The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has given the “all clear” and arrested a suspect after campus was locked down Wednesday over reports of an armed and dangerous person.
Chapel Hill Police arrested Mickel Deonte Harris, 27, of Durham, in a neighborhood north of campus at approximately 2:45 p.m., according to UNC Police Chief Brian James. Harris is suspected of confronting an employee at Alpine Bagel Cafe, a restaurant in the student union, and threatening the employee with a firearm, James said. No shots were fired in the altercation.
The campus alert system was activated in the early afternoon when police received a 911 call informing them that someone had brandished a weapon in the student union, UNC Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz said. The lockdown was in place for more than an hour. Students were told to “go inside now” and avoid windows.
The UNC community is still recovering from the fatal shooting of a faculty member in a science building about two weeks prior.
“Thankfully, no one was injured, but imagine the stress, the trauma and the anxiety that a second lockdown in 16 days has caused for our students, our faculty and our staff,” Guskiewicz said Wednesday.
UNC graduate student Tailei Qi, 34, is being held without bond on charges of first-degree murder and having a gun on educational property in connection with the Aug. 28 shooting death of associate professor Zijie Yan. The state's flagship public university was locked down for about three hours during the police manhunt that resulted in Qi's arrest.
Wednesday's incident had no relation to the Aug. 28 shooting, Guskiewicz said.
Some students have criticized the university for providing sporadic and undetailed information during the August lockdown. Guskiewicz assured reporters Wednesday that he had taken those concerns seriously.
“We heard that many of the community members wanted to have more frequent updates through different means of communication, and so we acted on that already and we were able to put that into play today, so that is one of the things that we’ve learned,” he said.
Police are still exploring the relationship between the suspect and the food service worker he confronted, James said. Harris also had an outstanding warrant related to an assault Sept. 5.
UNC sophomore Allie Agnoli was sitting with her roommate in a booth at the bagel shop when a man started yelling at the cashier and waving a gun, she told The Associated Press. As students ran for the exits, she and her roommate hid under a table just a few feet away from the armed man.
A female employee yelled at the man to put the gun away, and he exited the building without firing any shots, she recalled. Agnoli called 911 after an employee helped her escape out the back door.
The “all clear” message was issued on campus about 30 minutes before Harris was in custody, based on a comparison of the police timeline and the alert log. James explained that by the time the “all clear” went out, police had already confirmed the suspect was no longer on campus.
Wednesday afternoon and evening classes have been canceled, Guskiewicz said, and all classes will resume Thursday.
Hannah Schoenbaum is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.