HCSO: Man, 22, charged in shooting at Lone Star College

Published On: Jan 30 2013 03:37:05 PM CST
Updated On: Jan 23 2013 11:27:53 PM CST

Jan. 23, 2013: A man is charged after he opened fire during a dispute at a north Harris County college, shooting a 25-year-old man, a maintenance man, and accidentally shooting himself, deputies say. Ryan Korsgard reports.

HOUSTON -

A man was charged after he opened fire during a dispute at a north Harris County college, shooting a 25-year-old man, a maintenance man, and accidentally shooting himself, deputies said.

Carlton Berry, 22, was charged with two counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. Harris County sheriff's deputies said the shooting happened outside the library on the Lone Star College's North Harris campus, 2700 W. W. Thorne Drive near Aldine Westfield, at 12:19 p.m. Tuesday.

Investigators said the shooting stemmed from a dispute between two men. At least 10 shots were fired, according to Sheriff Adrian Garcia.

"What we had here was idiocy, stupidity," Garcia said. "We had individuals who did not care about putting other people in harm's way. It was a ridiculous, adolescent confrontation that occurred."

The maintenance man, Bobby Cliburn, was shot in the leg. He was released from a hospital on Wednesday.

Investigators said Berry accidentally shot himself in the leg while he was putting his gun back into his pocket. Garcia said that weapon has not been recovered and urged anyone who knows where it is to call investigators immediately.

In the moments after the shooting, Harris County Sheriff's Deputies and other officers searched the grounds near the college. The sheriff said they were looking for two important clues: a pistol and a possible second suspect. 

A sheriff's department source told Local 2 that a man was apparently with Berry at the time shots were fired. The source said a person believed to be Berry's friend dropped his backpack, with identification, near the school, shortly after the shooting.

Sources said the gun may have been taken by a friend who ran from the building shortly after the shooting.

Berry remained hospitalized and in the custody of Harris County sheriff's deputies on Wednesday. His bond has been set at $60,000.

Berry is scheduled to appear in court Thursday to have an attorney assigned. However, that is unlikely as he was still recovering Wednesday night.

Berry has a criminal past, including arrests in 2011 and 2012 for possession of marijuana. He was also arrested for a theft charge in 2009.

The third person who was shot was identified as 25-year-old Jody Neal. Deputies said he suffered gunshot wounds to his abdomen and leg.

Neal also has a criminal history. He was convicted of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle in 2004 and possession of a switchblade/knuckles and misdemeanor assault in 2010.

Garcia said investigators were working to determine if Neal, or someone else in the area, also fired shots.

Dr. Richard Carpenter of Lone Star College said campus police heard the shots being fired and responded immediately. Harris County deputies were on the scene about four minutes later, Garcia said.

Garcia also asked anyone with cellphone video of the shooting to turn it over to deputies immediately. At least eight investigators have been dedicated to the case, Garcia said.

A fourth person, a woman, was transported to a hospital after she suffered an anxiety attack. She is expected to be OK.

Maintenance man talks about shooting

Cliburn, 69, talked to Local 2 exclusively Wednesday morning from his hospital room at Houston Northwest Medical Center.

"My intentions at first were just trying to calm the situation down, but this guy came out and he took two steps and he started shooting," the retired Marine said.

Cliburn said he was on his way to tackle a maintenance issue at the college Tuesday when he heard a commotion, two men yelling in the courtyard near the library.

"There was 4, 5, 6 rounds shot. After the first two rounds, I immediately tried to get behind a column there," he said.

Seconds later, Cliburn was shot in the leg. He left the hospital Wednesday with the bullet still lodged in his calf.

"What they want to do is let it heal then come back and take it out," said Cliburn who has worked at Lone Star College's North Harris campus for 10 years.

Cliburn planned to return to work when he was physically able.

"I'm not a quitter," he said.

Students terrified after hearing shots

Students said they were extremely afraid after the shooting.

"I was waiting for my English class to start. It was five minutes before class and all of a sudden, I heard shots fired and people started rushing in the hallway. A few students even came in to our room seeking shelter and we closed the door and we pushed the table against the door and we were hiding," student Amanda Vasquez said. "You never think this is going to happen to you."

Vasquez said the shots were fired nearby.

"They sounded very close -- the shots. (We heard) five or six gunshots," Vasquez said. "I just ducked under the table as fast as I could and hoped for the best. I saw one of the shooters when he was already under police control."

Some students barricaded themselves in classrooms until they thought everything was safe.

"There were some people crying in the classroom," student Paul Ellis said. "A lot of people were freaking out. Some girl thought she was going to have a panic attack, but she didn't."

"I was doing my homework on the second floor and all you heard were six or seven loud gunshots. (Students) were just running away from the hallway. That's the same thing that I did. People didn't want to cross the hallway because it's open and we didn't know where the shooter was," student Daniel Flores said. "I went to the courtyard and there were people walking around like they didn't know. It wasn't organized."

"Nobody knew what to do," one student said. "I mean, we knew to hide, but that was it. We didn't know who shot who. I know one of the guys in there with me, he saw one of them shoot the other guy. But all I know is that everybody just ran."

A shelter-in-place was ordered at the college, but the campus was evacuated a short time later. The campus was deemed safe by 3:30 p.m. The campus was closed to the public for the rest of the day. Officials said the campus will reopen on Wednesday.

Some students not notified through emergency system

Some students said they were not notified about the shooting,

Ariana Munoz, 19, said she was in Algebra class when a friend texted her about 12:30 p.m. to see if she was OK. Munoz said she and the other 25 students in her class didn't receive an alert.

"Come to find out the shooting wasn't far from me, so I alerted my other class members and I told my professor, who then went and told other professors," Munoz said. "Why is it that nobody from the school came and told us? Why was it that I had to alert the faculty? Why was it that I had to tell everybody?"

Munoz said the professor went about class as if nothing had happened. About 1:10 p.m., roughly 40 minutes after the shooting, Munoz said a police officer knocked on her classroom door and told everyone to evacuate. She said the college did send out an email alert eventually, but she said it was sent after she left campus.

Carpenter said messages were sent out.

"We sent out a text blast to all of our students, emails," Carpenter said. "We have multiple forms by which we communicate with students."

Carpenter said students are able to opt-out of those alerts, but the system is designed to send notifications to every student to their cellphones. However, on Wednesday, KPRC Local 2 learned that students have to opt in, not out, to receive those alerts.

Some students said cellphone service of spotty on campus.

"I had no more cellphone service, but I did have WiFi, which is when I decided to go to Twitter and warn others not to come into the academic building," Vasquez said.

A message was posted on Facebook about 1 p.m. The first posting the college made on its main Twitter account was about 2 p.m. A notice did not appear to have been posted on the North Harris campus' Twitter page at all.

School reopened on Wednesday

Students, their parents and faculty returned to campus on Wednesday.

The Lone Star College Public Information Officer, Vicki Cassidy, said the school was on "high alert and will continue the same pattern" Wednesday. The PIO also said there would not be extra security on campus.

However, security on the college campus was much more visible early Wednesday. Officers were out patrolling the campus to help ease fears as students headed back to school.

"It makes you scared to go anywhere," student Danielle Roberson said. "You are at school to get an education and better our future and we still get to school and get nervous."

Lone Star College and the four nearby Aldine schools -- Dunn Elementary, Parker Intermediate, Nimitz 9th grade campus and Nimitz High -- were on lockdown Tuesday. The lockdown was lifted about 3 p.m.

"I'm just glad nothing happened at any of the other schools and the suspect didn't make it to other schools," said Kevin Williams, who has two children who attend Dunn Elementary. "As a parent, you think, 'Go get my child, go help my child,' but you have all the police, so what else can you do?"

Town hall meeting scheduled

Harris County sheriff's deputies will hold a town hall meeting to talk with the public about the department's plan for responding to school shootings.

The meeting will be held at San Jacinto College's North Campus, 5800 Uvalde, from 6 to 8 p.m.

Garcia said the timing of the meeting was coincidental and not in direct response to the Lone Star College North campus shooting. The meeting was organized after the school shooting in Newton, Conn.

"We want people to know that our deputies are prepared, they're brave, they're courageous, they're going to run toward danger that people will run from and, in the event they might be outgunned, we got surprises for the bad guys."

Guns illegal on campus

There were more than 10,000 students on the campus at the time of the shooting, said Jed Young, a school spokesman. Lone Star College's North Harris campus sits on 200 acres and opened in 1973. It offers more than 80 programs of study.

It is illegal to carry a concealed gun on a college campus in Texas.

"The policy of the board is that it's a gun-free campus," Carpenter said. "That doesn't mean that we can observe every ... we've got 19,000 students on this campus. We don't search students that come on the campus."

According to college officials, administrators have been actively talking about how they should deal with a shooter on campus. On Tuesday morning, the college president sent faculty members a link to a video that demonstrates what to do in an active shooter situation.

College officials said an email to a link with a training video will be sent to students.

Gallery

Photos: Shooting at Lone Star College

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