Police search for man who brought gun to university protests

Police search for man who brought gun to university protests
A judge issued an arrest warrant for Eric Sheppard.
Students marched through campus Monday afternoon in support for the flag.
Students marched through campus Monday afternoon in support for the flag.
Valdosta State University President William McKinney
Valdosta State University President William McKinney

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) - The President of Valdosta State University confirmed that a man brought a gun onto campus in a backpack during student protests.

The demonstrations were part of continuing protests in the wake of one that went viral as students were seen walking on an American Flag.

In a news conference Tuesday evening, University President William McKinney said that officers located a backpack with a handgun inside at the Odum Library around 2 p.m. that day.

Officials said "unmistakable evidence" links that gun to one man, Eric Sheppard.

Officials believe Sheppard is in hiding, and somewhere away from the campus.

They stressed that the campus was safe, while urging students and staff to remain vigilant.

Anyone with information on Sheppard is asked to call campus police or 911.

But President McKinney also called on students, faculty, and staff to join in a day of "reaffirmation" in the wake of that viral protest.

On Friday, an Air Force veteran intervened where demonstrators were walking on the American flag.

Veteran Michelle Manhart was seen on video taking the flag from protestors and refusing to return it.

Manhart was eventually detained by university police and given a warning. She was then banned from the campus.

University President William McKinney issued this release:

Dear Valdosta State Students, Faculty, and Staff:
Dr. William J. McKinney, president of Valdosta State University

Warning: The video has some profanity at the end.

Since Friday, the university had also received various threats on social media from alumni, parents of future students, and community members threatening to withdraw support from the university because of the protest.

Andy Clark, VSU's Vice President of Enrollment, Marketing, and Communication said university officials were reaching out to those individuals.

Clark said the university is prepared for whatever may happen and said the campus's student conduct officer was reviewing video from Friday's protest to determine if any students violated any codes of conduct.

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