GROTON, Conn. (AP) — An armed firefighter engaged police in an hours-long standoff at a University of Connecticut campus where he had been a student while dozens of high school students were there visiting, prompting authorities to lock down the campus and guard the students before he killed himself early Tuesday.
Timothy Devine, 30, shot himself near the docks on the shoreline Avery Point campus in Groton just before dawn. Poquonnock Bridge Fire Department Chief Todd Paige said the department was deeply saddened by the sudden loss.
The incident began at about 5 p.m. Monday, when Groton police began looking for a local man who was armed and despondent, state police Lt. J. Paul Vance said. Devine's car was found at about 10 p.m. at Avery Point, prompting police to close the campus.
The school sent out an electronic alert message, asking that the campus be evacuated.
Between 40 and 50 high school students were on the campus for an oceanography camp, and they were kept overnight inside a campus building under police guard, Vance said.
None of the students was ever in danger, university spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said. Devine was a 2010 graduate of UConn at Avery Point, she said.
Devine was found on the shoreline, on the opposite side of the campus, armed with a handgun.
Police spent hours talking to him before he threw away his cellphone and refused to communicate further, Vance said.
When he began waving his gun, police tried other non-lethal tactics, including firing beanbags at him and setting off a flash grenade to stun him, Vance said.
"It was a very dangerous situation for everyone involved," Vance said. "Our intent, at all times, was to peacefully disarm the individual and get him the help he needed."
Devine turned the gun on himself before dawn, Vance said.
The medical examiner's office will perform an autopsy.
Paige, the fire department chief, was unavailable for comment Tuesday afternoon. He told New London's The Day newspaper that Devine was a dedicated firefighter with an exemplary record and that there was nothing to indicate he was upset or despondent.
Friends said Devine ran a charity weightlifting event on Sunday, the newspaper reported.
UConn reopened later Tuesday morning, though the area where the shooting took place remained cordoned off while police continued their investigation.
Avery Point is a regional campus of the university with about 800 students. It houses the school's marine science programs.