Early Monday morning, students at the University of Central Florida (UCF) received an alert that a man in a residence hall was found dead in his dorm room containing an assault rifle, a handgun, and a backpack containing four improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
According to UCF’s website and a press conference by UCF Police, the student was identified as James Oliver Seevakumaran. Seevakumaran, 30, was found dead after UCF Police said they responded to a complaint of a fire alarm and a subsequent 911 call from Seevakumaran’s roommate that Seevakumaran pointed a weapon at him. When police entered the apartment, Seevakumaran was found dead with what appeared to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. In the dorm room, police found a .22-caliber tactical rifle, a .45-caliber handgun, four IEDs and writings that “indicated a planned attack…and a timeline (police) felt would be his actions,” UCF Police Chief Richard Beary said at the press conference.
One UCF student, Katelynn Johnson, a sophomore majoring in political science, said she was in the residence hall early Monday morning when the fire alarm was pulled and police were helping evacuate the building.
“Cops were holding assault rifles and pushed us really far from the building,” she said. “Later a cop came out and said there was a crime scene.”
For the rest of the morning, and much of the following day, the Tower 1 residence hall remained closed with students being forced to stay in other dorms or at the on-campus Veterans Academic Resource Center. Classes scheduled before noon that day were cancelled, and some later classes also remained cancelled, Johnson said.
Johnson said she was acquainted with Seevakumaran, who would come to the Subway where she worked across from Tower 1. He would come in almost every day, she said, ordering a $0.99 personal cheese pizza and occasionally asked Johnson about her classes.
“He seemed like a normal person,” Johnson said. “He was nice, but kind of quiet and a bit of a loner. I didn’t see anything like this coming from him. Something in him must have snapped. I’m not sure.”
According to the UCF website, Seevakumaran was a student in the College of Business Administration enrolled from fall 2010 through fall 2012. Seevakumaran was not enrolled in the current spring semester and was in the “process of being removed from UCF housing,” the website said, after he reportedly did not pay his dorm bill for the spring semester.
USF students Diana Londono and Jennifer Ramirez are from Orlando, and said they found out about the incident at UCF from their friends who texted them Monday morning.
“A lot of the kids we went to high school with went to UCF…,” Londono said. “I was concerned because my first thought was that he might be a terrorist.”
Londono, a senior majoring in international studies, said she was concerned for her friends at UCF, but also about herself and her friends at USF.
“I didn’t even think about the security involved,” she said. “It’s really scary. Thinking about it is terrifying. I don’t understand how he would get all those materials in without someone noticing.”
Though Londono said she questioned whether the situation could happen at any college campus, she said she feels safe on the USF campus.
“I never fear coming on campus,” she said. “I remember getting an alert about a man with a knife my freshman year, but I have never heard anything major like this at USF. Things that happen here are minor compared to things like this at UCF and elsewhere.”
Ramirez, a senior majoring in speech pathology, said the description of Seevakumaran sounded typical among college students, but also among those she said people hear about in the news.
“I read about the rapes and stuff on campus, and I don’t feel as safe,” Ramirez said. “I believe crimes like this can happen anywhere.”