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Two men sought after scare at UMass Amherst campus

The University of Massachusetts Amherst campus went into a “shelter in place” for about two hours on Thursday, alarming staff and students, after two men armed with a handgun assaulted a student in a dormitory, officials said.

“It appears this was not a random act,” said UMass Police Chief Tyrone Parham at a press briefing Thursday night. “This particular assault victim had clearly been specifically targeted.”

The victim had a head laceration and was taken to Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton with minor injuries, Parham said. No other injuries were reported.

The scare began at 5:17 p.m. when police received a report of a person with a handgun in the Pierpont Hall dormitory, according to school officials.


As text alerts warned students to shelter in place, UMass police secured the perimeter of the dorm, said school spokesman Daniel Fitzgibbons. Pierpont Hall is a coeducational residence for first-year students in the Southwest section of campus.

Later, police said the handgun was shown but not fired.

After talking to witnesses, police determined the suspects had fled in a vehicle, and the order to shelter in place was lifted at 7:13 p.m., Parham said.

No arrests had been made as of late Thursday night.

“We have good confidence right now that they are not UMass students,” Parham said.

The school added in a statement that“UMass police report the campus is safe, noting that two suspects involved in an armed assault on a student fled campus, and police are vigorously pursuing leads.”

During the tense incident, students took to Twitter to share what they knew.

Student James Villalobos said he went to Pierpont Hall to find out what was going on and saw two fire trucks, an ambulance, and a few police cars, but the dorm was calm. Police could be seen coming in and out of the building, he said.


While he was at the dormitory, Villalobos said, he heard popping sounds coming from a different part of campus, so he went back to his dorm to stay safe. “We got out of there because we had no idea what those [noises] were,” he said.

Globe correspondent Olivia Arnold contributed to this report. Laura Krantz can be reached at