Two suspects remain at large following armed assault on UMass student

By Collegian News Staff

Two suspects are still at large Thursday night, hours after witnesses saw one man brandish a gun on the third floor of the Pierpont Hall dormitory in the Southwest Residential Area.

University of Massachusetts Police Chief Tyrone Parham said that an undergraduate UMass student was the victim of an armed assault and transported to Cooley Dickinson Hospital after sustaining a laceration to his forehead. UMPD believes the man was targeted by the two suspects.

“This was clearly not random,” Parham said.

UMPD said it’s also working to determine whether the victim’s injuries were from the gun, and did not yet have a motive. Parham said the two men, who he believes are not UMass students, fled campus.

In an email to the campus community, UMPD said a handgun was “shown but not fired” during the incident, which took place at approximately 5:17 p.m. Parham said UMPD officers, some wearing plain clothes, arrived “within seconds to minutes of the call,” but could not locate the suspects after establishing a perimeter.

UMPD initially released a crime alert at 5:45 p.m. saying an armed and hostile man was seen at Pierpont with a gun. The man wearing a dark colored shirt and a gold chain.

A subsequent report stated there was a possible second party involved, a white male wearing a gray sweatshirt.

UMPD issued a shelter in place warning for approximately one hour, which was lifted at 7 p.m, and said the campus was “safe” as of 9:37 p.m. in a campus-wide email. Parham said he has “no reason to believe” students in Southwest were in danger.

Parham said the suspects left in a car and drove in a direction away from campus, but couldn’t confirm the make or model of the vehicle.

Parham said UMPD will increase its level of police security in Southwest this weekend. It plans to provide an update on the investigation Friday morning at 10 a.m.

Freshman Morgan Hughes, who is a Collegian reporter and Pierpont resident, heard yelling on the third floor near a stairwell and saw two men standing over another student who was bleeding from the forehead.

Hughes said her and four to five other students approached the men, and a woman also approached them from behind. Hughes said that woman shouted that one of the men had a gun, and the students “ran” into their rooms.

According to Hughes, the man on the floor bleeding was not a resident of Pierpont Hall.

Hughes said she remained in her room until the shelter in place order was lifted, but saw UMass Police officers on the floor through the peephole of her door. A UMPD alert reported the police had established a perimeter around the scene at 5:47 p.m.

“When I looked through the peephole of my door, I saw two armed officers with their weapons drawn walking quietly down the hallway,” she said.

A maintenance worker was seen cleaning up blood on the third floor of Pierpont at approximately 7:40 p.m.

Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)
Robert Rigo/Daily Collegian)

Parham said UMPD is unsure how the two suspects gained entry to the building, but said the students may have been “escorted” in. He said UMPD plans to review surveillance footage from the dorm.

“We searched for them but could not find them,” Parham said.

Neither Amherst Police nor Massachusetts State Police were called to immediately assist at the scene. Parham said that local investigators were later called to the scene.

It is against Massachusetts state law to possess a firearm on school grounds, including a residence hall, according to UMPD’s website.

Students were seen milling around the Southwest area shortly after the shelter in place was lifted.

Freshman Kate MacCune, who lives in Kennedy Tower, said she felt safe with the door locked in her room. She said she heard emergency sirens blaring warnings while the shelter in place mandate was in effect, and at one point were crackling.

MacCune said she heard a popping and crackling sound made by the Emergency Alert System during the shelter in place. Some students took to social media asking if gunshots were heard in the area.

An active shooter situation was never declared throughout the incident.

Sophomore Michael Mahoney was at Berkshire Dining Commons, a dining hall near Pierpont, and said students “packed” into the building while the shelter in place was in effect, but remained relatively calm. He said some students set up laptops and began to do work.

Hughes said that Pierpont residents were told by Resident Assistants to not discuss the incident.

The Collegian will provide more information as it becomes accessible.

Shelby Ashline, Mark Chiarelli, Stuart Foster, Morgan Hughes, Patricia LeBoeuf and Marie MacCune contributed to this report. The Daily Collegian News Desk can be reached at [email protected].