GOLDSBORO, N.C. (AP) — A 20-year-old former community college student fatally shot a campus print shop director who had recently fired him, just as his old boss arrived for work 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 about 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. Goldsboro city spokeswoman Kim Best said he was let go recently, but she didn't say when.
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, Wayne County sheriff's Maj. Tom Effler said.
Authorities have described Stancil as a white man, about 5-foot-11, with a goatee and a tattoo around his left eye and on his neck.
Sheriff's deputies blocked the driveway to the white mobile home listed as the residence Stancil shared with his mother and two younger brothers.
A next-door neighbor on the road lined with brick ranch homes, Barbara Williams, said Stancil's grandparents lived on the other side of the mobile home, where they operated an assisted-living home. A sign in the front yard said "Stancil Family Care Home." An elderly man with a cane who came to the front door declined comment to an AP reporter.
Williams said Stancil once helped her late husband when he fell out of his bed.
"He came over here and picked him right up and put him back on the bed," Williams said. "I've never had no problems with those kids. ... It just surprises me."
At the school, 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.
AP writers Matt Small in Washington, D.C.; and Martha Waggoner and Michael Biesecker in Raleigh contributed to this report.
Emery Dalesio can be reached at http://twitter.com/emerydalesio