Police surround armed man at Arkansas State University

JONESBORO, Ark. (AP) – An armed man who had posted on Facebook that he was homicidal drove onto the Arkansas State University campus Thursday, sparking a lockdown before police took him into custody without any shots fired, university and police officials said.

Jonesboro Police Chief Rick Elliott said Brad Kenneth Bartelt, 47, of Jonesboro, had a 12-gauge shotgun and containers of gasoline and propane with him when he drove his truck onto a plaza east of the student union. University spokesman Bill Smith said the man, once a student at a remote campus, was taken into custody about an hour after the incident began.

The university lifted a lockdown for most of the campus, but still canceled final exams set for Thursday afternoon and evening. Campus activities are to resume Friday and a graduation ceremony set for Saturday will go on.

Campus police chief Randy Martin said Bartelt had formerly attended classes at Arkansas State’s Newport campus, 45 miles away. In a Facebook post Wednesday, Bartelt had complained about a recent decision in a Social Security case. Police didn’t offer details about the case.

Elliott said at a Thursday news conference that Bartelt never pointed a weapon toward officers.

“He was pointing the gun at himself. He wanted to do harm to himself,” Elliott said.

The chief said that, when he arrived, Bartelt was sitting in the truck with his foot out the window and the shotgun visible, yelling something inaudible. He said from “time-to-time” Bartelt would get out of the truck and slosh gasoline on the truck or hold the shotgun to his chin.

Elliott said investigators were still interviewing Bartelt to learn more about his reasons and he would be screened by mental health professionals. He said charges were likely but did not know what they would be.

A day earlier, officers had gone to Bartelt’s home after receiving a call about a Facebook post where he said he was “suicidal and now homicidal.” In the post, Bartelt referred to the Social Security Administration, according to a police report that also noted Bartelt was seeking medical attention.

The school sent an alert early Thursday afternoon urging everyone to leave the student union amid reports of an active shooter.

City police spokesman Paul Holmes said a negotiator went to the scene to talk with Bartelt. It wasn’t clear what was said in discussions, but Bartelt eventually threw the shotgun down and surrendered, Elliott said.

John Miller, a junior at Arkansas State, told the Arkansas Democrat Gazette in a phone interview that he was taking a test in the humanities building when he saw through a window a green pickup drive onto the lawn in front of the union.

About five minute later, after finishing his test, Miller said “people came running and screaming freaking out.”

At that point, Miller ran with several women to the library as police and SWAT team officers began descending on the campus, he said.

The university is in Jonesboro, about 130 miles northeast of Little Rock. Its enrollment is more than 13,000, but not all students were on campus Thursday because it was the second day of final exams.

Jonesboro is also home to Westside Middle School, where an 11-year-old and 13-year-old fatally shot four students and a teacher in 1998.

 

Associated Press writers Andrew DeMillo, Jill Bleed and Claudia Lauer contributed to this report from Little Rock, Arkansas.
(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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