ORLANDO, Fla. - The roommate who called authorities for help after a former University of Central Florida student pulled a gun on him as the student attempted to follow through with a plan to attack the campus spoke to Local 6 on Tuesday, a day after the gunman shot and killed himself.
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 at Tower 1 on the Orlando campus on Monday just after midnight.
The roommate, Air Force veteran and aerospace engineering major Arabo Babakhani, who students are calling a "hero," told Local 6 how he came face-to-face with the gun and ran to the restroom to call 911, saying he looked him straight in the eye, but didn't pull the trigger.
He said he spent Sunday night studying, went to IHOP to eat, got back to his apartment at around midnight and heard a roommate buzz in Seevakumaran, because his entry card had been deactivated from not paying rent. Seevakumaran was not enrolled in classes for the spring semester and UCF was in the process of evicting him, authorities said.
About 10-15 minutes after he heard the buzzing, Babakhani said he heard the fire alarm, opened the door to his room, looked down the hallway and stared at Seevakumaran, who was pointing the gun directly at him.
"I just opened the door to see what's burning and, uh, there was no smoke in the apartment. I just see him standing in front of me with a gun," Babakhani told Local 6. "I saw that and I just slammed the door in his face, locked it and then I stepped aside from the door thinking that he might shoot into the door."
From there, Babakhani's instinct and experience as an Air Force Sergeant in Afghanistan seemed to have kicked in.
"Then I crouched in front of my chest of drawers, just thinking again he might go into his room and shoot through the walls," he said. "And then I called 911 from there."
Babakhani said he retreated further into a bathroom and waited when he heard, "one or two pops at the time I didn't know they were gunshots because it was so quiet."
The dispatcher on the phone then asked Babakhani to let in the authorities but he told the operator he couldn't because he didn't know his roommate's status.
Babakhani said he believed Seevakumaran could have shot him, but chose not to.
"Even if he just had the gun up part of the way, he could have just still shot me," he said. "I think he just hesitated and had a change of heart,"
A statement was released on Tuesday on behalf of Seevakumaran's family, saying:
"The family of James Oliver Seevakumaran states that James was a loner and did not have a history of violence. The family does not wish to make any further comments to the media, and they are requesting privacy during this difficult time. Please direct all inquiries regarding this case to the University of Central Florida Police Department, (407) 823-5300."
UCF police chief Richard Beary said 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. No one specific was named.
Beary said Seevakumaran's other 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.
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.
Authorities also found two guns, including an American-Tech tactical .22-caliber rifle, a backpack containing four improvised explosive devices and hundreds of rounds of ammo.
Also on Tuesday, students took a stand against gun violence in light of Monday's events, signing a banner they'll put on display in the student union. The UCF chapter of College Democrats also passed out information asking peers to support the cause, aiming to make students feel better about what could have been a campus tragedy.
UCF will hold a news conference at 3:45 p.m. on Tuesday to give updates in the case. It will be streaming live on ClickOrlando.com.
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