Former UCF student found dead in dorm was planning attack on campus, officials say

Student found with apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound ID'd

Published On: Mar 18 2013 06:05:30 AM EDT   Updated On: Mar 19 2013 12:29:46 PM EDT
James Oliver Seevakumaran
ORLANDO, Fla. -

University of Central Florida officials on Monday said a former student found dead in a dormitory had planned to use two guns and explosives in a "planned attack on the UCF campus."

[UPDATE: Roommate of ex-student speaks | PHOTOS:  UCF dorm evacuated after body found in room | VIDEO: Background on former student ]

Tower 1, a seven-story building that hosts 500 students, was evacuated just after midnight Monday after a body, identified as 30-year-old James Oliver Seevakumaran, a UCF business major who wasn't enrolled in the spring semester, was found in a third-floor dorm room on the Orlando campus.

UCF police chief Richard Beary said additional information, including notes laying out a timeline, were found in the room, adding that it appeared that Seevakumaran had plans to go through with an attack to kill people on campus.

"It was clear this was a rational thought process," he said.

No specific individuals were named, according to officials.

Police said it appeared Seevakumaran's timeline had been thrown off when authorities responded to a fire alarm call more quickly than he expected.

"Well what we think is, his timeline got off and we think that the rapid response of the law enforcement may have changed his ability to think quickly on his feet," Beary said. "Again, our officers were approaching, we had the information because of the 911 call, so our officers came up and they were properly armed to deal with that kind of tactical situation." 

Beary said Seevakumaran's roommate had called 911 to report that Seevakumaran had pointed a gun at him when he walked out of his room after the fire alarm went off. Another roommate was out of town and the third roommate had left the apartment immediately when the alarm was set off and before Seevakumaran showed his gun.

“University police responded immediately when we received a fire alarm call and a subsequent 911 call,” Beary said. “The safety of our students in Tower 1 and our entire campus community is our top priority. It could have been a very bad day for everybody here."

Officials later said Seevakumaran's death was caused by an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. Police said they speculate Seevakumaran pulled the fire alarm himself to get students to evacuate in one area and his roommate's 911 call made the response to the fire alarm faster, prompting him to shoot himself.

UCF spokesman Grant Heston said Seevakumaran wasn't enrolled in school, didn't pay for housing and in mid-February, UCF began its eviction process but didn't immediately kick the student off campus. 

"We try to take a compassionate approach, not to kick them off on day one," said Heston, who added that UCF is now looking into that process.

The two guns, including an American-Tech tactical .22-caliber rifle, found in the dorm room were purchased at an unnamed Orlando gun store.  A backpack containing four improvised explosive devices and hundreds of rounds of ammo were also found, according to Julie Torres of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

There are no records of Seevakumaran, of Lake Mary, visiting UCF counseling or going to psychological services, according to Heston. He was enrolled at the school from fall 2010 to fall 2012, records show. Police said they believe no one else was involved in the plan, as Seevakumaran was described by his roommate as a "loner."

According to records, Seevakumaran had received four traffic tickets in Orange County from 2005-2012. In Seminole County, he was arrested when he was 21 years old for serving alcohol to a minor but got a pretrial diversion, meaning there was no conviction on his record.  In 2008, he was arrested for driving with a suspended license, to which he pleaded no contest and had adjudication withheld, meaning again there was no conviction on his record.

UCF Police were assisted in the investigation by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, FBI, ATF and FDLE.

“Times like today challenge us individually, as an organization, and as a university community,” said UCF President John C. Hitt. “The first test for all of us is whether we are focused on the safety of our community, and I am confident that UCF has passed that test. The safety and welfare of our students, faculty and staff, visitors, and neighbors is UCF’s highest priority. The test of compassion is also very important, and our prayers go to everyone affected by today’s incident.”

The roommate who called 911 hasn't been identified by authorities, but Kappa Sigma's UCF chapter tweeted Monday evening that he was "one of ours."

Late Monday morning, UCF said the explosive devices were rendered safe by authorities and removed from Tower 1. All floors in Tower 1 reopened Monday evening, according to UCF officials.

Earlier in the day, a student described the scene as authorities entered the dorm.

"A cop came by and said lock the doors and don't come out," a student said.

A text/email alert was sent to students about two hours after the discovery, saying there was no threat to the campus community.  Some students questioned why the alert was sent hours after the body was found.

"Why do we get emergency alerts for suspicious packages, but not for Towers being evacuated due to an armed man/active crime scene?" a student tweeted.

Students residing in Tower 1 were encouraged to go to the Student Union before being moved to the UCF Arena, which is located near Tower 1.

"I mean that makes me a little worrisome because obviously he wanted to inflict pain on somebody else too," said Towers resident Casey Craig.

UCF's main campus, which was closed all morning, reopened at noon Monday.  All classes scheduled to start before noon were canceled.

UCF is the nation's second-largest university with nearly 60,000 students.

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