Three people were shot after a fight at a Texas college erupted in gunfire Tuesday, sparking too-familiar images of frightened students escorted by swarms of police, AFP reports.
The shooting came as the United States is embroiled in a debate on gun violence in the wake of the horrific massacre of 20 first graders and six staff members at a Newtown, Connecticut elementary school.
The fight broke out just after noon at a building which houses a cafeteria and a library at Lone Star College near Houston, police said.
A maintenance man was hit by a stray bullet. A woman who witnessed the event was also taken to hospital with a heart attack.
Police said one of the men involved in the fight got shot and witnesses said he was carried out of the building handcuffed to a stretcher. The other ran away, prompting a lockdown, an evacuation and a massive search.
He was eventually found after showing up at a hospital for treatment of a gunshot wound, KHOU news reported.
Acting Harris County Sheriff Armando Tello declined to provide many details at a 4 pm (2200 GMT) press conference but said the campus "was cleared as safe."
Lone Star College director Jed Young had earlier said that two students were shot in the crossfire.
The family of Jody Neal, 24, said he was badly hurt after being shot three times in the arm, stomach and leg.
"He was sitting in the study room," sister Stacy Neal told HCSO news.
"There (were) three people on the computer and a guy walked up the stairs and opened fire on him. They said it was just one guy that came in with a gun."
Tello declined to comment on reports that the incident was gang-related.
The college posted a warning to students on its Facebook page to "SHELTER IN PLACE if you are on campus. IF YOU ARE NOT ON CAMPUS DON'T GO TO CAMPUS."
Efren Huerta replied to the post with the comment: "i was walking to my next class. and i heard about 4-6 shots. it happened in the library i think! i just took off running like never before."
Dozens more offered prayers to the victims and expressed dismay with comments like "this is crazy!" and "this is sick!"
The incident added fuel to the debate over gun control and gun violence.
While many people are calling for better background checks and the renewal of an expired ban on assault weapons, the National Rifle Association has led a charge among gun advocates to instead respond with armed guards at every school.
Teachers in Texas are already allowed to carry guns in some schools and the state's lieutenant governor called for government funding to train more of them to do so in the wake of the Newport shooting.
Lone Star is officially a "gun-free campus," but chancellor Richard Chambers said at a press conference that the officials cannot search its 19,000 students or thousands of staff and visitors.
He also noted that campus police responded to the shooting "instantly" and the sheriff's department arrived two minutes after receiving the first call.