Campus officials, witnesses detail lockdown events after student fires shot


See the full timeline in Timeline: Shot fired on Kent Campus, Wednesday, April 2, 2014.

Madeleine Winer

Nicole Lozier was 5 feet away from the domestic dispute in the parking lot of Bowman Hall that sent campus into a three-hour lockdown on Wednesday.

Quavaugntay Tyler, a 24-year-old freshman criminology and justice studies major, allegedly fired a single shot from his 9 mm Ruger gun that wounded his hand and left a trail of blood as he fled the scene.

“My immediate reaction was, ‘Holy shit, he blew off his hand with a firecracker or something,’” Lozier said. “If I didn’t tell anyone, that guy would have just walked off with a gun.”

Lozier called authorities from the Student Center at 8:30 p.m., and police arrived within minutes.

Tyler is now in custody at Portage County Jail currently awaiting his arraignment  on concealed weapon charges at 1:15 p.m. on Friday in the Portage County Municipal Courthouse in Ravenna. Police arrested him late Wednesday at Robinson Memorial Hospital in Ravenna, where he had gone to seek medical help.

At a press conference Thursday, Kent State Police Chief John Peach said Tyler, originally from Cleveland, was placed on probation in February by the Brimfield Police Department after being charged with fourth degree theft. Peach said he is in violation of his probation with this weapons offense and additional charges could be filed at the federal level.

“Locally, he has been a subject of interest relative to thefts on campus,” Peach said. “His name is not unfamiliar with investigators.”

A day after the three hours of lockdown, students, including those close to Tyler, described the “surreal experience” of waiting in uncertainty.

Lozier said she told a woman at the Student Center’s information desk, “This might sound crazy, but I think I just saw a gun on campus.”

Police first arrived at the Bowman Hall area at 8:31 p.m. Two minutes later, four officers arrived on the scene and began interviewing witnesses. In all, police officials from 10 agencies then responded to the scene, according to university officials.

At 8:41 p.m., the first of several voice alerts sounded through Bowman Hall, the Business Administration Building and residence halls telling students and employees to “shelter in place.”

The path of Tyler’s flight remains unknown. Police pursued him and received reports that someone matching his description was near the Business Administration Building.

Students in classrooms in Bowman Hall and the Business Administration Building took cover, barricaded doors with desks and waited as police checked each floor of the building.

Andres Solano, a senior managerial marketing major, was in his Integrated Business Policy and Strategy class in the Business Administration Building in a room with a door that could not lock at the time.

Solano and one of his classmates gathered the class’ belts together to rig one of the doors shut per police orders. He tweeted a photo of the rigged lock with the message, “This is not right.”

The class heard a beeping noise from the hallway but didn’t hear anything from inside the classroom. Solano’s professor continued the lecture — protocol Solano said was effective to maintain composure until the second text alert.

“After the second announcement … was when we lost our cool,” he said.

Around 9:30 p.m., the university released an alert describing the suspect as “a black male wearing basketball shorts and carrying a silver handgun.”

Valerie Williams, a freshman journalism major, saw her friend “Q” was wearing those basketball shorts as he left the Student Recreation and Wellness Center at 7 p.m. Wednesday. Williams made the connection only when she saw a mug shot Thursdayduring her newswriting class.

When she saw her friend’s mugshot plastered on the projector, she cried and ran out of the room.

“He was about to go home, and I said, ‘See you later.’ I remember him saying ‘all right, see you Val’ back,” she said. “The description of basketball shorts made it real. When I saw him walking out of the Rec, he had basketball shorts on. He didn’t say anything. It was crazy.”

She said her, Tyler and their group of friends would hang out at the Hub and the Rec Center — where he could frequently be found on the basketball court. She said around their group of friends, “Q” was “super goofy and loved to make jokes.”

“He likes to be around fun and makes everyone happy,” she said. “That’s why it’s so surreal because it doesn’t seem like it should be happening. He’s not this menacing guy. Whatever he did what he did, the person I know … he is not a criminal type regardless of his record. Being around him, you’d never know.”

Williams said she never suspected “Q” owned a gun, and he never talked about it. She also didn’t know about his alleged girlfriends that were in the Bowman parking lot at the time of the shooting.

At 10:25 p.m., all campus buildings except Bowman and the Business Administration Building were freed from lockdown.

At 10:45 p.m. — more than two hours after the shot was fired — the lockdown was lifted for the entire campus.

At 11:02, those locked down in the Business Administration Building — including Solano’s class — were informed they were to be evacuated one by one.

Peach said 11 p.m. was also around the time Tyler arrived at Robinson Memorial Hospital to be treated for his wounded hand. Other media outlets report a female friend drove him to Robinson to be treated.

A half hour later, police used tracking devices and the help of hospital security to arrest Tyler at Robinson around 11:30 p.m.

Fifteen minutes later, a FlashLine message informed students that the Business Administration Building had been cleared, and police believed the suspect was no longer on campus.

Ten minutes later — around midnight — the university sent a text alert saying the suspect had been apprehended.

Tyler, officially the suspect in the shooting, was taken to the Kent State Police Department for questioning. During investigation, he told police he had taken his backpack with the blood-soaked gun to the Johnson Hall in the Honors College and gave it to a female friend there.

In the early hours of the Thursday morning, police retrieved the gun, and forensic teams block off areas to investigate around Bowman and Satterfield Halls and the Business Administration Building.

Peach said Tyler informed investigators that he had been the subject of armed robbery earlier in his life, which is why he carried the backpack with the gun he owned and ammunition.

At 9:14 a.m. Thursday morning, Kent State President Lester Lefton sent out a university-wide email recapping the incident’s events and expressing his pride in students, faculty and staff for following police orders.

“I know what happened last night will weigh heavily on everyone’s minds today, but the best thing we can do is get back to doing what we do best — going to class, serving our students, and reclaiming the Kent State pride that makes this such a special place to call home,” Lefton wrote in the email.

Lefton — along with Peach and Shay Little, associate vice president for student affairs and dean of students — detailed the night’s events and revealed Tyler’s identity as the shooter at a press conference in the Schwartz Center auditorium at 11 a.m. Thursday.

Lefton said police have been preparing and training with its crisis action plan for fours years. He said the execution of it Wednesday mirrored training that happened in July at nearby Lake Hall.

“I’m very appreciative of faculty, of staff and of students for their cooperation,” Lefton said at the press conference. “We had as picture perfect an execution of the crisis plan as could possibly be given that you never know what is really happening in a crisis.”

At the same time, Valerie Williams, was in her 11 a.m. class.

“They had tweeted his name, but I always called him ‘Q.’ I didn’t know his full name,” she said about Tyler, who she met through a mutual friend last October. “I saw his mug shot and flipped out. I was in utter shock. I cried immediately because of the amount of what happened. The school was shut down. To know who did that took my breath away.”

Contact Madeleine Winer at [email protected].

Stater staff members Carrie Blazina, Rachael Le Goubin and Taylor Williams contributed reporting.