'Don't let this be our last moment': UNC shooting leaves students somber, critical of alert system

Akilah Davis Image
Tuesday, August 29, 2023
UNC campus somber after shooting, students question alert system
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Students are still reeling from the deadly shooting and hours-long lockdown that happened at the University of North Carolina on Monday

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- Students are still reeling from the deadly shooting and hours-long lockdown that happened at the University of North Carolina on Monday.

Dj Murphy was on the second floor of Peabody Hall when the university issued the emergency alert. Cellphone video he captured showed a makeshift barricade of a table and chair protecting the dozens of students waiting in the dark classroom. Another video he took showed him watching ABC11 coverage minute by minute on his laptop.

SEE ALSO | Handgun used in UNC shooting still hasn't been found: Police

He shared a chilling moment he experienced while hiding in the classroom. A professor was on the phone comforting her child.

"She told her child 'I love you. Daddy is coming to get you,'" he said. "I was thinking 'Please God, don't let this be our last moment.'"

Alert Carolina sirens sounded around 1 p.m. Monday alerting the campus to the emergency. Those sirens could be heard up and down Franklin Street, followed by fire trucks and police cars racing down the road. That caused Chapel Hill Sportswear general manager Holly Dedmond to lock the store doors.

SEE ALSO | Counselors, therapy dogs help UNC students, staff heal following deadly shooting on campus

"As I was locking the door, three students ran up and said can we come in? I said of course. Come on," said Dedmond. "We didn't know what to think. We just prayed everybody was OK."

Classes were canceled Tuesday and Wednesday, but students are still reliving those terrifying moments of not knowing what was going on around them. Flowers lay under the Caudill Laboratories sign in remembrance of the victim, UNC professor Dr. Zijie Yan.

ABC11 found a student who identified himself as a Quaker standing in deep meditation outside the building for over an hour. He told ABC11 this was his way of holding peace for the campus community.

According to university leadership, the initial call went out at 1:02 p.m. An Alert Carolina email received by students and staff shows just two minutes later at 1:04 the entire campus community had been alerted.

Student Stefano Dongowski now has questions around why the university didn't release the location of the emergency.

"A more detailed message of where the shooting was occurring would have helped ease everyone's minds knowing it's an isolated incident," he said.

At the Monday press conference UNC Chapel Hill Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz told the public about a safety protocol that's in place.

"I'm also grateful to our faculty, staff and students for their effective cooperation during this event today. It's why we have an emergency action plan with an active shooter protocol that's practiced regularly," he said.

WATCH | UNC officials give update 24-hours after deadly shooting on campus

Dongowski was surprised to hear those words.

"The students by no means, I feel, were equipped. There was talks of a protocol that all students were supposedly aware of. It was something I had never heard of and neither had any of my friends," he said.