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UCF student found dead in Orlando dorm; explosives discovered

March 18, 2013|By Molly Hennessy-Fiske

HOUSTON -- An undergraduate student at the University of Central Florida apparently  committed suicide in his dorm room, and campus evacuations were ordered after explosives, an assault rifle and a handgun were found in the residence, officials told The Times on Monday.

“There is no ongoing threat. What we’re dealing with now is the improvised explosive devices -- removing those and making them safe," said campus spokesman Grant Heston.

Officials announced that the Orlando campus, which was shut down through the morning, is reopening at noon EDT.  All explosive devices will be removed from Tower 1 before then, officials said.

The student was found dead in his bedroom of a four-bedroom suite in the Tower 1 residence hall. Authorities were called to the dorm at 12:20 a.m. after a fire alarm sounded and police received reports of a man with a gun, Heston said.

"University police responded immediately," University of Central Florida Police Chief Richard Beary said in a statement. "The safety of our students in Tower 1 and our entire campus community is our top priority."

Along with the body and weapons, authorities found a number of improvised explosive devices, according to a university statement.

Officials have not released the student’s name, age or hometown, Heston said. He would not say whether other students were in the dorm suite at the time of the incident. The campus spokesman said it was not clear what might have caused the student to arm himself.

“I think that’s part of what this investigation will uncover -- why this took place,” Heston said.

He said no other injuries have been reported.

Orange County Sheriff's officials and the FBI are on campus helping to secure the dorm, Heston said.

Heston said he could not describe what was being done to remove the explosives. An Orange County sheriff's spokeswoman referred questions to campus police. FBI officials could not be reached.

The university, with more than 59,000 students, is Florida's largest and among the largest in the nation.

After the incident was reported, Tower 1 in Knights Plaza -- home to about 500 students -- was evacuated. Heston said students were provided space to stay, food and counseling at a nearby building, the Veterans Academic Resource Center, until their dorm is deemed safe.

University officials are posting updates on their main Web page as well as the campus Facebook page.

Some people posting on Facebook wanted to know more about what was being done to secure the residence hall and the rest of campus after the incident, especially given the improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.

"I wonder if there will be a general sweeping through the whole area," Rafael Eduardo Mena posted on the university's Facebook page. "Was the IED found in the dorm or somewhere in Tower 1? If it is the latter, I think more than ever a general sweeping has to be done."

Brandon Forman wasn't sure whether to come to campus for his Monday afternoon sign-language class.

"I love my sign language class. From a safety perspective, have officials ensured that there is no other individuals involved with this? How do they know this is just one person?" Forman wrote. "When students safety are concerned all precautions need to be made."

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