Students ran through hallways in terror and teachers barricaded classroom doors as gunshots were heard at a college yesterday.
Terror ripped through Crawley College when a gunman, who was also armed with a knife, stabbed one college lecturer in the hand and fired blanks from a black pistol directly at another lecturer, student witnesses claimed.
As the suspect waved the gun around “indiscriminately” pointing it at people caught in the chaos, teenagers ran into classrooms for shelter and to spread the word.
One student praised their “brave teacher” for barricading the classroom door while another said she witnessed blank rounds being blasted at a member of staff from close range.
Elise Stellebotte said she left her classroom after hearing several shots ring out, only to be confronted by the suspected gunman.
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“I saw the gunman,” the 17-year-old said.
“He was wearing a black puma hoodie and a mask. I was only a few yards away and I could see he had this pistol in his hand and was waving it around.
“I don’t think he was very old but he was difficult to see behind the mask and hoodie.
“He pointed the pistol at my tutor, Steve Hopkins, and fired but they were just blanks thank God. He was so shocked.
“He continued ranting and shouting telling people to ‘Run, run’. He was trying to scare people, deliberately. Everyone was pretty scared.”
Another student, Eddie, 18, who witnessed the incident, said: ‘It was absolutely terrifying. I heard shots ringing out and they were unmistakably gunshots.
“I saw the guy. He was wearing a black hoodie and a jumper and he had a mask on.
“He was screaming at people telling them: ‘Run for your lives, run, run!’ and jumping around all over the place then he fired some shots.
“No-one knew they weren’t live bullets but they turned out to be blanks.”
James, a Crawley College student who did not wish to share his second name, praised his teacher for keeping his class calm following the gunshots and securing the classroom they were in.
“I was doing my work at the time then suddenly heard some gunshots from the very bottom of the tower,” the 19-year-old, who was on the sixth floor of the building, said.
James said police arrived just a few minutes later and although the experience was scary he “felt calm and safe” thanks to his teacher and the fast response from police – who later helped to evacuate his class.
“It’s a really new experience and felt really scary due to there being a gun around where I’m doing my college work,” he said.
“The teacher, he barricaded the room’s door just in case and I have a lot of trust in him, since we were far up the tower I felt safer too.
“(I’m) just thankful that we had brave teachers and police around.”
Another teacher was praised by students after they claimed he wrestled a man to the ground.
In dramatic footage two figures can be seen wrestling on the ground before several other people rush in to help, while the person holding the camera says “my man had a knife and a gun”.
A parent of one of the college’s pupil’s told The Sun : “Pupils were running into other classrooms while they were in lessons in terror saying to others, ‘have you seen what happened?’.
“A teacher rugby-tackled the gunman. It’s absolutely horrifying.”
Students and staff were evacuated and have been told to stay at home today.
A spokesperson for the college said: “Two members of our staff at Crawley College sustained minor injuries during the incident but these were not gun shot wounds.
“Both members of staff have received treatment and will make a full recovery.”
At 6pm police snipers were seen on the roof of the college and armed response units were patrolling the grounds and carrying out room to room searches of the premises.
An 18-year-old man has been detained following the incident and a firearm and a knife were seized.
Two college staff members sustained minor injuries, which police stressed were not gunshot wounds.
Local officers were liaising with counter-terror specialists, but police later announced that it is not being treated as a terrorist incident.
Later, bomb disposal units were seen arriving at the college while a sniper was spotted on the roof of a nearby building.
Officers have searched a home in Crawley in connection with the incident.
Chief Superintendent Howard Hodges said: “We continue to have a large policing presence in Crawley and are appealing for anyone with information to come forward.
“Two staff members at the college suffered minor injuries and presented themselves to a walk-in medical centre.
“No-one else has presented themselves to us with injuries but if you need medical assistance please contact the ambulance service or speak to an officer.
“We are liaising with officers at Counter Terrorism Policing South East (CTPSE). All lines of inquiry are open at this stage.”
Officers received multiple calls shortly after 3.10pm of reports of gunshot fire at the college.
Armed police were dispatched to the scene and an 18-year-old man from Crawley was detained in College Road at 3.20pm, police said.
He remains in custody.
The college tweeted that it was awaiting further information from police but was not aware of any serious injuries.
“Our priority remains the safety of students & staff,” it said.
Anyone with information can contact police by calling 101 or online quoting Operation Reset.