NEW YORK (AP) – A St. John’s University student in a hooded sweat shirt and Halloween mask arrived on campus Wednesday with a single-shot rifle sticking out of a bag and was tackled by campus security officers and another student as he walked toward a library, police said.

No injuries were reported. It was unclear “why on this particular day he brought a gun on campus,” police spokesman Paul Browne said.

Police identified the student as Omesh Hiraman, 22, a freshman at St. John’s, a Catholic university of about 20,000 students. Charges were pending.

Other students, one of them a police cadet, reported seeing the armed man at around 2:20 p.m. walking near a building at the Queens campus around the time he was supposed to be in a business class there, police said. The man was carrying a plastic bag with the barrel of a .50-caliber rifle sticking out and was wearing the rubber mask, its mouth cut out. Five minutes later, public safety officials called 911.

The cadet, Christopher Benson, later told reporters that he was sitting on a bench and speaking to his girlfriend on a cell phone when the man passed him “walking really fast.”

Benson, 21, began following Hiraman, and when unarmed campus security officers approached minutes later and tried to grab the gun, “I just jumped right in,” he said. He and the officers subdued the man after a brief struggle.

, he said.

The man was in custody about 2:30 p.m., and police arrested him. His rifle was loaded with one bullet, police said.

In a statement, police Commissioner Raymond Kelly praised Benson, saying, “We are all indebted to a very observant and courageous cadet.”

Hiraman’s father, Pat Hiraman, said the incident was “a misunderstanding” and his son, who lives at home near the school, “would never harm anyone.”

“Our son has always been a good boy and has never been in any sort of trouble,” the father said.

He said his son hadn’t been the same since having back surgery and was under heavy medication.

Public safety officials conducted an extensive search of all school buildings and facilities, according to a school statement. Students, notified about the gunman via school text messages, initially were told to stay inside their classrooms and buildings; they were allowed to go home around 5:30 p.m. Classes were canceled for the evening but were to resume Thursday.

By Wednesday evening, the area outside the campus gates, once filled with hundreds of students and their families, was quiet.

University President Donald J. Harrington said he was “very relieved and very grateful” that no one was hurt. He said the campus community had endured several “stressful hours.”

“Every member of our community is safe,” he said.

The university implemented a new emergency communication system this year in the wake of the Virginia Tech shootings. Students and faculty members are notified of events via text messages, phone calls and e-mails, but they must sign up to receive the information.

Campus safety spokesman Thomas Lawrence didn’t know how many have signed up for the system, but he said he hoped this incident would encourage more to get on board.

Students praised the system for keeping them informed quickly and the fast response of law enforcement.

Kevin Su, an editor of the student newspaper, said students received text and telephone messages beginning around 2:40 p.m. warning them there was an armed person on campus.

Su said students were ushered into buildings that were staffed with security guards and told to stay put. He said there wasn’t much discussion of whether there were similarities between the incident Wednesday and the April 16 rampage on the campus of Virginia Tech, where a student gunman killed 32 people and then himself.

“I think it’s basically on everyone’s mind,” Su said. “It doesn’t need to be said outright.”

Sophomore Irene Kontonicolaou, 19, said she was in a business law class she shared with Hiraman when she got the alert via text message. She spent about three hours in the classroom before she was released.

“They were on it,” she said of the law enforcement response. “They did a really good job.”

Student Lina Rios was in the school’s gym with about 100 other people. She said she was impressed with how fast officials notified students of the issue, and she said they were updating students about every 15 minutes inside the gym.

“We were all amazed how fast the cops were there and how fast everyone knew what was going on,” she said.

St. John’s has three residential campuses in the city. The Queens site is the school’s main campus.



Associated Press writers Colleen Long and Tom Hays contributed to this report.


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