LAS VEGAS — Police officers responding to a deadly shooting inside the business school at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, mistook the gunman for a bystander and urged him to get out of the building amid the frantic search for the suspect and victims, according to body camera footage and police accounts.
With their weapons drawn, the two Las Vegas police officers climbed stairs to a second-floor walkway overlooking the ground floor of the business school during the Dec. 6 shooting that left three professors dead and one wounded on the 30,000-student campus.
The shooter, later identified as Anthony Polito, appears for only a few moments in more than five hours of footage made public Wednesday, but the video provides the first look at the gunman in the building after opening fire on the top floors of the business school.
The video shows him wearing a long black trench coat over a white shirt and moving calmly through the first floor of the business school as officers swarmed the building. One of his hands was visible at his side, and there was no indication he had a gun.
“Get out! Get out!” the officers shouted at Polito while pointing to an exit and continuing along the walkway.
Students and staff had been eating lunch and playing games just outside the business school, which sits across from the university‘s student union, when the shooter’s rampage began.
Polito walked out of the building, pulled his weapon and a minute later was killed in a shootout with university police officers, authorities said. No one outside was harmed.
Clark County Undersheriff Andrew Walsh told The Associated Press on Thursday that it is apparent the officers did not know they encountered the gunman inside the building.
“They don’t have a description of the shooter at the time, and they know there are other police resources on the first floor,” he said.
Sheriff Kevin McMahill previously said the university police officers mistook the gunman for a professor.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department body camera footage did not show the shootout. But a short video that McMahill released earlier this month showed Polito descending a set of stairs outside the business school, his long black coat swaying.
The footage shows that one of the university police officers approached Polito from behind, but when the shooter turned around, weapon in hand, the police officer dove for cover behind a patrol car.
Police have not specified a motive for the shooting but said Polito was in financial trouble and had been turned down for a teaching job at UNLV and other Nevada schools. He left a tenured post in 2017 at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, after teaching business there for more than 15 years.
The three professors killed at UNLV were Naoko Takemaru, 69, an author and associate professor of Japanese studies; Cha Jan “Jerry” Chang, 64, an associate professor in the business school’s Management, Entrepreneurship & Technology department; and Patricia Navarro Velez, 39, an accounting professor focusing on research in cybersecurity disclosures and data analytics.
The wounded victim, a 38-year-old visiting professor, has not been identified.
Police said more body camera footage will be released in coming weeks.
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