University of South Carolina 2015 Targeted Shooting
What best describes the area where the school is located? Suburban
Type of School Public
Grade/education level College/University
Select the type of program Doctoral
How many students are currently enrolled in the college/university as a whole? 30,001 to 40,000
Does the school have a counselor/counselors? Yes
Describe the security system at the school
- Security officers or police officers at/ in school
Was this event: Carried Out
Date of Attack: 02/05/2015
How many fatalities occurred from the attack? 1
1. Perpetrator and her ex-husband divorce
The perpetrator and her ex-husband stay married until a few years before the shooting. They continue to have a relationship and share a home until one month before the shooting occurs. They had married on Feb. 21, 2009, filed for divorce on August 29, 2013, and the divorce was final on October 29, 2013. Despite having his own home, the victim had been staying with a relative shortly before the attack, while the perpetrator continued to live in the house they had bought as a couple.
2. January 12, 2015 Police resolve dispute between the perpetrator and ex-husband
On January 12, 2015 Perpetrator’s ex-husband, also a professor, calls police on her asking them to evict her. The ex-husband tells police that “an Asian female sits in his lab and has no business being in there,” and also that she “is a student who is trying to enter the PhD program that he is a part of.” The ex-husband adds that he is uncomfortable with the female who continues to contact him. Officers tell the perpetrator to leave the area around the professor’s office. Officers tell the ex-husband, “if the perpetrator tries to contact him again or shows up at his office, to please call police immediately.” He does not mention to police that they had been married or had a relationship.
3. Perpetrator stalks ex-husband
The ex-husband reported to police that the perpetrator repeatedly showed up in his classroom while he was teaching. He said this was causing concern among his students. She had also been sending him emails repeatedly in an effort to get into a Ph.D. program. He forwarded the emails to the police.
4. February 5, 2015 perpetrator shoots ex-husband, then herself
On Thursday, February 5, 2015, the perpetrator enters her ex-husbands office and shoots him multiple times, killing him. She then shoots herself in the abdomen and dies as a result.
5. Law enforcement response
The first law-enforcement officer arrived at the PHRC, 1 minute and 53 seconds after a dispatcher received a 911 call from the PHRC’s fourth floor. Three more officers arrived at the scene before 2 minutes and 32 seconds had elapsed since the 911 call. By the 6-minute-and-6-second mark, officers entered the laboratory inside room 403 and confirmed the facts that had been described in the 911 call: blood was seeping from under the door of office 403A, adjoining the laboratory. The officers could not open the locked door of office 403A, and no one within the locked office responded to the officers’ knocks or calls to anyone inside. After 9 minutes and 55 seconds had elapsed since the 911 call, officers gained entry into office 403A by breaking a window and turning the door handle.
How did the attacker(s) gain access to the school? Normal entry
Select all weapons that were used in the attack
Select all weapons that were used in the attack – Firearm
How many suspects were involved with the plot? 1
Suspect #1 Information
Suspect’s age at the time of the plot discovery or attack 46
Suspect’s sex Female
What was the suspect’s affiliation with the targeted school? Former Student – Drop Out
What grade/ educational program was he/she in at the time of the plot discovery or attack? Doctoral
Within 6 months prior to the attack, did the suspect exhibit any of the following academic issues? No known academic issues
Add any additional description of the warning signs that the suspect(s) exhibited
Neighbors mentioned they were concerned for her emotional stability. Also her ex-husband’s call to police about the perpetrator being in his office.
Was the suspect every formally treated (hospitalized, prescribed medication) for a mental illness/developmental disorder? Unknown
Did the suspect suffer from addiction or substance abuse (formally diagnosed or not)? Unknown
Was the suspect involved in bullying? (Either as bully or victim)
Did the suspect experience a life-changing event/ traumatic experience, other than bullying, at any point in their life? Yes
Suspect personally experienced:
Was the suspect known to the criminal justice system? (As an offender or victim)
Yes – Other – About a month prior, police had to ask the perpetrator to leave ex-husband’s laboratory after the ex called for help. He had asked officers to evict her.
What reason(s) did the suspect give for the planned attack or attack?
Did the suspect tell/threaten anyone directly and overtly about his/her school violence plans prior to the discovery of the attack or the attack itself (other than co-conspirators)?
Did the suspect make vague but disconcerting references to aspects of ideas for violence, plans, or preparations prior to the discovery of the attack or the attack itself (other than to co-conspirators)? No
Lesson 1. Students nearby who heard shots fired locked doors, called 911, monitored the lab in which the shooting took place for any movement while awaiting police support, secured safe areas of shelter for themselves and for peers; and provided law enforcement with valuable, timely information regarding both the crime scene and relevant events in the past.
Lesson 2. USC law enforcement responded swiftly and professionally. The first law-enforcement officer arrived at the PHRC, 1 minute and 53 seconds after a dispatcher received a 911 call from the PHRC’s fourth floor. Three more officers arrived at the scene before 2 minutes and 32 seconds had elapsed since the 911 call. By the 6-minute-and-6-second mark, officers entered the laboratory inside room 403 and confirmed the facts that had been described in the 911 call
Lesson 3. USC law-enforcement officers cooperated with SLED, with the Richland County Coroner’s Office, and with other agencies throughout the remainder of the day.
Lesson 4. Senior officials within the Executive Policy Group of USC’s emergency management team convene monthly to review the University’s emergency policies and practices. They have prepared for crises.
All from an incident review: The greatest lessons are that more participation in emergency-preparedness training is needed at USC and that technological capabilities enabling speed and reliability of emergency notices must be improved.
Recommendations for avoiding future attacks
Offer improved training programs and increase participation in training programs for all members of the University community regarding emergency preparedness, crisis management, professional development regarding emergencies, and proper interactions with law enforcement.
Assess and improve University emergency notifications and systems.
Review University policies and practices regarding crisis preparedness, safety, and access—along with University communications regarding each of these.
Evaluate facilities and infrastructure in regard to emergency management, while ensuring utility of safety plans for University buildings.
Operationalize all of this report’s recommendations and promulgate them so that other institutions might benefit from the University of South Carolina’s self-study.
Recommended changes to school procedure
Though there was apparently no leakage, in hindsight the perpetrator’s behavior indicated a preoccupation with her ex-husband. She sent him numerous emails, showed up repeatedly in his class, and came to his office and would not leave. This kind of stalking behavior needs to be responded to as possibly being part of a build-up toward an attack. Perhaps the police could have interviewed her, or had her followed, or barred her from the campus. None of these things would necessarily have prevented the attack, but might have made her reconsider her plans, or revealed sufficient evidence of danger to generate a search warrant to see if she had weapons.