Fire alarms blared as the last students flooded out of the front doors of the University of Central Florida’s Tower 1 dormitory and onto the street just after midnight early Monday. Police officers pushed through the confusion, bound for the third floor. But the police weren’t there for the fire. They were there for the man with the guns.
What had started seeming like an early morning prank had suddenly gotten far more serious when a student stepped out of his bedroom and said he saw an assault rifle pointed at his head. By the time police opened the door to his bedroom, the alleged gunman, James Seevakumaran, was already dead.
“James was a loner,” his family described him in a released statement. “… and did not have a history of violence.”
Last door on the left
The last door police opened in the apartment was the last place anyone had seen Seevakumaran alive.
“… He’s there with some sort of, like, gun — like (a) large assault gun,” roommate Arabo Babakhani had said to the police dispatcher. It was 12:20 a.m. when he barricaded himself in his bedroom and called 911. Then he said he thought he heard Seevakumaran follow another roommate.
Ten minutes later the alarm still screamed, deafening the main hall in the apartment as police officers searched, guns drawn. The video released by UCF Police Tuesday night leads the viewer through the apartment with the barrel of a gun pointing straight ahead as police checked room by room, until the only one left belonged to the man with the guns.
Orlando Police officer Jim Strawn crouches, pistol clenched in his hands, as another officer reaches to turn the knob on the final door.
“Get down on the ground!” Strawn yells through a blast of confusion as the team floods into the room. Then they see the legs poking from behind the other end of the bed.
Seevakumaran’s apartment bedroom looked like any college student’s: Dimly lit by the glow of a television left on. Crumpled bed sheets. Clothes on the floor. But then there were the two guns laying on the ground: an American-Tech tactical .22 caliber rifle and a High Point .45 caliber handgun. Both had high capacity magazines. Then there was the backpack filled with hundreds of rounds of ammunition and improvised explosives. They found a drum magazine, like the one used in the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., eight months ago. Then there was the list.
The plan for the apparent killing spree was simple, hastily scrawled in sharpie on a random sheet of printer paper. Half of it read like a night on the town, starting at 11 p.m. Sunday: Dress for bar. Head to Mad Hatter. Get drunk. Have to head back. Take a shower. Shave up. But then the list takes a turn for the sinister, just as the sharpie stopped crossing things off. There were three things left to do.
2:55 a.m. – put up youtube (video)
3:00 a.m. – pull alarm
3:05 a.m. – “good luck + and give them hell!”
Police don’t know exactly what Seevakumaran planned next. The hell the former student was about to give to the school that was evicting him exists only in theory, though police say he appeared to be deep into preparing a rampage on campus. But that night the plan suddenly changed. Just before crossing off the last items on his list, he picked up the .45, cocked it, and pulled the trigger.
Seevakumaran was already in the process of being forced out of his apartment at UCF. It had been months since the former business major had been in a classroom, and weeks since he’d paid his rent. It had only been days since he started buying guns and explosives, some at an Orlando gun store, some online.
All of those compounding trouble signs seemed to be accelerating toward the night that the despondent 30-year-old wrote his list. Some of the weapons hadn’t even arrived yet when he pulled the fire alarm and picked up his new rifle.
It all happened faster than anyone could see coming, at least on record. Seevakumaran had never sought counseling, never been reported for unusual behavior, UCF spokesman Grant Heston said. His parents said he was never violent. But he was “a loner,” they said. He was “distant.”
“For the most part if you said anything to him he would ignore you, he would stare off in the distance and pretend like you didn’t exist,” Babakhani told ABC news when asked about his roommate’s demeanor. “But he made eye contact with me when he pulled the gun on me. That was the best eye contact I ever had with him. He looked me dead in the eye and raised the gun.”
What happened in those final minutes after Babakhani called 911 and when Seevakumaran took his own life still baffles authorities. Babakhani said he thought Seevakumaran ran after another roommate, and then he heard a gunshot.
The shooting has already been called a suicide by police. UCF Police Chief Richard Beary said the gunman killed himself before he could kill anybody else. The rampage ended just as it was about to begin.