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University in lockdown after professor shot and killed

Armed personnel entering a hall at the university (Credit: Bolivar Commercial)
Armed personnel entering a hall at the university (Credit: Bolivar Commercial)

A professor has been shot dead in his office at a US university and the campus is on lockdown after reports of a gunman on the loose.

The academic died at Delta State University in Mississippi. Officials said he was aged in his mid-50s.

University spokeswoman Jennifer Farish said she was not yet able to identify the man, saying it was still an "active situation." It is unclear whether anyone else was wounded.

The lockdown began about 10:45 am local time, with the university advising students, faculty and staff to take shelter and stay away from windows.

The university's Twitter account said the shooter was spotted near Jobe Hall.

State and local law enforcement agencies have responded.

The 3,500-student university is in Cleveland, in Mississippi's Delta region near the Arkansas-Mississippi state line.

Mississippi Department of Public Safety spokesman Warren Strain said a man who is believed to be the shooter was still at large. He said a description was not immediately available.

"Fortunately for us, our public safety officers and university officials have trained many of us for active shooter situations," Don Allan Mitchell, an English professor, wrote in a Facebook message to The Associated Press. "Many students are locked-down in classrooms, and professors and staff members are telling them the protocol. Plus, we are all texting and Facebooking each other to make sure we are safe."

He said police helicopters were in the air, and officers were sweeping buildings.

However, another English professor, Bill Hays, said the university did a poor job of communicating with faculty, staff and students about the emergency situation.

"It's really frustrating because there is no campus-wide updating from a central command center. Everything we're getting is just rumours," Mr Hays said in a phone call from his office in Keithley Hall, across the street from the shooting site.