Home News University professor fatally shot on campus by 46-year-old ex-student

University professor fatally shot on campus by 46-year-old ex-student

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Jamie Donnelly

The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

A former student fatally shot a faculty member inside a building at the University of Arizona on Wednesday afternoon, sending the campus into a lockdown as officers searched for the gunman, police said.

Police said the shooting took place shortly after 2 p.m. inside the John W. Harshbarger Building, near East Second Street and North Mountain Avenue. The building houses the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences. The victim was identified as a male professor in the Department of Hydrology, but his name was not immediately released.

UA Police Chief Paula Balafas said the suspect was arrested by the Department of Public Safety shortly after 5 p.m. on Interstate 8 at Gila Bend. He was identified as Murad Dervish, 46.

Balafas said that just after 2 p.m. UA police received a call from someone inside the building that a former student was there and that the ex-student was not allowed inside the building. The person requested officers come to Harshbarger and escort the person out. Before officers arrived within a few minutes another caller reported a shooting inside the building.

“Someone recognized the student and knew that he was not allowed inside the building,” Balafas said. She said the time from the initial call to the shooting call was only a “matter of minutes.” It was not disclosed Wednesday why Dervish was not allowed inside the building.

The campus was locked down and students and staff were asked to shelter in place for more than an hour as police searched for a gunman. The shooter was identified by police, but he had fled from the building before officers arrived.

Video shot outside the building showed Tucson Fire personnel carrying a man outside the building to a waiting ambulance. The patient was then placed on a gurney and put into the ambulance, which quickly drove away. The victim was taken to Banner-University Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.

Veer Nayyar, an undergraduate student, was nearby when he heard sirens and saw officers running into the building. He later saw emergency personnel put a victim on a stretcher. Nayyar said the victim looked to be an older person and he did not see anyone running away from the scene.

A faculty member who was in the building at the time said he heard seven to 10 gunshots. The faculty member asked not to be identified.

All remaining in-person classes, activities and performances on the UA campus were canceled for the rest of Wednesday, according to a UA police update. At about 3:30 p.m., UA police said the campus lockdown and shelter-in-place have been lifted, but people should stay away from the Harshbarger building. No decision had been made on whether there would be in-person classes on Thursday. The building where the shooting occurred will be closed indefinitely.

Balafas encourages students and faculty who may be shaken up by the incident to get in touch with the UA’s Counseling and Psych Services. CAPS is able to provide crisis counseling.

“I don’t know what the suspect’s issue was in this case, but if you see something, don’t just say something but do something. If you know someone struggling with mental health issues or anger issues, please reach out,” Balafas said.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of a shooting at the UA College of Nursing in which three professors were killed by a failing student, who then took his own life on Oct. 28, 2002.

More recently, a 20-year-old UA sophomore was fatally shot in a campus parking garage on Feb. 20, 2021. Forrest Keys was killed during a confrontation with three people in a car who drove by him late at night. Two 18-year-old men received 30-year prison sentences for the slaying.

Thomas Meixner (left) and Murad Dervish (right) – University of Arizona

Jamie Donnelly covers breaking news for the Arizona Daily Star. Contact her via e-mail at jdonnelly@tucson.com

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