A heroic teacher and college worker have been praised for tackling and handing over to police a masked gunman who burst into a packed college allegedly firing a pistol, triggering panic and fear.
An 18-year-old man remained in custody after the scare at Crawley college on Monday. Police revealed the suspect had a pistol firing blanks, with the melee leading to two college staff suffering minor wounds. Police said a firearm and knife were recovered from the scene.
A college spokesperson said: “We believe that the individual in custody is a Crawley college student but we cannot provide any further details at this time.”
Students said teachers hurried into classrooms during the incident, with one saying: “Get out now, someone’s got a gun.”
They described how one brave tutor faced up to the intruder as he shouted for his students to “run for your lives”.
A college support worker later physically grappled with the intruder, with armed police rushing to the scene just after 3.10pm after receiving reports of multiple gunshots.
Student Elisa Stellabotte, 17, , 说: “Everyone dived out of the classroom after we heard several shots.
“He [the suspect] pointed the pistol at my tutor and fired but they were just blanks, thank God. He was so shocked.”
She said her tutor was telling everyone to get back in the classroom: “People were really terrified. My friend was having a panic attack.”
A fellow student who gave their name as Eddie, 18, added: “He was amazing. He just squared up to the masked man from a few yards away. He was telling students to go back into the classroom and run to safety.
“It’s such a shocking thing. Initially no one knew the gun was firing blanks so it was a really terrifying thing.”
Students said shortly afterwards a second staff member grappled with the intruder, with police then taking custody of the suspect, who was arrested for firearms offences.
Police praised the actions of the two staff members. Ch Insp Shane Baker, of Sussex police, 说: “I’d personally like to thank everyone who helped to quickly bring this incident to a safe conclusion, especially the two members of college staff whose heroics have not gone unnoticed.
“They put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect their students, fellow employees and the wider public, and I am hugely grateful for their quick-thinking actions.
“During this, they sustained minor injuries – not gunshot wounds – and presented themselves to a walk-in medical centre. Thankfully, no other injuries were reported, and no damage was caused by the blank shots fired.”
The Crawley college principal, Vicki Illingworth,- 说: ”Our college community was shaken by the actions that occurred yesterday afternoon.
“I cannot praise the courage, resilience and support shown by our staff enough. They have been incredible and the care and compassion they shared with our students and with each other continues to fill me with admiration.
“Their heroic actions – and the rapid response of emergency services – helped to protect our college community. They are both at home, resting, and we ask members of the media to respect their privacy at this time.”
Students were evacuated and later photographed with hands on their heads as armed police cleared the area.
One student, Ketisha, who studies aeronautical engineering, 说: “I was in the workshop doing some machinery and there was a lot of like banging, and because the college has a lot of different courses like construction and stuff I just thought somebody was doing their normal class until two of my teachers came inside and closed the door and said: ‘Get out now, someone’s got a gun.’
“So then we all just got out and we were by the main gate, the main entrance and he was in the car park not too far (away) and he shot again and we all just ran different ways.”
As the police investigation continues, detectives were in discussion with lawyers from the Crown Prosecution Service about whether or not to bring charges.
Armed officers were spotted by neighbours as an address in Barton Walk, Crawley, was raided. It is believed to be linked to the suspect.
Paul Rodgers, 75, 说: “There were bangs as armed police raided the house – I presume they were thunder flashes as they were too loud for gunshots. Forensic officers have been here all day taking things out in clear plastic bags.”
In the first hours after the incident police liaised with counter-terrorism colleagues. They are now satisfied the incident was not terrorism related.
Baker said: “We are treating this as an isolated incident which was not terror-related, and while we are not seeking anyone else in connection with it, we will continue to provide a high visibility police presence in the area for community reassurance.”
The college remains closed, with staff and students being offered counselling. The 18-year-old arrested remains in custody.