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Police: Campus gunman tried entering Mo. Army base

- Associated Press - Thursday, May 12, 2011

ROLLA, Mo. (AP) — A gunman tried to break into a Missouri Army base Thursday and fired on police who pursued him before crashing a vehicle at a nearby university, which went on lockdown after he was seen entering a campus building, officials said.

The Missouri University of Science and Technology campus remained locked down at midday as the search continued for the man, who fired shots near campus but apparently not on school grounds, a school spokeswoman said. The university sent an alert at 8:50 a.m. warning that a gunman was seen entering a building that houses classrooms and offices, then noted 15 minutes later that he had left campus.

Fort Leonard Wood spokesman Mike Warren said a man tried to enter the installation through its west gate earlier in the morning. The security guard determined the identification card the man produced didn't look legitimate and told him to leave. Instead the driver accelerated rapidly and drove through the gate, then led military police on a chase that ended when he drove back out through the front gate and the St. Robert Police Department began the pursuit.

St. Robert Police Chief Curtis Curenton said the officers had been on Interstate 44 for only a couple miles when the driver began firing shots from what Curenton said appeared to be an AK-47 assault rifle. Curenton said he followed the gunman about 32 miles to Rolla when bullets struck his driver's side mirror and engine compartment.

"We could see him firing through the driver's-side window and through the sunroof," Curenton said.

Carenton said the officers didn't return fire during the chase, which reached speeds of 120 mph.

"The interstate was too congested," Carenton said. He added that he didn't believe any non-law enforcement vehicles on the interstate were struck. One round struck a Pizza Hut in Rolla, puncturing outer and inner walls, but no one was wounded.

Officers put "stop sticks" on the road and punctured a tire before the driver reached Rolla. He eventually had to ditch the vehicle. Police said the man was white with blonde hair and appeared to be bleeding from the hand.

The suspect fled on foot after crashing that car, then stole another vehicle and headed toward the interstate, according to the sheriff's department website.

Police set up road blocks on roads going in and out of the city. Officers were seen removing weapons from the crashed car.

Just before 9 a.m. the Missouri University of Science and Technology received a report of a gunman entering McNutt Hall, which houses the school's Department of Mining and Nuclear Engineering. A university spokeswoman said the gunman was seen leaving the campus.

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