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UNLV shooter had target lists, mailed envelopes to educators before rampage

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UNLV shooter had target lists, mailed envelopes to educators before rampage

Dec 07, 2023 | 8:28 pm ET
By Dana Gentry
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UNLV shooter had target lists, mailed envelopes to educators before rampage
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UNLV Police Chief Adam Garcia addresses the press with Metro Sheriff Kevin McMahill looking on. (Photo: Dana Gentry/Nevada Current)

The shooter who killed three UNLV faculty members Wednesday mailed at least 22 envelopes without a return address to education professionals across the country before entering the campus with a Taurus handgun and 11 magazines of ammunition, Clark County Sheriff Kevin McMahill revealed at a news conference Thursday afternoon.  

One envelope contained a white powdery substance that is being analyzed by police.   

UNLV shooter had target lists, mailed envelopes to educators before rampage
Patricia Navarro Velez

The Clark County Coroner identified two of three UNLV faculty members killed during Wednesday’s on campus shooting. Las Vegan Patricia Navarro Velez, 39, was an associate accounting professor. Business Professor Cha Jan Chang, 64, lived in Henderson. The third victim has yet to be identified, pending notification of next of kin.

According to the university faculty directory, both Chang and Navarro Velez had offices in Beam Hall, which authorities have said is where the shooting started.

The shooter, identified as 67 year-old Anthony James Polito, applied for a number of positions at Nevada institutions of higher learning and was denied employment, but McMahill stopped short of identifying the rejections as a motive for the shooting, despite discovering a target list in his Henderson apartment. 

“The suspect had a list of people he was seeking on the university campus as well as faculty from Eastern Carolina University,” McMahill said. “We have contacted almost everyone on those lists to make sure that they are alright. We have done that for all of UNLV and all of Eastern Carolina with the exception of one individual who was on an international flight.”

Friday morning Metro named the third victim, Naoko Takemaru, 69, an associate professor of Japanese Studies whose office was, like the other victims, in Beam Hall.

UNLV shooter had target lists, mailed envelopes to educators before rampage
Cha Jan Chang

None of the three victims killed were named as targets on the lists, McMahill said. 

Two deceased victims were discovered on the third floor of Beam Hall, another on the fourth floor, and the victim who survived is believed to have been on the fifth floor. His condition has been downgraded from stable to a “life-threatening position,” McMahill said.

The first campus police officer arrived 78 seconds after being notified at 11:44 a.m. of shots fired in Beam Hall, a building adjacent to the UNLV Student Union. Campus police were joined by LVMPD officers and entered Beam Hall, according to McMahill, “without hesitation,” and searched for the suspect. 

At 11:55 the suspect, pulled out his weapon and engaged in a gun battle captured on a surveillance camera. 

“The suspect was struck multiple times and collapsed to the ground,” McMahill said. 

“These two detectives are heroes,” UNLV Police Chief Adam Garcia said at the news conference. “They risked their lives in order to save countless others in what the sheriff pointed out could have been a bloodbath.”

UNLV shooter had target lists, mailed envelopes to educators before rampage
Naoko Takemaru

McMahill noted the shooter had 150 rounds of additional ammunition. 

“I believe he was probably headed toward that student union,” which McMahill said was “full of kids having a barbecue and playing Legos. I believe we avoided a much larger tragedy by the actions of that police officer.”  

UNLV President Keith Whitfield echoed McMahill and praised the campus police for running  “into danger and they made our university safe and clearly stopped a larger tragedy from happening.” Whitfield said the school is discussing augmented security that will still allow it to freely serve the public.

The victim who survived walked out of Beam Hall and was met by Metro officers, McMahill said, and “thrown into a police car and driven to an arriving Community Ambulance” which took him to Sunrise Hospital and “probably saved his life.” 

An arrow on a chair discovered by police in Polito’s apartment pointed down to a “last will and testament,” according to McMahill, who said the shooter was experiencing financial difficulties, evidenced by an eviction notice police found taped to his door. 

McMahill said police have not discovered any clues prior to Wednesday’s events that would have provided an indication of Polito’s intentions. The Taurus handgun was purchased legally in 2022. Polito had a criminal history involving computer trespass in Virginia in 1992. 

This story was updated to include the identity of the third victim, which was released by Metro Friday morning.