The notorious rivalry between University of Nevada, Reno and University of Nevada, Las Vegas seemed to be on hold, as members of the northern Nevada community gave their condolences on Thursday to the lives lost during a shooting at the sister school.
The color red, which is normally outlawed at UNR, was seen smattered across the quad as people left mementos in remembrance. The university is also urging students to wear red on Friday for UNLV, a day normally reserved for wearing blue.
The shooting took place on December 6, claiming three lives including Patricia Navarro-Velez, Cha Jan “Jerry” Chang and Naoko Takemaru who were faculty at UNLV. One other person was wounded.
Small candles and flowers sat at the right side of the Mackay Statue to protect from the breeze. Community members diligently relit candles as they blew out from the wind, eventually placing the candles to spell out UNLV.
Brooke Ellis, organizer of the event, passed out candles and lighters to participants. Ellis was born and raised in Las Vegas and has many friends and family members, including her cousin, who attend the university and were on campus at the time of the incident.
“It was really scary having to call everyone as soon as I figured out the news,” said Ellis. “I was panicking.”
Ellis’ friends and family were able to respond quickly to her calls, but that wasn’t the case for everyone.
“A lot of my friends who are from Vegas and have friends who go to UNLV had to wait for people to be evacuated before they could use their phones,” Ellis said. “It was kind of an MIA type of situation and that was terrifying for them.”
The shooter has been identified as Anthony Polito, a 67-year-old professor, who carried out the targeted attack after applying for a job at the university, and not being hired. Polito died on the scene.
Many students raised their concerns about gun violence in schools on social media. Grace Matteo, UNR student and vigil attendee, expressed a need for gun reform everywhere.
“Children, adults, staff, people who are paying to go to school do not deserve this,” she said. “The media coverage that surrounds an event dies out, but it needs to be constant in our brains. It needs to be at the top of our lists.”
Matteo and other students hope that UNR will hold an official remembrance event, but are happy that the student community came together to hold their own.
“These people deserve to be remembered,” she said. “They were everything to someone.”
Brian Sandoval, UNR President, said Thursday that it is important for people to do what they can to show their support for UNLV.
“Our continued support goes out to all of the UNLV community as it deals with this unimaginable and devastating experience,” Sandoval said in a statement. “The Rebels are our friends, neighbors and colleagues.”
The investigation into the shooting is still ongoing and being led by the Las Vegas Metro Police Department.
Nick Stewart can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @nickk_stewart.