A professor who allegedly killed his live-in girlfriend before shooting and killing a fellow professor on the campus of Delta State University has taken his own life, reports say.
According to the Clarion Ledger of Jackson, Miss., which cited unnamed law enforcement sources, police attempted to stop Shannon Lamb, last seen driving a black 2011 Dodge Avenger with Mississippi license plates, late Monday. A license-plate reader picked up the cars plate when Lamb crossed a bridge over the Mississippi. Officers gave chase, but did not attempt to pull Lamb over.
Lamb, however, stopped of his own accord. Cleveland, Miss., Police Chief Charles Bingham said that officers following Lamb watched him pull his car over near Greenville, leave the vehicle and run into a wooded area. Then he said they heard a single gun shot and found Lamb’s body. He was transported to a hospital, where he died.
“The crisis is over,” said Delta State President Bill LaForge. “This campus is safe again, and our lockdown has been dismissed.”
The Associated Press reported Monday night that police said they had spoken to Lamb, who told them that “he’s not going to jail.”
“It’s unfortunate that this had to happen,” Bingham said at a press conference around midnight. “We didn’t want it to happen this way … but unfortunately he was the one that made that decision.”
The ordeal began on the Gulf Coast in Gautier, Miss., where the Gautier Police Department received a call shortly after 10 a.m. reporting a shooting at a residence. When police arrived at the scene, they found Amy Prentiss, 41, dead inside. Police said Prentiss was Lamb’s romantic partner and lived with him in the home.
Police said they believe Lamb, a 45-year-old Delta State professor of geography and social sciences, drove to the Delta State campus — five hours north in Cleveland, Miss. There, Monday morning at around 10:45 a.m., assistant history professor Ethan Schmidt, 39, was shot and killed in his office in Jobe Hall.
Buildings at the small college — 120 miles north of Jackson with an enrollment of 4,000 undergraduate and graduate students — immediately went on lockdown as police flooded the campus. Students and staff remained on lockdown into the night as police searched for Lamb.
Authorities worked to clear buildings one-by-one to ensure student and staff safety. Those permitted to leave the buildings were escorted to Sillers Coliseum, according to Jennifer Farish, a Delta State spokesman.
Lamb was the chief suspect in Schmidt’s slaying. The motive for the killings and whether there is any connection between them is unclear, but Lamb and Schmidt were both on the small liberal arts faculty at Delta State.
“We don’t have any information that it was a love triangle,” Chief Bingham said when asked about one possible motive.
Lamb joined Delta State in 2009 as an instructor in the geography and social science program, according to his biography on Delta State’s Web site. He received his undergraduate degree from Delta State in 2003 and a master’s degree in geography from Delta State in 2007.
In the spring, Lamb earned his doctorate from Delta State, writing his dissertation on how Mississippi students view high-stakes tests. He was teaching two online courses this semester. President LaForge said he had recently requested a medical leave of absence, but the reason for the request was not disclosed.
Schmidt, who students said was a beloved and accessible professor, received his doctorate from the University of Kansas and specialized in Native American history and taught courses on topics as varied as the Old South and baseball.
Delta State senior Antoinette Riddle, 21, credited Schmidt with helping her learn to appreciate history, a subject she had previously struggled with.
“He pulled me to the side and helped me understand it more,” said Riddle, of Tupelo, Miss. “Every person that took his class would say the same thing. He made history actually enjoyable.”
Riddle said that Schmidt also counseled her when she was struggling with academics.
“I would have given up if it weren’t for him,” she said. “I was scared about school and down on myself, and he lifted me up.”
Schmidt previously taught history for six years at Texas Tech University in Lubbock before joining the faculty at Delta State. His first book, “The Divided Dominion: Social Conflict and Indian Hatred in Early Virginia,” was published last year by the University of Colorado Press.
The book covers the relationships between Native American tribes and settlers in colonial America. It also discusses the role Native Americans played in the Revolutionary War and highlights perspectives from tribes including the Cherokee, Iroquois and Seminole.
Schmidt told the American Historical Association that he became interested in history as a child watching his father collect Civil War memorabilia. He said he became a historian to study “the very core of what it is that makes us human.”
“Our triumphs, our tragedies, our flaws, and our strengths are all laid bare by the scholarly study of history, and without this kind of inquiry there is little hope for mankind,” Schmidt told the AHA.
University Relations Vice President Michelle Roberts described it as a “tragic situation” and said the campus sends its “heartfelt thoughts and sympathy” to Schmidt’s family.
“We are grieving on this campus with this loss, and our condolences are with the family at this time,” Roberts said.
The lockdown at Delta State was lifted at around midnight. Classes were canceled for Tuesday, and a planned celebration to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the campus Tuesday also has been postponed.