Crawley College attack suspect, 18, was ‘having problems’


An ‘angry’ 18-year-old student who allegedly ran around his college with a knife and gun was ‘having problems’ and had been struggling with lockdowns before the incident, neighbours have claimed.

The masked man – who has not been named – reportedly went onto the campus and let loose a volley of shots from a handgun, before hero teacher Steve Hopkins, 51, confronted him. 

A neighbour said the suspect ‘went to the college’, but was ‘having problems’ and had been struggling with Covid shutdown, adding that he lives with his mother, father and a younger sibling. 

In Monday’s horrifying attack, the suspect screamed at students to ‘run for their lives’ as he repeatedly pointed the gun at them and fired.  

But as they fled, Mr Hopkins – a mechanical engineering tutor – raced out of his classroom and faced him down.

As he stood just yards away, the gunman allegedly raised the handgun and fired a series of shots directly at him.

Luckily the weapon was firing blanks and Mr Hopkins, who is also a parent, escaped injury.

The gunman – said to have been studying bricklaying – was later rugby-tackled and pinned to the ground by a second teacher and was later arrested by police.

Students who witnessed the terrifying incident at Crawley, College, West Sussex at 3.10pm on Monday said Mr Hopkins actions were ‘amazing’.

Police take away the suspect from Crawley College after he allegedly ran around with a gun and knifing, injuring two members of staff and terrifying fellow students

Hero: Steve Hopkins, a mechanical engineering tutor, raced out of his classroom and faced down the armed man

Hero: Steve Hopkins, a mechanical engineering tutor, raced out of his classroom and faced down the armed man

Police remove evidence from a house in Crawley where it is believed the attacker in Monday's shooting at Crawley College lived

Police remove evidence from a house in Crawley where it is believed the attacker in Monday’s shooting at Crawley College lived

Elisa Stellabotte, 17, who is studying for a motor mechanics diploma with Mr Hopkins, said: ‘It was so shocking. Everyone dived out of the classroom after we heard several shots.

‘He pointed the pistol at my tutor, Steve Hopkins, and fired but they were just blanks thank God. He was so shocked.

‘Steve was telling everyone to get back in the classroom. People were really terrified. My friend was having a panic attack.’ 

Last night reluctant hero Mr Hopkins, who lives in a quiet cul-de-sac in Pulborough, West Sussex was refusing to speak about the incident.

But Vicki Illingworth, Principal at the college praised brave staff. She said: ‘I cannot praise the courage, resilience and support shown by our staff enough. They have been incredible and the care and compassion they shared with our students and with each other continues to fill me with admiration.

‘We can confirm two members of our staff did sustain some minor injuries, which were not gunshot wounds.

‘Their heroic actions – and the rapid response of emergency services – helped to protect our college community. They are both at home, resting.’ 

Traumatised students and staff at the college will receive counselling after the attack, it was revealed yesterday.  

Armed police, snipers and dog units swamped Crawley College in West Sussex on Monday afternoon. 

They confirmed an 18-year-old had been held on suspicion of firearms offences.

Children fled the campus or hid in toilets and classrooms after the hooded gunman entered the building ‘waving a black pistol around’ and yelling ‘run for your lives’ before shooting at children who had no idea the bullets were blanks. 

Two teachers are understood to have suffered knife wounds to their hands and wrists as they confronted the attacker, while police were searching the suspect’s home yesterday.

One 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. It was the scariest thing ever. Everyone thought it was a terrorist attack. I thought: ‘Oh my God. There’s going to be a massacre’ and we all went back into the building for safety.’

Student Brad Stanger, 18, said: ‘I’ve been told one member of staff had their hand sliced open and another cut their wrist. Some students were in the toilets’.

Police were searching the Crawley home of the teenage suspect, and were seen taking away evidence in bags

Police searching the suspect's house

Police were searching the Crawley home of the teenage suspect, and were seen taking away evidence in bags 

Students claimed a hero teacher jumped in to subdue the man, as shocking Snapchat footage (pictured) captured the suspect being tackled to the ground at the 

The suspect detained after armed police swooped on Crawley College in West Sussex, where police snipers were brought in

The suspect detained after armed police swooped on Crawley College in West Sussex, where police snipers were brought in

Two people were injured. Witnesses said the gunman, who was also armed with a knife, stabbed one college lecturer in the hand and fired blanks directly at another lecturer.

Two people were injured. Witnesses said the gunman, who was also armed with a knife, stabbed one college lecturer in the hand and fired blanks directly at another lecturer.

Students flee with many fearing initially they were in the middle of a terror attack. Police have ruled this out

Students flee with many fearing initially they were in the middle of a terror attack. Police have ruled this out

Armed police responded to 'reports of gunshot fire' as staff and students were evacuated from the building in West Sussex

Armed police responded to ‘reports of gunshot fire’ as staff and students were evacuated from the building in West Sussex

Chief Inspector Shane Baker, of the Crawley Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: ‘I’d personally like to thank everyone who helped to quickly bring this incident to a safe conclusion, especially the two members of college staff whose heroics have not gone unnoticed.

‘They put themselves in harm’s way in order to protect their students, fellow employees and the wider public, and I am hugely grateful for their quick-thinking actions.

‘During this, they sustained minor injuries – not gunshot wounds – and presented themselves to a walk-in medical centre. Thankfully, no other injuries were reported, and no damage was caused by the blank shots fired.

‘We are treating this as an isolated incident which was not terror-related, and while we are not seeking anyone else in connection with it, we will continue to provide a high visibility police presence in the area for community reassurance.

‘We are also working with the college and the local authority to manage the welfare and wellbeing of those involved – including students – who will have been understandably shocked by this experience.

‘Our enquiries are ongoing into this criminal investigation, and anyone with any information is urged to report it online or call 101, quoting Operation Reset.’

Crawley College is closed and is offering support to students caught up in the incident. 

A spokesman said on Tuesday morning: ‘At just after 3pm yesterday, the police received reports of shots being fired on College Road, Crawley.

‘Police and armed police were swiftly on the scene and a man was detained with the help of staff from the College. A firearm and knife were seized at the scene.

‘Two members of our staff at Crawley College sustained minor injuries during the incident but these were not gunshot wounds. Both members of staff have received treatment and will make a full recovery.

‘In the aftermath of the incident, students and staff were evacuated to a safe space whilst the police carried out a thorough search of the campus and buildings’. 

The spokesman added: ‘We appreciate what a traumatic experience it must have been for all who were involved at Crawley in both the incident itself and the subsequent lockdown.

‘We would like to thank to everyone for their support and resilience during the course of yesterday afternoon and evening – including the Police and emergency services. We will be offering counselling services to our students and staff.’  

Police yesterday continued to search a house in the Crawley neighbourhood of Furnace Green as part of their investigation into the college shooting.

Officers were seen carrying evidence, including a laptop and items of clothing, out of the two-bedroomed 1960s white-bricked end of terrace former council house with forensic bags.

A neighbour said of the occupants of the house – which is on a footpath – being searched just metres away: ‘They seem like lovely people. You just don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors.’

Carer Andrew White, 55, who lives nearby, was ordered back indoors by armed police at around 4pm on Monday.

He said: ‘I went outside and as soon as I did the copper shouted ‘go away’.

‘Then I heard about six really loud bangs.

‘I said to my wife Michelle ‘I think that was gunshots love’ but I now think it might have been a flashbang or something.

‘The armed police were all wearing big helmets holding machine guns but they were so quiet. And then it all kicked off.

‘Regarding the suspect, I have no idea who he is as I’ve only been here since November myself but I’m sure I would recognise him as it’s a small area.

‘I don’t know who he lives there with but apparently the shock of the raid caused one woman to collapse. I saw the ambulance taking her away.’

One police van and police car remained at the scene on Tuesday.

Retired care assistant Sue Poole, 65, said: ‘There was an awful lot of activity last night. They’ve been here overnight.’

Her husband David Poole, 69, a former warehouse worker, said: ‘This is a nice place but we do seem to have a hell of a drug problem here. Youths are always congregating at the seating area and tearing up the paving stones which is near the house being searched.’

Officers were inside the terraced property, with officers seen searching the rooms inside throughout the day

Officers were inside the terraced property, with officers seen searching the rooms inside throughout the day

Crawley College in West Sussex was evacuated on Monday afternoon with terrified students claiming a hooded and masked gunman entered the building while ‘waving a black pistol around’ before attacking lecturers. 

Witnesses said the gunman, who was also armed with a knife, stabbed one college lecturer in the hand and fired blanks directly at another lecturer.  

Officers received multiple calls shortly after 3.10pm to reports of gun shots being fired at the college. Armed police quickly rushed to the scene and an 18-year-old man from Crawley was arrested.  The suspect remains in custody.

A gun and a knife were seized and two college staff members were treated for minor injuries. Around 30 armed response officers from forces across the southeast were involved in the operation, while a police helicopter hovered overhead.

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.’

In an update last night, Sussex Police confirmed the event is not being treated as a terrorist incident.  

Students said the masked gunman entered Crawley College at around 3.10pm and began waving around large black pistol in the car park.

The onsite car park was still full with the vehicles of staff members who were anxious to retrieve them after being rushed off the premises.

One asked on Twitter: ‘Will the car park be open to recover cars locked in yesterday?’

Roads reopened at around 10pm on Monday night.

A car park warden said: ‘The town is dead after the incident. I think everyone has been scared off by what happened and the community is shaken.

‘I’ve never seen anything like it. I can’t remember ever seeing that many police cars in one place.

‘It seemed like a huge response to what could have been a far more serious incident. We should count ourselves lucky.’ 

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.

One tutor, who would not be named, said: ‘It was a shocking incident. I think everyone is extremely shaken by it.’ 

Another staff member, who did not want to be named, said: ‘The officers were just checking our details and asking whether we saw anything.

‘I was just sat at my desk when I was told we should leave the building. I didn’t see or hear anything.

‘But some students are clearly visibly upset by whatever happened. It appears to be very serious. I just hope everybody is okay.’

Some students could be seen crying as they were picked up by their frantically worried parents.

One mother, who wanted to remain anonymous, said of her teenage son: ‘He saw the whole thing. But he’s too upset and terrified to talk about it.’ 

Armed police at Crawley College, following 'reports of gunshot fire' in the buildings

Armed police at Crawley College, following ‘reports of gunshot fire’ in the buildings

Two people are injured after 'shots are fired' outside college in Crawley

Two people are injured after ‘shots are fired’ outside college in Crawley

One man has been detained following reports of shots being fired near Crawley College

One man has been detained following reports of shots being fired near Crawley College

Two people have been injured and a man has been arrested following a suspected shooting outside a college in Crawley

Two people have been injured and a man has been arrested following a suspected shooting outside a college in Crawley

The National Police Air Service (NPAS) said a police helicopter from Redhill was called to the scene to support local officers during the incident. 

In a statement yesterday afternoon, Sussex Police said: ‘One man has been detained following reports of shots being fired near Crawley College. 

‘Please stay away from the area at this time. There is a large police presence at scene and in the local area.’

In a further statement, the force said: ‘Police have responded to reports of gun shot fire near Crawley College. Police received multiple calls shortly after 3.10pm. 

‘One man has been detained at the scene by police. Staff and students are being evacuated away from the college. Two people have suffered injuries, but these are not believed to be serious.’ 

Chief Superintendent Howard Hodges added: ‘We continue to have a policing presence in Crawley and are speaking to witnesses. We are still 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. I want to thank those who helped apprehend the suspect before officers arrived and all the students, staff and public for their co-operation.’ 

A large police presence is in place near Crawley College and the public is being urged to stay away, a force spokesperson said

A large police presence is in place near Crawley College and the public is being urged to stay away, a force spokesperson said

Armed police from elite Met Police units were also on the scene yesterday

Armed police from elite Met Police units were also on the scene yesterday

Eyewitness Owen Smith-Carretero, 21, claimed there were police ‘everywhere’ after two people were hurt in the incident. 

He told the Crawley Observer: ‘There was a helicopter flying above. Ambulance there, three or for incident response units.

‘They were swarming. They were walking up and down the road about 30-35 police officers, dozens of police cars and emergency vehicles.’ 

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