Former university student found dead in dorm planned larger attack
ORLANDO, Florida (CNN) — A former University of Central Florida student found dead in his dorm room of an apparent suicide, alongside weapons and a backpack of bombs, planned a larger attack, officials said Monday.
School spokesman Grant Heston identified the student as 30-year-old James Oliver Seevakumaran.
He was at the university from fall 2010 through fall 2012 but was not enrolled for the spring semester and was in the process of being removed from the dorm room where he lived.
“While the crime scene processing was under way in that room, we found some notes and some writings that indicated that this was a planned attack,” UCF Police Chief Richard Beary told reporters.
He said Seevakumaran’s plan appeared to be set in motion as early as February, when weapons and ammunition purchases were made. Seevakumaran developed an outline for the attack, but that never came to fruition, thanks in part to the rapid response of law enforcement, Beary said.
The chief told CNN’s Erin Burnett that he believes Seevakumaran built the bombs himself, but authorities were still trying to figure out how Seevakumaran was going to carry out his plan and whom he was going to target.
“It wasn’t exactly clear what the attack was going to consist of. However, he did have a time line of how he was getting ready and preparing and then in the end, he would just ‘give them hell’ is the quote that he used,” Beary told CNN.
When police entered the dorm room, they found Seevakumaran dead from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, a handgun, an assault weapon, a couple hundred rounds of ammunition and four homemade bombs in a backpack.
An Orange County Sheriff’s bomb squad team examined the explosives and rendered them harmless. Federal agents have joined the investigation, and the bombs were sent to an FBI lab to determine what materials were used.
It all started around 12:20 a.m., when a fire alarm went off at the Tower 1 dormitory. Beary told CNN that Seevakumaran pulled the fire alarm, perhaps to draw many people out into the open.
Police believe that Seevakumaran then went to his room to pick up the weapons.
There, he encountered one of his roommates, who told police that Seevakumaran pointed a weapon at him. The roommate ran into a bathroom and called 911.
Officers arrived within minutes to rescue the roommate. They found Seevakumaran’s body in his bedroom.
Beary said police are still investigating to find out “what made him tick,” but early indications were that Seevakumaran had very few friends and had anger issues.
According to Heston, the school spokesman, Seevakumaran had never been seen by UCF counselors and had not had any student conduct issues. He had one prior contact with law enforcement — a traffic arrest in 2006 — the police chief said.
The dorm, home to about 500 students, was evacuated.
“The way they handled it was disappointing because it started as a fire alarm,” said dorm resident Antionette Thompson. “Nobody said what was going on with a bomb and the shooting. So we were left in the dark.”
Thompson was among five dorm evacuees sitting together on a campus bench, some of them bundled up in a blanket, others still dressed in their pajamas.
Another student dorm resident, Ashley Graham, said they received a text from authorities warning about a “suspicious death in Tower 1.”
“It’s really horrible that someone had to die,” said Nathalie Sils-Aine. “It just makes me feel more unsafe.”
The university said it was providing food and counseling for the evacuated students at its Veterans Academic Resource Center. Tower 1 reopened later Monday.
Firearms are prohibited at UCF, which is home to about 59,000 students at its main Orlando campus and 10 regional facilities.
As the evacuated students waited for hours to return to their building, worst-case scenarios raced through their heads.
“He was just above us,” Graham said. “What if the roof caved in because a bomb went off and everyone in the building got hurt? That’s just the crazy part.”
By John Couwels and Dana Ford, CNN. John Couwels reported from Orlando. Dana Ford reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Marlena Baldacci also contributed to this report.