Sources: AR-15 found in UNH student's car - WFSB 3 Connecticut

Sources: AR-15 found in UNH student's car

Officers searched the UNH campus after the report of a gunman near the university. Photo: Twitter Officers searched the UNH campus after the report of a gunman near the university. Photo: Twitter
Police searched buildings throughout the UNH campus. Police searched buildings throughout the UNH campus.
Police are on the scene of the suspect's home in Fairfield. Police are on the scene of the suspect's home in Fairfield.
Possible suspect in police custody (photo courtesy of eyewitness) Possible suspect in police custody (photo courtesy of eyewitness)
Officers block off the entrance to the UNH campus. Officers block off the entrance to the UNH campus.

The lockdown at University of New Haven was lifted Tuesday evening after a commuter student was spotted on West Haven campus with loaded firearms and an AR-15 along with loaded clips were found in his vehicle.

The incident started just after 1 p.m. when someone told police they spotted a man with a weapon exiting his vehicle in the 1100 block of Campbell Avenue and headed toward UNH campus.

Emergency alerts were sent out by university officials, notifying people on campus to shelter in  place while police investigated the incident and searched the campus. Shelter in place means students needs to stay inside and away from windows and doors.

Minutes later, the suspect, who police have identified as 21-year-old William Dong, of Fairfield, was found in possession of two loaded handguns on the UNH campus. Dong was quickly taken into custody by police without incident.

Both weapons were registered to Dong, with one being on his person and the other in his bag, sources said.

Police said Dong was initially spotted with a rifle, however, that weapon was found in his motor vehicle hours later.

Sources told Eyewitness News an AR-15 and loaded magazines were found in Dong's vehicle, which is believed to be a Toyota Rav 4, and it was towed from the scene to be processed.

Sources told Eyewitness News that Dong was putting the gun into the backseat of his vehicle and was moving to better hide it.

Investigators said there is no indication that Dong was going to hurt anyone.

"We have no idea," said West Haven police Sgt. David Tammaro on the suspect's motive.

No shots were fired. There are no reports of any injuries to students, staff or police, investigators said.

Sources told Eyewitness News there is no clear evidence of any criminal intent.

However, any student found with a weapon on UNH campus will face "disciplinary sanctions," according to the university handbook.

The following items are considered weapons, according to the UNH handbook:

  • All firearms
  • Facsimile firearms
  • Paintball guns
  • Air guns
  • Switchblade knives
  • Knives with blades four or more inches in length,
  • Dangerous materials and chemicals such as "mace" or teargas

After the suspect was placed in custody, police conducted a "methodical search" to make sure the campus was secure. However, there is no indication of any other suspects.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and SWAT teams were called to the campus along with various police departments from surrounding towns.

At this time, there is no immediate threat to the public, police said.

Police focus on suspect's Fairfield home

Police traced the registration in Dong's vehicle to his home in the 1300 block of Stratfield Road in Fairfield.   

Ammunition and pellet guns were found in the home, police said. However, police said nothing "alarming" has been located in the residence.

Investigators secured the home where Dong lived with his parents and commuted to UNH. Police were waiting for a search warrant as of Tuesday evening. 

Dong recently received a valid pistol permit and has two registered handguns. The recent permit indicates that he does not have a criminal background. There were no reports of problems with police previously at the suspect's home.

Police said a family member was at Dong's home all day. That family member does not speak good English, so they brought in a translator as they start asking more questions.

West Haven schools shelter in place, Classes canceled

All afternoon drivers and students trying to get on the UNH campus were turned away by police.

For hours, police went dorm by dorm, sweeping the campus, making sure it was safe.

The lockdown was lifted at the north and south campuses for UNH around 3:40 p.m. The main campus remained in lockdown until just before 5:30 p.m. The lockdown at UNH was lifted after six hours.

UNH student Mike Lanzetta said once students heard the news, they gathered together.

"School officials were telling us to go into the rooms, get away from the windows and the doors," Lanzetta said. "And that's what we did."

UNH officials said afternoon and evening classes were canceled because of "ongoing police activity."

Forest Elementary School and Carrigan Intermediate School were also given the shelter in place order, but that was lifted just after 1:30 p.m. Notre Dame High School was locked down while police investigated, and officials there said students were dismissed at 2:25 p.m.

Notre Dame President Br. James Branigan said officers were stationed at the school during the entire lockdown, and students were never in any danger.

"While we certainly had a stressful afternoon due to an unforeseen incident that took place that caused us to go into lockdown, I want to stress to our families that we have a lockdown procedure in place just in case it is needed to be put into operation," Branigan said in a statement Tuesday.

Students applauded the university's quick response.

"By the time we got the email and realized what was going on, there was already Milford Orange, the state police was here with K-9s," Lanzetta said.

Several parents including Sandra Taylor rushed to campus to check on their children.

"She actually said I don't feel safe here anymore," Taylor said.

Recent lockdowns at colleges in Connecticut

Tuesday's incident is the third such incident reported at a Connecticut school in a month. Central Connecticut State University was locked down for several hours on Nov. 4 after people reported seeing a man dressed in black with a face mask and possibly a sword or gun, getting off a bus and walking into a dorm.

The student, David Kyem, said he was wearing a Halloween costume and didn't mean to scare anyone.

Last week, Yale University was locked down for hours after police said someone was going to the campus to open fire. That, police said, appeared to be a hoax.

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