Computer science freshman Ashley McCrory got off the Forty Acres shuttle bus near Dobie Center on what she thought would be a regular Tuesday morning.
McCrory was debating whether she should return to her room at Littlefield Dormitory or go to her calculus class in Garrison Hall. She decided to go to class. At around 8:10 a.m., McCrory said she saw a masked gunman fire about five rounds in the air. She hid behind a pillar of a nearby building as she saw the man run into the Perry-Castañeda Library.
When the shooter was out of sight, McCrory approached a Dobie maintenance worker to make sure what she saw actually happened. McCrory said the armed man was wearing all black — a jacket that looked like a trench coat, and what appeared to be a ski mask. She saw him holding a long gun, which Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo later said was an AK-47.
“At first, I thought, ‘Is this really happening?’” McCrory said. “I was wondering if this was a joke — a really bad joke. You don’t expect a shooting to happen when you go out for your day.”
McCrory went to Benedict Hall, where students streamed news on their laptops to learn more about the incident.
“I was in shock until then,” McCrory said. “As more policemen came, more realizations came to me that this actually happened.”
Pre-public relations freshman Andrew McWaters and pre-journalism freshman Skylar Isdale said they heard three to four gunshots coming from behind them as they walked along 21st Street to their class at the University Teaching Center.
“We turned and we looked and saw birds flying out everywhere,” McWaters said. “We didn’t know what it was.”
Isdale said a guard led them into the lobby of the UTC. She and McWaters saw the shooter run by as they stood near the windows.
“His left arm was tucked under his jacket,” Isdale said. “He smiled at us and waved with his right hand. It was really creepy.”
On Tuesday morning, a UT student fired several rounds from an AK-47 while on campus. He later died by suicide in a campus library when police tried to apprehend him.
More police arrived on scene shortly afterward and advised students to leave the PCL and enter the nearest building because of an active shooter in the library.
“There was all of this commotion in the PCL,” said government sophomore Michael Azari, who works in the lobby of the PCL. “I thought someone had gotten into a fight. One minute later, all of these cops stormed the building and told everyone to get out.”
He said the police, armed with automatic rifles and dressed in bulletproof vests, headed toward the elevators while a few manned the doorways.
“They were surrounding the PCL and moving in as we were moving out,” he said. “Then they announced over the intercom the severity of the situation. People [were] pretty shaken up,” Azari said.
During the lockdown, Azari saw a group of students in a prayer circle at Benedict Hall led by history sophomore Rachel Tanisha Bush.
“I’ve tried to call and talk to everyone I know to make sure they are OK,” Bush said. “It just broke our hearts for this campus. There have been a lot of emotions.”
Following the incident, University officials urged students via text message and e-mail to remain indoors. The lockdown lasted nearly four hours.
Business senior lecturer Linda Gerber, who teaches an international trade class in the UTC, originally scheduled an exam Tuesday morning and went back to her office to retrieve papers.
“When I got upstairs, I saw police with assault rifles,” she said. “I was taken aback.”
The SWAT team told professors to lock their doors, and Gerber told all students to move toward the back of the room, away from windows.
“I was watching students to see how they were reacting,” Gerber said. “There were some who were unsettled by the whole thing. I think any diversion you can have is better in these situations, so we ended up watching people’s favorite YouTube videos.”
Gerber said she did not feel like she was in imminent danger, but was rattled.
“I felt very confident that it was under control,” she said. “I think police presence and direction was an important part of that. We are very fortunate that the young man did not want to harm other people, and we did very well under the circumstances.”
— Additional reporting by Daniel Sanchez