A University of North Texas student was fatally shot by a university police officer early Sunday after the Fort Worth man “advanced on” an officer with an ax, according to a statement from UNT.
Ryan McMillan was pronounced dead at the Denton Regional Medical Center at 1:33 a.m., not long after he turned 21, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner.
The Denton Police Department received a 911 call around 12:30 a.m. reporting criminal mischief in progress, which means someone was “actively destroying property,” said Officer Ryan Grelle, a Denton police spokesman.
Grelle said Denton police officers were too far from the scene and extremely busy, so they asked UNT police to assist with the call.
A UNT police officer was told the student was knocking out car windows near the intersection of West Oak and Fry streets, UNT President Neal Smatresk wrote in a statement.
Upon arrival “around 1 a.m.,” the officer found the student holding an ax, according to university officials.
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UNT’s student newspaper, North Texas Daily, said it was given raw video of the suspect that shows him walking through a parking garage carrying something in his right hand.
“The suspect advanced on the officer and the officer fired at the suspect, who sadly was one of our students,” Smatresk wrote.
Denton police were on the way to the scene when the shooting happened, Grelle said.
University officials could not recall the last time a UNT police officer discharged a weapon.
McMillan died of multiple gunshot wounds to the chest and abdomen, the medical examiner ruled.
The unidentified officer will be placed on desk duty, pending the outcome of the investigation.
The Texas Rangers are investigating the shooting and the Denton Police Department is investigating the original call of criminal mischief, Grelle said.
“Although this is a time when many of our students, faculty and staff are home for the holidays, I ask that you please help to support each other during this sad time,” he wrote.
McMillan was studying hospitality management and had just finished his first semester as a sophomore transfer student, according to university spokeswoman Margarita Venegas.
He had transferred from Weatherford College, where he lived in a dorm next to Alex Hall and her roommate starting in 2013.
The three had classes together and worked out together, Hall said.
She said that though he was shy, McMillan warmed up to people quickly.
“He has never shown us anything to believe he was violent,” Hall said Sunday night. “It was his birthday, so we are guessing maybe he drank too much, but he would never … we still are questioning why he would have an ax.”