An assailant fatally shot a faculty member in a laboratory at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill on Monday, forcing the campus into lockdown for several hours as students barricaded themselves in classrooms, dorms and bathrooms, the authorities said.
Brian James, chief of the U.N.C. Police, said at a news conference on Monday evening that a suspect was taken into custody at 2:31 p.m., about 90 minutes after the police received a 911 call reporting that shots had been fired at Caudill Labs, a science building on campus. He did not name the suspect, saying that formal charges had not been filed.
Chief James and Kevin M. Guskiewicz, chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, did not name the faculty member who was killed, saying that relatives were still being notified. The police are continuing to investigate the killing and have not identified a motive or recovered the weapon that was used, the chief said. He declined to discuss what relationship, if any, the faculty member and the assailant might have had.
“We really do want to know the ‘why’ in this case and what led to it,” Chief James said.
Dr. Guskiewicz said that it had been “a truly tragic day for our campus community.”
“This loss is devastating, and the shooting damages the trust and safety that we so often take for granted in our campus community,” he said. “We will work to rebuild that sense of trust and safety within our community.”
The shooting shattered the sense of calm on campus, which resumed classes on Aug. 21 after summer break.
After the police received the report of shots fired at Caudill Labs, the university sent an alert just after 1 p.m. that advised people in the area to go inside and stay away from windows. The university warned of an “armed and dangerous person on or near campus.”
Nearly an hour and a half later, the university said in another alert that the shelter-in-place order remained in effect and that there was a “suspect at large.”
Jake Diana, a Ph.D. student and teaching assistant, said he was just about to hold his first class for the semester when, just after 1 p.m., he saw a police car zoom down South Road, near the site of the shooting, and heard the campus sirens blaring.
“I was terrified,” he said, adding that he rushed with more than a dozen students to a nearby conference room, where they barricaded the door with a bookcase, switched off the lights, silenced their phones, and lay on the ground.
Mr. Diana, 28, said he then texted his friends and family, and began praying. “I said to God, I said, ‘I have to get through this.’ I said, ‘I want to do so much with my life.’”
At 4:14 p.m., the university ended the lockdown and declared that the situation was “all clear.”
Chief James said that the campus had remained in lockdown after the suspect was taken into custody as investigators worked to verify his identity and search for the gun that had been used in the shooting. He said the police had also investigated reports of other possible victims, although there were none.
After the shooting, the university canceled classes on Monday and Tuesday.
Earlier Monday, when the suspect was still at large, Gov. Roy Cooper of North Carolina said in a statement on social media that he had spoken with the Orange County sheriff and the state’s secretary of public safety and had “pledged all state resources needed to capture the shooter and protect the U.N.C. campus.”
Mr. Cooper said his office was in contact with law enforcement officials who were “taking precautions to protect campus safety following today’s shooting.”
“This is a tragic way to start a new semester and the state will provide any assistance necessary to support the U.N.C. community,” the governor said.
A local school district, Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, said on Monday that classroom instruction could continue as normal but that schools were in “secure mode,” meaning all school building doors were closed and locked and people were not allowed to enter or leave school buildings.
Livia Albeck-Ripka contributed reporting.