2 killed at Ark. school; officials say campus safe

By Jon Gambrell

CONWAY, Ark.- A shooting that left two students dead at the University of Central Arkansas did not appear to be random, authorities said Monday as the school’s president pronounced the campus secure.

Two suspects were being questioned and two others were being sought after Sunday night’s shooting, which wounded a third person at the 12,500-student campus.

Though investigators have not determined a motive for the shooting, “It does not seem at this time that it was a random act,” campus police Lt. Preston Grumbles said.

Interim president Tom Courtway canceled classes Monday but said they would resume Tuesday. “Our campus is safe,” he said.

The victims were shot in an alley between a dormitory and the Snow Fine Arts Center. One victim died on the sidewalk; police said the others rushed into the dorm, where paramedics found them.

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Student T.J. Frix of Russellville said he heard five gunshots as he studied for a communication exam in his dorm room.

“I was like, ‘Maybe it’s just fireworks,'” he said.

But soon, two bleeding men lay in the hallway right outside his room. Frix said he saw the surviving victim writhing on the floor in pain from his leg wound. Two resident advisers performed CPR on the other man before paramedics rushed into the dorm, Frix said.

University police Lt. Rhonda Swindle said one person being questioned turned himself in, another was pulled over by police during the night and police believe they know the identities of two other suspects. All four are male, none are students and none has been arrested, police said.

Swindle identified the dead as Ryan Henderson, 18, and Chavares Block, 19 – both students. A non-student, Martrevis Norman of Blytheville, was shot in one leg and was released from a hospital after treatment.

“This is just an awful tragedy. It’s the worst thing that can happen on a college campus,” said Courtway, the interim president. “We have start looking at everything.”

Late Monday morning, blood could still be seen on the sidewalk of the alley where the shootings occurred. A male student wept at the otherwise empty crime scene.

The rest of the campus was quiet as police cars cruised the streets and officers roamed the grounds in flak jackets and blue jeans.

Student Aprille Hanson, 20, of Mountain Home, said the shooting was “definitely an eye-opener” in the quiet city of Conway, about 30 miles north of Little Rock.

“This campus is very safe. I’ve never felt afraid on this campus,” Hanson said. “Everyone’s going to be a little more tense.”

Faculty and students received calls and e-mails through an automated system shortly after 9:30 p.m. Sunday warning them of the shooting and urging them to stay inside behind locked doors.

School spokesman Warwick Sabin said it was the first use of the university’s new emergency e-mail and phone call system, purchased last year after a gunman at Virginia Tech killed 32 people and himself.

Swindle said investigators would examine video captured by surveillance cameras, which also were installed after the Virginia Tech massacre.

Courtway said he thought police officers and the university’s emergency alert system performed well, but he promised to conduct a thorough examination of the shooting to ensure students’ safety.

It was the second shooting at an Arkansas college this year. On Feb. 27, a man was wounded at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Two suspects were charged. The victim, James Earl Matthews, was released after surgery.