TALLAHASSEE, Fla.—Authorities don’t know why Myron May targeted his alma mater Thursday when he opened fire on students at Florida State University’s library, but they do know he thought the government was watching him and out to get him.
Or, as Tallahassee Police Chief Michael DeLeo said, his sense of being was not normal.
“Mr. May had a written journal and videos where he expressed fears of being targeted and that he wanted to bring attention to this issue of targeting,” DeLeo said. “Mr. May was in a state of crisis.”
Police killed May, a 2005 graduate who later earned a law degree from Texas Tech University, early Thursday. Officers had responded to a 12:30 a.m. call about shots being fired at the library, where about 450 students were studying. When police arrived, May had wounded two students and an employee and reloaded a .380 semi-automatic pistol. He refused to put the gun down and they opened fire. More than 30 rounds were fired by May and the officers.
Police said May didn’t get past the lobby, but the sound of gunfire set off screams among students, who scrambled for cover among the bookshelves and barricaded themselves in rooms.
One person was in critical condition at a local hospital. Another, library staffer Nathan Scott, in good condition at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. A third person was treated and released.
Senior Jason Derfuss, 21, of Orlando, told the Tallahassee Democrat he heard gunfire as he left the library and saw a man fire at another person. Derfuss ran to his car and called 911 to report what he’d seen. After he got home, Derfuss dumped the contents of his backpack on the floor. He noticed several books were damaged, and then his roommate found a slug in the bag: a bullet had gone through a book about 14th-century philosopher John Wyclif.
“It was humbling to know that my life was in God’s hands right there and he graciously spared me,” Derfuss told the newspaper.
Friends called May sweet, smart and understated. May, 31, returned to Florida about three weeks ago, looking to get a new start in life.
“His fraternity nickname was ‘Sensitive Joe’ and it was fitting,” said state Rep. Matt Gaetz, who belonged to the same Florida State political club as May. “I was so surprised that someone with this docile nature would have something happen in their lives that would have this outcome.”
There were signs of problems before the shooting. Police in Las Cruces, New Mexico, said May was the subject of a harassment complaint last month after a former girlfriend called to report he came to her home uninvited and claimed police were bugging his house and car. Danielle Nixon told police May recently developed “a severe mental disorder.”
“Myron began to ramble and handed her a piece to a car and asked her to keep it because this was a camera that police had put in his vehicle,” a police report said.
Police were still going through May’s journal, videos and social media posts, but it was clear something was wrong.
“Mr. May’s sense of being and place in our community was not what most people would refer to as a normal,” DeLeo said. “He had a sense of crisis and he was searching for something.”
Abigail Taunton, who runs a foster home in the Florida Panhandle, let May stay in a guest house. She knew him as a teenager who moved to rural Wewahitchka in the Florida Panhandle to live with his grandmother after having problems with his parents in Ohio.
“We’re just all astounded. We had no idea that he would do something like this,” Taunton said. “Obviously, he was not in his right mind.”
May was licensed to practice law in Texas and New Mexico and Taunton said he was preparing to take the Florida bar exam in February.
“He was having some financial issues and moved back home and decided he’d come back to Florida to work,” she said. “My heart’s broken. In a million years I wouldn’t have thought he’d do something like this. He was struggling, having decided that what he was doing out there was not good. He had some issues and just decided he’d come home.”
In New Mexico, Third Judicial District Attorney Mark D’Antonio said May worked for his office as a junior attorney from Jan. 18 until his unexpected resignation Oct. 6. He said he didn’t know why May stepped down, leaving a formal resignation letter on his desk.
“He performed his job with great distinction,” D’Antonio said at a news conference. “He was friendly and kind. Everyone liked him.”
He did not have a criminal record with either Tallahassee police or the Leon County Sheriff’s Office. Florida State police said they were called to his dorm room in 2002 after someone reported smelling marijuana, but officers didn’t find any drugs and he wasn’t arrested.
On Friday, classes were to resume and the library was to reopen.
From The Associated Press. AP writer Juan Carlos Llorca in Las Cruces, New Mexico, contributed to this report.