A 20-year-old former community college student fatally shot a campus print shop director that he used to work under, just as his old boss arrived for his job Monday morning, school officials and authorities said.
A manhunt was underway for the suspect, Kenneth Morgan Stancil III. Authorities are pursuing him on an open count of murder, Wayne County Sheriff Larry Pierce said.
Authorities believe Stancil has left the area but is still in North Carolina. They have not released a motive for the shooting.
Stancil entered a large Wayne Community College building around 8 a.m. with a rifle and went to the third-floor print shop, perhaps using a back staircase so he would go unnoticed, authorities and school officials said. Stancil's former work-study boss, Ron Lane, was killed in the print shop. He had worked at the school for 18 years.
The shooting frightened students and the campus was put on lockdown as officers stormed the building.
First-year student Jovaun Williams, 24, told The Associated Press that he was climbing a staircase inside the building and had almost reached the second floor when he heard a single muffled pop.
He recognized the sound as a gunshot, similar to the kind he heard growing up in a tough neighborhood near Long Beach, California. He didn't know where it came from.
"You hear a shot and my biggest things is, get out of there," he said. "It definitely wasn't where I was at, so that was good enough for me."
By the time he walked back downstairs, he saw police officers running into the building with their guns drawn. The building, the Wayne Learning Center, houses the cafeteria and library, among other things, school spokeswoman Tara Humphries said.
Stancil was a third-year student at the college but it wasn't immediately clear when he last attended.
Police are using helicopters and dogs to search for him. Authorities weren't sure how he left campus, including whether he left in a vehicle.
At one point, authorities thought they had cornered the shooter in a restroom and fired tear gas into it, only to find that it was not Stancil in the bathroom, Effler said.
Authorities have described Stancil as a white man, about 5-foot-11, with a goatee and a tattoo over his eye.
First-year student Joniece Simmons, 19, said she was sitting on a bench outside the learning center when two officers with rifles and a third with a drawn handgun ran toward the building, shouting for students to take cover in a safe place. She and others ran inside to the cafeteria and locked the door.
Though they were urged to stay silent, some students still wanted to talk. "I was like `hush, it's serious.' I was crying," Simmons said.
Classes were canceled Monday, but the college was expected to reopen Tuesday. After the shooting, the parking lots were clear and the campus was mostly empty.
Nearby, the private Wayne County Day School - with about 300 students in prekindergarten through 12th grade - was put on lockdown, said Melissa Watkins, a volunteer parent receptionist at the school.
"We saw 10 to 11 cruisers go by all at once," she said. "We knew something was going on; we just didn't know what or where."
AP reporters Matt Small in Washington, D.C.; and Martha Waggoner and Michael Biesecker in Raleigh contributed to this story.