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No leads in gunman investigation

January 19, 2012

Video footage from campus surveillance cameras offered authorities no new information Thursday as they continue to investigate a report of a gunman at Catawba Valley Community College.

Police said a female CVCC employee reported a middle-aged white man holding a handgun in an East Campus parking lot about 9:20 a.m. Wednesday. The employee said the man was wearing a backpack and had long, curly blonde hair.

CVCC locked down its east and main campuses Wednesday as law enforcement spent nearly four hours combing the college for the suspect.

Authorities have not located anyone who fit the employee's description of the gunman, and no arrests have been made.

"I don't know that the witness ever saw him enter the building," Hickory Police Department Maj. Clyde Deal said Thursday. "In a building with that many entries and exits, it's not like a residence where you have one or two doors. There are also some trails that lead from the East Campus to the Main Campus."

Deal said police continue to seek new information related to the incident.

"At this point in time, we don't have a whole lot more than we did yesterday," he said.

CVCC President Dr. Garrett Hinshaw said college leaders continue to provide pieces of information about the incident to area law enforcement.

CVCC utilizes a 24-hour video surveillance system that monitors most sectors of the college's east and main campuses.

"We are evaluating those frame by frame," Hinshaw said. "I don't think anyone was observing the monitors (during Wednesday's events). Our focus is to capture and record. I can't allocate someone to look at the monitors all the time. I need my officers out and about."

On most days, three Catawba County Sheriff's Office deputies provide security services at CVCC. Deal said the sheriff's office added officers to the campuses as classes resumed Thursday, and HPD conducted security checks throughout the day.

Hinshaw met with college leaders Thursday to review the events of the lockdown and evacuation. A Monday meeting will provide an opportunity for faculty and staff members to share their experiences and thoughts.

"We're evaluating everything from technology to the systems within themselves to make sure people were getting the information correctly," Hinshaw said. "I'll know more when I do the debriefing."

Deal said officers gathered at the college after the evacuation Wednesday afternoon to evaluate their response.

"When you've got that many agencies involved in something, it went extremely well," he said. "The thing to remember in any kind of operation like this, it's more important to get everyone out safely. We would much rather get everyone out safely the way we did than have rushed them out and got somebody hurt."

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