's Operations Management class in the spring of 2014. To this day, he recalls the professor's odd behavior.

"We spent the first four weeks of the 16-week class just talking about the syllabus. Most professors knocked it out in the first 30 minutes of a class on the first day."

Whittington said Polito often obsessed over reviews students would submit on the university's anonymous professor ranking portal. He said Polito even would occasionally call out students he suspected of writing them.

"One of the things that always stood out to me that made me uncomfortable was he would try to figure out who wrote the negative feedback. And a lot of the negative feedback was shared with us in class," Whittington said.

However, Erick Smithwick took Polito's class in the early 2000s and he had a different perspective.

"Total shock, because it just does not fit the professor that I knew who lectured to me just about every day for a semester or two," Smithwick said. "He didn't seem threatening or anything -- and some professors you get an uneasy feeling about. He never gave me any kind of uneasy feelings or anything. He was approachable."

Total shock
Erick Smithwick

ABC11 confirmed Polito received a Master of Business Administration from The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University in 1991. He also earned a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Georgia.

Polito is described as a college professor who previously worked in North Carolina and Georgia, and had sought a job at UNLV.

Investigators said he had sought a job at UNLV. He apparently did not succeed in that effort.

Investigators are searching an apartment in Henderson, Nev. believed to be Polito's home, ABC News reports. They have also obtained his phone and are searching it for evidence as to his motive for the shooting. They are also searching through his professional writings for possible clues as to the motive in the shooting.

The university canceled classes through Friday.

The shooting brought back painful memories for some UNC students who were put on Code Red Lockdown back in August when a student opened fire, ultimately killing his academic group leader inside a laboratory on campus.