Roommate's 911 call, rapid response thwarted UCF student's deadly plan
'His timeline got off,' Richard Beary, police chief at the University of Central Florida, said of would-be gunman James Seevakumaran. The ex-UCF student, who killed himself, may have been interrupted by police arriving on scene after a roommate's 911 call.
Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP
A University of Central Florida student who committed suicide early Monday morning intended to launch a much larger campus attack, officials report. The police are still investigating his motive, but details have emerged about the student and evidence of his plans.
The deceased student and would-be gunman is James Oliver Seevakumaran, a 30-year-old business student. He was enrolled at UCF in Orlando from fall 2010 through fall 2012, after transferring from Seminole State College. He was not enrolled in any classes for the spring and had not paid tuition for the semester. The university was trying to take a “compassionate approach” in the process of evicting Mr. Seevakumaran from campus housing, university spokesman Grant Heston told reporters Monday.
Roommates told officials that Mr. Seevakumaran never behaved violently, but that he was antisocial. He had never visited university counselors nor had any known disciplinary problems with other students. He had worked at an on-campus sushi restaurant, Mr. Heston said.
Seevankumaran lived in Tower 1, a seven-story dormitory at UCF, the nation’s second-largest university with nearly 60,000 students.
Police said Seevakumaran pulled a fire alarm soon after midnight on Monday morning, planning to shoot students as they left the building. His plan was thwarted by police officers’ quick response to the alarm and a 911 call from one of Seevakumaran’s roommates, who saw him with a gun. Seevakumaran shot himself as officers arrived and before any other students were hurt.
"His timeline got off," UCF Police Chief Richard Beary said, according to a report by the Associated Press. "We think the rapid response of law enforcement may have changed his ability to think quickly on his feet."
In his room, police found two guns, hundreds of rounds of ammunition, four handmade explosives, and notes with a timeline for planning a campus attack.
“It could have been a very bad day here for everybody. All things considered, I think we were very blessed here at the University of Central Florida,” Chief Beary said. "One shooting is bad enough. Multiples would have been unthinkable. So, anybody armed with this type of weapon and ammunition could have hurt a lot of people here, particularly in a crowded area as people were evacuating."
One was a .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, and the other was a .22-caliber tactical rifle, capable of holding 28 rounds of ammunition. Firearms are not allowed on the UCF campus, but Beary said the rifle could have easily been hidden in a gym bag and brought into the dorm building.
The FBI is analyzing what materials were used to make the four improvised explosives, but the bombs were “not in the final completed stages,” officials said. Beary told CNN that Seevakumaran built them himself, and that together they would not have been powerful enough to bring down the building.
In his CNN interview, Beary said authorities are still piecing together Seevakumaran’s timeline for the planned attack and glean whether he had specific targets.
"It wasn't exactly clear what the attack was going to consist of. However, he did have a timeline of how he was getting ready and preparing and then in the end, he would just 'give them hell' is the quote that he used," Beary said.
Tower 1 reopened to students Monday night, but some students say they are not sure they feel safe enough to return.
When the fire alarm went off early Monday, 500 students evacuated the dorm. Some thought it was a routine fire drill.
"All of a sudden, I felt the crowd move a little faster. And a police officer with a machine gun or something told everyone to start moving a lot faster," student Antonio Whitehead told the Associated Press.
Elaine Sayre told the Orlando Sentinel she had never imagined that someone might keep weapons in the dorm.
"You are going to wonder, walking down the halls," she said. "What does someone have in their room?"
University officials said Monday the incident showed that campus safety is the highest priority.
“Times like today challenge us individually, as an organization, and as a university community,” said UCF President John Hitt in a statement. “The first test for all of us is whether we are focused on the safety of our community, and I am confident that UCF has passed that test.... The test of compassion is also very important, and our prayers go to everyone affected by [Monday's] incident.”
Material from the Associated Press was used in this report.