GAUDIER — The latest on the college professor who is accused of killing his girlfriend and driving 300 miles to Delta State University to gun down a fellow professor in his campus office. The gunman, Shannon Lamb, took his own life Monday night as police closed in on him (all times local):
Police in Mississippi say the man suspected of shooting two people Monday on opposite ends of the state called police after what’s believed to be the first shooting and said he’d shot and killed the woman he lived with.
Authorities in Gautier said Shannon Lamb called them around 10 a.m. Monday and said he had shot and killed someone. He did not provide an explanation.
When police got to the scene they found a handwritten note that said: “I am so sorry I wish I could take it back. I loved Amy and she is the only person who ever loved me.”
Lamb is accused of killing Amy Prentiss and a professor at Delta State University before eventually taking his own life late Monday.
Campus mourns professor’s slaying; police work on motive
The university professor accused of killing his girlfriend and a colleague was a well-liked teacher, a musician and a father, but also someone who had medical problems and recently asked for a leave of absence from teaching.
Authorities worked Tuesday to figure out how the three lives intersected and what set off geography professor Shannon Lamb, who killed himself as police closed in on him during a manhunt.
Lamb is suspected of first killing his girlfriend Amy Prentiss, 41, in a home they shared in the coastal town of Gautier. Lamb then drove more than 300 miles north to Delta State University, where he is accused of fatally shooting 39-year-old Ethan Schmidt, a history professor who was killed in his campus office.
Police have not released a motive for the shooting. University President William LaForge said he didn’t know of any conflict between Lamb and Schmidt but “obviously there was something in Mr. Lamb’s mind.”
Lamb had earlier asked for a medical leave of absence, saying he had a health issue of some sort, but LaForge gave no further information about it.
The shooting led to an hours-long lockdown at the college during which frightened students and faculty hid in classrooms and closets as authorities scoured the campus looking for Lamb. The campus was eventually cleared by police and authorities later found Lamb when a license plate reader picked up his plate as he crossed a bridge over the Mississippi River from Arkansas back into Mississippi, Cleveland police Chief Charles “Buster” Bingham said.
Police followed Lamb but did not try to apprehend him. He pulled down a driveway north of Greenville, near his parents’ home and ran into the woods. As police were waiting for backup, he shot himself in the head.
Lamb started working at the university in 2009 and taught geography and education classes. He received a doctorate in education in the spring. He was teaching two online classes this semester, but an in-person class had been cancelled, LaForge said.
Lamb’s career prospects at Delta State may have taken a turn because of a university policy change.
After LaForge became president, he hired a new provost, Charles McAdams, who ended a prior university practice whereby an instructor who earned a doctorate could automatically join the tenure track and become an assistant professor. LaForge said that practice violated state policy which requires an open search for new professor positions.
Brandon Beavers, an education major, said he had a class with Lamb last year.
“It was like that class you look forward to,” Beavers said. “It was just cool.”
However, he said Lamb seemed agitated.
“He was really jittery, like there was something wrong with him,” Beavers said. “He was never in a bad mood, but he was real shaky.”
One of Lamb’s longtime friends described him Tuesday as smart, charismatic and funny. Hairston and Lamb both grew up in Greenville, Mississippi.
Carla Hairston said she was 15 and Lamb was 20 when they met through mutual friends. She and her friends were in high school, and he was the cool older guy who tried for several years to teach her to play guitar. He was a good teacher but she was an uncoordinated student, she said.
“He was quite the heartthrob back then. All the girls would melt when he was around,” said Hairston, now 40 and living in the Jackson suburb of Brandon.
“He had the Elvis effect,” Hairston said. “His voice was just like velvet, and people just loved to hear him talk.”
Hairston said even when she wanted to be a rebellious teen and stay out late, Lamb made sure she and her friends went home by curfew. She said he was whip smart and would often quote song lyrics in conversation.
“He made corny and dorky look good,” Hairston said.
Lamb and Prentiss had apparently been dating for some time. Prentiss’ ex-husband said they divorced 15 years ago but remained friends and had a daughter who’s now 19.
“She was completely devastated,” she said of his daughter. “She and her mother were absolutely best friends.”
Schmidt, the slain professor, directed the first-year seminar program and specialized in Native American and colonial history, said Don Allan Mitchell, an English professor at the school.
Karen Manners Smith was a history professor at Emporia State University in Kansas, where Schmidt studied.
“He was a super competent human being,” Smith said. “He was president of his fraternity, in student government. He was an absolutely delightful student.”
At the campus of 3,500 students, the police blockades had been removed, people were out cutting the grass and traffic moved normally, although there was not a lot of pedestrian traffic.
More than 70 students, faculty and staff attended counseling sessions at Delta State, according to Dr. Richard Houston, the university’s director of counseling. And the school had planned to celebrate its 90th anniversary Tuesday — some of the festivities were even supposed to be in Jobe Hall where the shooting happened — but LaForge said that event will be rescheduled.
A vigil was planned for Tuesday night and classes resume Wednesday.
“We’re trying to get our students to come back,” LaForge said. “The crisis is over. This is a day of healing.”
Counseling offered after shooting at Delta State
The latest on the college professor who is accused of killing his girlfriend and driving 300 miles to Delta State University to gun down a fellow professor in his campus office. The gunman, Shannon Lamb, took his own life Monday night as police closed in on him (all times local):
More than 70 students, faculty and staff are attending counseling sessions at Delta State University after one of the school’s professors was accused of fatally shooting a colleague on campus.
Dr. Richard Houston, the university’s director of counseling, said Tuesday that three large counseling sessions will be offered.
President William LaForge says the university is encouraging students to return to campus after officials say geography instructor Shannon Lamb shot history professor Ethan Schmidt in Schmidt’s on-campus office. Lamb is also accused of killing his girlfriend at their home 300 miles away. He killed himself as police closed in on him.
Delta State had planned to celebrate its 90th anniversary Tuesday — some of the festivities were even supposed to be in Jobe Hall where the shooting happened — but LaForge says that event will be rescheduled.
LaForge says he didn’t know of any conflict between Lamb and Schmidt but “obviously there was something in Mr. Lamb’s mind.”
A vigil was planned for 7 p.m. Tuesday and the university plans to resume classes Wednesday.
The college professor who is accused of killing his girlfriend and a colleague is being described by a longtime friend as smart, charismatic and funny.
Carla Hairston told The Associated Press on Tuesday that she and Shannon Lamb, the professor, grew up in the small city of Greenville, Mississippi.
Hairston remembered meeting Lamb through a mutual friend when she was 15 and he was 20. She said she and her friends were in high school, and he was the cool older guy who tried for several years to teach her to play guitar.
She says he was quite the heartthrob back then and all the girls would melt when he was around.
Hairston says when she wanted to be a rebellious teen and stay out late, Lamb made sure she and her friends went home by curfew. She said he was whip smart and would often quote song lyrics in conversation.
MORNING STORY …
Suspect in 2 Mississippi killings dies of apparent suicide
GREENVILLE — After an intense manhunt, authorities in Mississippi said a college instructor wanted in the deaths of a woman he lived with and a university professor he worked with died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound as police closed in on him.
News of Shannon Lamb’s death late Monday night brought to a close a chaotic, frightening day during which students and faculty at Delta State University hid in their rooms as authorities scoured the campus looking for Lamb.
Cleveland police Chief Charles “Buster” Bingham said Lamb was returning from Arkansas when a license plate reader picked up his plate as he crossed a bridge over the Mississippi River late Monday.
Police on the other side in Greenville followed Lamb but did not try to apprehend him, Bingham said. Lamb then pulled over and took off on foot. Bingham said the police were waiting for backup when they heard a gunshot. When backup arrived, they searched and found Lamb with a gunshot wound to the head.
“We didn’t want it to happen this way. It wasn’t our intention for it to happen this way. But unfortunately he made that decision,” Bingham said.
Investigators said Lamb, 45, was a suspect in the slayings of 41-year-old Amy Prentiss, who was found dead in the home she shared with Lamb in Gautier; and 39-year-old Ethan Schmidt, a history professor who was killed in his office on campus in Cleveland.
The campus was on lockdown as armed officers methodically went through buildings — checking in closets, behind doors, and under tables and desks.
University President William LaForge said late Monday that the lockdown had been lifted. He said there would be no classes Tuesday but students, faculty and staff were invited to campus to attend a vigil in the evening.
Officers in the two cities said they had not uncovered a motive for either slaying. Bingham said it was still early in the investigation. LaForge said Lamb had earlier asked for a medical leave of absence, saying he had a health issue of some sort. But LaForge gave no information about the issue.
Gautier Police Lt. Scott Wilson said during a news conference Monday that police had spoken with Lamb.
In the news conference, another officer who was not identified said anyone coming into contact with Lamb should use extreme caution: “His statement was that he was not going to jail.”
Wilson said Lamb made the statement to law enforcement but would not say when or how police spoke to Lamb.
Lamb received a doctorate in education from Delta State University in spring 2015, according to his resume posted on the university’s website. He started working there in 2009 and taught geography and education classes, and he volunteered with Habitat for Humanity.
LaForge said Lamb was teaching two online classes this semester.
The 3,500-student university in Cleveland is in Mississippi’s flat, agricultural region near the Arkansas state line.
Charlie King was in a history class down the hall from where the shooting occurred.
“A few minutes into the class, we heard these popping noises, and we all went completely silent,” he said.
Some people thought that it might be a desk or door closing or firecrackers, but King said he thought it sounded like gunshots. A few minutes later a police officer — gun drawn — burst into the windowless room and ordered everyone to get against the wall away from the door. Some people hid in a storage closet, King said.
The professor gave the students chairs to throw if the shooter came in, said King’s friend, Christopher Walker Todd.
Eventually police ushered the students into another building and questioned them about what they’d seen and how many shots they heard.
Charly Abraham was teaching a class of about 28 students at the university’s Delta Music Institute when he and the students received a message through the university’s alert system.
“Everybody’s phone just sort of went off at the same time,” Abraham said. About two hours or so after the initial lockdown, about 25 heavily armed police officers swept through the building, Abraham said.
In the southern Mississippi Gulf coast town of Gautier, authorities went to a house where Prentiss and Lamb lived after receiving a phone call about 10 a.m. notifying them of the shooting. They went into the house and found Prentiss’ body.
Her former husband, Shawn O’Steen, said Prentiss was a “good person” to whom he was married for about seven years. O’Steen said they divorced 15 years ago but remained friends and had a daughter who’s now 19.
“She was completely devastated. She and her mother were absolutely best friends,” O’Steen said.
At Delta State, the slain professor directed the first-year seminar program and specialized in Native American and colonial history, said Don Allan Mitchell, an English professor at the school.
A history professor at Emporia State University in Kansas, where Schmidt studied, described him as one of the “brightest students.”
“He was a super competent human being,” Karen Manners Smith said. “He was president of his fraternity, in student government. He was an absolutely delightful student.,”
King, one of the students in Jobe Hall when the shooting happened, attended the same Episcopal church as Schmidt. King was studying history, and Schmidt was his adviser.
“I looked up to the man,” King said.