The University of South Carolina’s president has now identified a professor as one of those killed in a suspected murder-suicide at the school Thursday.
45-year-old Dr. Raja Fayad was an exercise science professor at USC’s Arnold School of Public Health, according to the school’s website. Fayad’s official online bio states was also graduate director and Head of the Applied Physiology Division.
USC President Harris Pastides identified Fayad in a tweet Friday morning. “The sun is out this morning. Let’s honor Professor Fayad with respect. Show someone that we care. Hold a Gamecock’s hand today,” the school president stated.
Just after 11:00 a.m. Friday, the Richland County Coroner’s Office had confirmed Fayad died from multiple gunshot wounds to the upper body. Coroner Gary Watts said the professor was found dead in his 4th-floor office at the Arnold Public Health Research Center. Investigators believe he was shot around 12:50 p.m. Thursday.
The Coroner still has not identified the second individual (and suspected shooter), saying the name would be released after the next of kin is notified. However, Watts noted the indications are the shooter knew Fayad with the two “having a history together.”
Fayad’s identity had been revealed through social media within hours of Thursday’s shooting, but South Carolina Radio Network and most other media outlets decided not to report his name until it was confirmed and officials could notify his family.
The State newspaper reports Fayad was of Lebanese descent, although he attended college in Syria. The Coroner’s Office release noted his home was located just outside Irmo, but added Fayad had been staying at a long-term hotel with a family member.
A State Law Enforcement Division spokesman said both bodies were found in a room at the public health school. USC campus police, Columbia Police, and other law enforcement agencies had put the building on lockdown shortly after 911 calls of shots fired were made around 1:00 p.m. Officials believe Fayad was targeted.
Spokesman Thom Berry gave little additional information on what happened during a brief news briefing Thursday evening. “This is a process that will take some time,” he told reporters. “It is a very slow, very methodical work because we want to make absolutely sure it’s done right.”
Berry said SLED has also been interviewing potential witnesses who were in the building at the time as they try to piece together what happened.
USC President Harris Pastides called Fayad’s shooting “a great tragedy” and thanked campus police for their quick response. “Indeed this is a tragic day in our history,” he said in a statement sent to all students. “Patricia and I, along with the Board of Trustees, offer our condolences to the families and friends of the deceased.”