Man Charged in Shooting at College in Houston

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HOUSTON -- A man was charged late Tuesday in a shooting at a community college here that left four people hospitalized and touched off fears that the campus had been the site of another mass shooting.

The man, Carlton Berry, 22, was charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon but remained hospitalized for injuries sustained in the shooting.

Mr. Berry has had a number of run-ins with the law in recent years, including an arrest for misdemeanor theft in 2009 and two others for misdemeanor marijuana possession in 2011 and 2012, according to criminal records. In the theft case, he was sentenced to eight days in jail, and for the two marijuana arrests he received a total of five days in jail.

A dispute between Mr. Berry and another man on Tuesday led to the shooting at Lone Star College's North Harris campus, the authorities said. At least one of the men may have been a student or a former student at the college. Both were detained by the authorities.

Three people were wounded by gunfire, including the two men in the altercation and a maintenance worker who was shot in the leg. A fourth person, who was not shot, was taken to a hospital with medical problems.

Students at the 19,000-student community college returned to classes on Wednesday, though some said attendance was lighter than usual. Jonathan Moreno, 19, a freshman, hid in a back room on the third floor of the library when the gunfire erupted Tuesday. Librarians led him and a large group of students to the room and locked the door in the moments after the shooting.

On Wednesday, Mr. Moreno returned to campus and attended a chemistry class.

"At first when I got there, I was still kind of scared from yesterday, but throughout the day I started getting comfortable," Mr. Moreno said. "I was playing air hockey and ping pong with my friend upstairs in the game room. That kind of got my mind off of everything that happened."

Though his chemistry class was full, many other students had apparently decided to stay home, because the campus seemed quieter than it normally does, Mr. Moreno said. "I think most people stayed home," he said. "I was actually thinking of staying home. What made me decide was the fact that I'm going to have to eventually face my fears and go to school."

Mr. Moreno did not return to the library Wednesday. As he was exiting the building as the college was being evacuated the day before, he had noticed bloodstains on the floor. "At some point I will," he said of returning to the library. "I just feel like, this week, I don't feel like I'm comfortable yet."

On Tuesday, the college was evacuated after the shooting, and Houston police officers and Harris County sheriff's deputies spent hours clearing the buildings and deeming them safe.

Officials with the Sheriff's Office said they received the first call at 12:19 p.m. They said they did not know what the dispute was about. One of the men in the altercation had student identification, but officials had not confirmed that he was enrolled at the college.

An official with the Sheriff's Office, Maj. Armando Tello, said there appeared to be only one gun involved.

The shooting shocked students, faculty members and administrators at the 200-acre campus. The school is in northern Harris County and about 30 minutes from downtown.

Students said they did not realize that the shots were actually gunfire. Because the shooting occurred outdoors -- in a center courtyard near the library and academic buildings, officials said -- many heard the sounds. One student sitting at a table on the third floor of the library thought it was a book cart toppling.

"Later we heard people screaming, and we knew it was gunshots," Mr. Moreno, the freshman student, said.

Mr. Moreno hid with other students in a back room on the third floor of the library in the moments after the shooting. "It was a scary thing," he said. "Some people were panicking. Some lady was about to have like an asthma attack. There were some people crying."

Other students sat or crouched in classrooms in buildings with the lights turned off. Some fled classrooms and buildings so quickly that they left their belongings behind and planned on returning late Tuesday night to retrieve them.

Richard Carpenter, the chancellor for the Lone Star College System, said the North Harris campus, the system's first, was celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. "In 40 years, this is the first kind of incident like this we've ever had," Mr. Carpenter said. "The campus will be reopening tomorrow. It has been safe for 40 years. We think it's still safe."

One freshman, Whikeitha Thomas, 21, had been in math class for about 15 minutes when he heard loud bangs. "A teacher came in," Mr. Thomas said. "She said: 'There's been a shooting on campus. Lock the doors. Turn off the lights.' "

Mr. Thomas and his classmates hid in the classroom. In those tense moments, one of the students, a 23-year-old woman, collapsed. Mr. Thomas and another student gave the woman CPR inside the classroom and called 911. "The lights were off at first until she passed out," Mr. Thomas said. "When she passed out, they turned the lights back on so I could perform CPR."

As Mr. Thomas was trying to revive the woman, she told him that she was more frightened than the others. She said she had survived the Virginia Tech shooting. "She said, 'I went through this already at Virginia Tech, and I just don't like this feeling.' "

Manny Fernandez reported from Houston, and Emma G. Fitzsimmons from New York.


This article originally appeared in The New York Times.


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