At approximately 8:30 a.m. on October 28, 2002, Robert Stewart Flores, Jr., entered the College of Nursing at the University of Arizona armed with a Norinco .45-caliber semi-automatic pistol, a Glock .40-caliber semi-automatic pistol, a Smith and Wesson .357-caliber revolver, a Colt .357 semi-automatic revolver, a Czech 9-mm semi-automatic pistol, and approximately 250 rounds of ammunition. Flores then shot to death three nursing professors before taking his own life. Flores had a valid “concealed carry” permit. The requirements for obtaining such a permit in Arizona included the successful completion of a 16-hour safety training course and a successful background check conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Flores was born in1961inLosAngeles,California. He had two older sisters and a younger brother. His parents were divorced, and Flores labeled them as “marginal at best.” Flores described his father as distant and lacking in any parenting skills, and his mother as an enabler who lacked self-confidence. Flores enlisted in the Army at age 19 and did a tour in the Gulf War. He separated from the service in 1992. At the time of the shootings, Flores was divorced and had two children ages 15 and 10.
Flores attended nursing school in San Angelo, Texas. He graduated with a degree in practical nursing and worked as a licensed practical nurse (LPN). Eventually, he enrolled in the College of Nursing at the University of Arizona. Flores indicated that he believed his relationship with the College of Nursing faculty was contentious from the very beginning. He felt slighted when the College of Nursing would not give him transfer credit for nursing classes he had completed in his practical nursing program. Flores also suggested that the faculty viewed registered nurses who held associate degrees as not being “professional” and that they viewed LPNs as not being “real nurses.”
Flores had several confrontations with faculty during his two years at the University of Arizona. He was given a written reprimand by a clinical supervisor for improperly administering medications without direct supervision. In addition, he was given written reprimands for several minor rules violations during his clinical rotation. Flores viewed these confrontations as the reason he failed some classes and the reason he a failed clinical rotation.
The descriptions of Flores’s relationships with fellow students and coworkers differ. Faculty members, including the victims, expressed concern with his potential to act out. Flores was described by students as being aggressive, mean, and having anger issues. In contrast, coworkers at the Veterans Administration hospital where Flores worked as an LPN described him as being very nice, intelligent, and soft spoken.
At 8:37 a.m. on the morning of Flores’s attack, the first 911 call was received. Officers from the University of Arizona Police Department (UAPD) responded. At 8:40 a.m., 10 officers from the Tucson Police Department (TPD) also responded. Officers for the UAPD and the TPD were over-represented on the campus at the time of this shooting because both departments had responded to an unrelated student disturbance at the McHale Center ticket office. Officers from both departments had been trained in this type of emergency deployment, but officers had not been cross-trained. While officers were deploying, hundreds of students, faculty, and staff were exiting the building where Flores was shooting. Officers had to scan the crowd for a suspect as they entered the building and progressed to the fourth floor, where the initial shootings were reported to have occurred.
At 8:43 a.m., the police chiefs from both UAPD and TPD responded and set up a command center. Thirty-three additional TPD officers reported to the scene as well. Officers conducted a building search. At 8:52 a.m., two victims and the suspect were located in a classroom on the fourth floor. At 10:23 a.m., the third victim was located in her office on the second floor.
Flores had sent a “communication from the dead” to the Arizona Star prior to the events of October 28, 2002. This document explained the events in his life that precipitated the shootings. In his missive, Flores described himself as depressed. He indicated that he was falling behind in his bills, his child support, and his student loan responsibilities, and he was failing in his studies. Flores blamed the failures in his recent adult life on the faculty and staff of the College of Nursing at the University of Arizona. He summarized the events of October 28 as a “reckoning”–a settling of accounts.
- Buchik, N. (2002, October 30). 2 slain profs feared Flores. Arizona Daily Wildcat Online. Retrieved from http://www.wc.arizona.edu/papers/96/47/01_1.html
- Zdziarski, E., Zdziarski, E. II, Dunke, N., & Rollo, M. (2007). Campus crisis management: A comprehensive guide to planning, prevention, response, and recovery. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley.