College Park grapples with shootings

Andrew Hassl had just arrived home from work early Tuesday morning and was hanging out with his roommates on a residential street near the University of Maryland's College Park campus when they heard shots outside.

As the roommates went to turn off lights and lock the doors, Hassl said, they saw a young man they recognized as a neighbor standing at the kitchen door in his pajamas, asking for help. They let him in, discovered he had been shot in the leg, and hid him in the bathroom as they waited for police to arrive.

"He said his roommate went berserk," Hassl said Tuesday night, describing a shooting that left two university students dead and another wounded, and plunged the campus into mourning.

Police said Dayvon Maurice Green, a 23-year-old graduate student, had packed a bag with a machete, a baseball bat and a fully loaded, semiautomatic Uzi when he started two small fires around his home — a trap set to lure his two roommates out of bed to shoot them.

Green, a promising engineering student from the Baltimore area who also had a 9 mm handgun in his waistband, killed one roommate, Stephen Alex Rane, 22, whose family lives in Silver Spring, and wounded a second, whom police have not been identified, before fatally shooting himself, police said. Both roommates were undergraduate students. The wounded roommate is Neal Oa, a 22-year-old junior economics major from Urbana, said his stepfather, Chris Merz. Oa has been released from the hospital.

Police said they are investigating whether Green, who graduated from Morgan State University and had been battling a diagnosed mental illness for at least a year, could have been plotting more violence after his roommates confronted him at their off-campus house.

The apparent murder-suicide — involving students, mental illness and high-powered weapons — comes at a time of a broad-ranging, nationwide discussion on school safety, gun control and mental health policy that has followed other recent acts of gun violence.

Rane, a senior English major, had graduated in 2009 from Centennial High School in Ellicott City. Principal Carl S. Perkins described him as a "quiet, respectful student who related well with teachers and peers."

Rane's mother and stepfather both work at the university, according to Charles Mitter, head of the entomology department. Karen Rane, his mother, is head of the department's plant diagnostic clinic, and her husband, Gerald Brust, is a senior agent who researches crops and insecticides.

"They have a lot of friends on campus," Mitter said of Karen Rane and Brust.

Brust, reached by phone, declined to comment.

At a Tuesday night vigil at the university chapel, university President Wallace D. Loh choked up. "Each of us is asking, what do we need to change to prevent or mitigate the chances of something like this happening?" he said.

"There are lessons to be learned, policy questions to be discussed, changes to be made," he added at the vigil attended by about 125 mourners.

Early Tuesday, dozens of reporters descended onto the residential street where the shooting occurred, just across University Boulevard from the campus. Police said they had been to the same home twice before in recent months. In October, they responded there for a burglary call, but it was determined nothing had been stolen. In January, they responded there for a call that turned out to be a prank, said Julie Parker, a Prince George's County police spokeswoman.

According to police, who were able to interview the wounded roommate before his hospitalization and afternoon surgery, Rane woke up about 1 a.m. and discovered that Green had set a fire in the backyard of the house they shared in the 8700 block of 36th Ave. Rane alerted Oa, who is expected to survive, and both went outside to talk with Green, discovering a second fire in the basement on the way.

The three students agreed to put out the fires together, but as they were walking back into the house to get water, Oa noticed that Green was reaching for a weapon in his waistband, police said. He immediately fled.

"As he did, he heard gunshots, and then very quickly realized he'd been hit," Parker said. Rane collapsed outside the house with fatal wounds, she said.

Green then fatally shot himself in the backyard, police said. No suicide note has been discovered, Parker said. The 9 mm handgun, which Parker said was legally purchased by Green in Baltimore County in 2012, was found on the ground next to his body.

Tuesday night, police said the fully loaded, semiautomatic weapon UZI B was a .22-caliber rifle manufactured by Israel Weapons Industries. Green bought the weapon legally Jan. 18 from a gun store in Silver Spring, police said.

Green's family said that he had been suffering from a mental illness for at least a year and had been on medication in the past, Parker said. Police didn't disclose details about his illness or what medications he may have been taking.

The university said in a statement, "After a review of our internal records, we can confirm that Dayvon was not treated for mental illness at any of our health care facilities, nor were university officials aware of his condition."

Green attended Morgan from 2007 until he graduated with an engineering degree in May 2012, said a university spokesman, who could not immediately answer whether Green had received mental health services at that school.

Green's only prior brush with the law as an adult in Maryland was a citation from Prince George's County Police in October for allegedly drinking in a public place; the charge was dropped Feb. 5.

This was the second high-profile case on the campus in the past year. Last March, an honors student was accused of contemplating a campus shooting rampage. Alexander G. Song 2nd pleaded guilty to charges triggered by online posts that police say included the words: "hopefully I kill enough people to make it to national news." He was offered a deal without a prison sentence because he had no weapons and there was no evidence that he planned to carry out his threat.

The home where the shooting occurred Tuesday is in a residential area where many students live side-by-side with local families.

There were two other roommates who were not home at the time of the shooting, and a sixth had recently moved out, according to Parker.

Tuesday morning, a burnt pile of charcoal and a half-burnt, upside-down white plastic table could be seen in the home's backyard.

Paul Rowe, a 22-year-old College Park senior who lives across the street, said, "I heard about 10 shots go off and then we were debating whether it was firecrackers or gunshots. We figured if it was gunshots, we should stay inside."

Approximately five minutes after hearing the sounds, Rowe said, it had quieted down and he and his roommates debated calling 911, but when they looked outside, several police cars were already there.

Of his neighbors, the Westchester, N.Y., native said, "They were always out on their porch and I always wanted to go over and say, 'What's up?' But I never did. I'm glad I didn't."

Campus crime experts said that students often drop hints when they are contemplating violence, but said that such signs can be easy to miss — or tempting to ignore.

Jeff Pollard, a George Mason University psychology professor who serves as a consultant to a campus violence prevention group, said research shows that as many as three-quarters of people give hints before committing such acts.

"As we begin to peel back the shooter's history, chances are, someone, somehow was aware that there were changes in this shooter's life," said Pollard, who stressed it was too early to comment on the particulars of this incident. "Somewhere along the line he will have likely made some kind of a threat and it would be much more recognizable in hindsight."

Pollard, who serves as a consultant for the 32 National Campus Safety Index, a group formed by relatives of the victims from the 2007 Virginia Tech mass shooting, said that people often don't take such threats seriously or ignore warning signs because they don't want to get involved.

Threats — especially those involving weapons, substance abuse and drastic changes in behavior — can serve as warning signals of a violent outburst, said Gary J. Margolis, the managing partner of Vermont-based campus safety consulting group Margolis, Healy & Associates.

In the aftermath of such events, campus authorities generally comb through students' records looking for past erratic or violent acts, said Margolis, who also declined to discuss the specifics of the College Park shootings. Threat assessment teams will also speak with the suspect's professors and review court records, he said.

University police sent an email and text alert to students shortly after becoming aware of the incident; it included a description of a vehicle police were searching for. That vehicle information, from an initial police radio call, turned out to be false, police said.

In a statement Tuesday morning, Loh said, "The University of Maryland community awoke this morning to heartbreak. We are all shocked and saddened by this morning's tragic events. We extend our deepest sympathies and prayers to the families and friends of the victims."

Loh asked the campus community to "come together during this time of grief," and said the campus counseling center and places of worship will be open.

"Ours is a university of great resolve," he said. "Together, we will emerge from our collective sadness."

On campus Tuesday, in the SGA offices in the Student Union building, Samantha Zwerling, a 21-year-old junior studying environmental science and policy, said, "Obviously we're really shocked and I think the campus community is really shocked."

Zwerling, the student government president from Flemington, N.J., who also spoke at the vigil, added, "There have been a lot of crime alerts since the beginning of this semester. We've seen a reduction in crime recently at College Park. ... This is upsetting. Whether they're related or not, it's culminating into something."

College Park officials said they send out alerts as required by federal law. "If a crime occurs on-campus or at surrounding areas off-campus, we alert the UMD community," according to a spokeswoman.

About noon Tuesday, nearly 12 hours after the shootings, sophomore Madison Groenings, 19, a communications major from Weston, Conn., said the only email alert she had received was at 1:16 a.m. It said there was a reported shooting off campus. Upon learning that the incident involved three students, Groenings said, "I'm surprised I hadn't gotten any of that info. As a student, that's kind of scary."

Junior Madison Higgins, 21, is the administrator of the university's help center, a service and hotline run by undergraduates trained in crisis management. "Anyone can call if they need to talk about anything. We also have walk-in counseling."

Some on campus said the stress of school work could play a role in more students becoming distraught.

Sociology sophomore Alante Fitzgerald, 19, of Suitland said the campus "can be very stressful — students stressing over [grade point average], whether they're going to graduate on time."

Loh said the university has "significantly increased" the number of psychologists and other mental health professionals it keeps on staff particularly because more students are expressing a need for their services.

Baltimore Sun reporters Jessica Anderson and Alison Matas contributed to this article.

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