Authorities: Las Vegas shooting suspect died 3:56

(CNN) -- Investigators looking for a motive for the attack by Anthony Polito, the gunman who killed three faculty members at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on Wednesday, have uncovered a "target list" that included professors at the university and elsewhere, according to Las Vegas Sheriff Kevin McMahill.

Polito, who was shot and killed by police, wounded a fourth person during the shooting inside a UNLV Business School building, authorities said. The victim, a visiting professor, is being treated for life-threatening injuries, McMahill said Thursday.

Polito, 67, had written a "target list" that included "people I was looking for on campus, as well as professors at East Carolina University," McMahill said Thursday, though he noted that none of the faculty members shot were on the list.

McMahill did not explain what led investigators to believe it was a target list or where the document was found.

It's still unclear why Polito, who lived in Henderson, a Las Vegas suburb, targeted UNLV or if he had any connection to the school. He had worked in schools in Georgia and North Carolina, his now-deleted LinkedIn page showed, including as a business professor at East Carolina University. And in recent years he worked as an adjunct instructor and attended Roseman University in Henderson, ending his partnership with the school in 2022, the school confirmed.

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Polito had unsuccessfully applied for several higher education jobs in Nevada and appeared to be struggling financially, McMahill said Thursday, noting that an eviction notice was found on the door of his Henderson apartment.

  • The University of Nevada shooter was a career professor who applied to work at the institution, a source says

In the hours leading up to the shooting, Polito had sent 22 letters to university staff across the country with no return address, the sheriff said. At least some of the envelopes contained a white powder, but the substance was found to be harmless, Las Vegas police said Thursday night. No further details about the contents of the letters were immediately released.

Detectives are working with the postal inspector and federal staff to process the letters, but are asking people who work in academia who receive a letter with no return address to "proceed with caution," McMahill said.

UNLV President Keith Whitfield described the shooting, which occurred just days before the start of final exams, as "the most difficult day in the history of our university."

The shooting began shortly before noon Wednesday inside the university's Beam Hall, where professors had been preparing students for exams. Outside, a gathering of students enjoyed games, food, and other activities.

Two of those killed were School of Business professors Patricia Navarro-Velez and Cha-Jan "Jerry" Chang, the president said Thursday in a letter to the school community. The name of the third faculty member killed will be released after that person's next of kin are notified, he said.

"I won't sugarcoat it. We're all hurting right now," Whitfield said. "But it's in these difficult times that we need to lean on each other."

  • University of Nevada Shooting Leaves at Least 3 Dead; The suspect, who was a teacher, also died

UNLV Mourns Its Beloved Professors

In his letter to the university community, Whitfield acknowledged the shock many on campus are facing following the loss of several beloved faculty members.

"It's still hard to find words, as we're just beginning to process the grief, loss, anger, and fear associated with Wednesday's tragic campus shooting, which claimed the lives of three of our beloved faculty members," Whitfield wrote.

Jerry Chang, professor killed in UNLV shooting.

Navarro-Velez, an assistant professor of accounting, had been teaching at the school for nearly five years and had "dedicated her career to educating the next generation of accountants," the university's president said.

The second professor killed, Chang, had been teaching students at the UNLV School of Business for more than 20 years as a "long-time management information systems educator," Whitfield said.

Navarro-Velez, 39, worked on the fourth floor of Beam Hall and Chang, 64, worked on the third floor, according to the sheriff.

Patricia Navarro-Velez, a professor killed in the UNLV shooting.

Ammunition and electronics found in the shooter's home

Investigators found several computers and hard drive components while searching Polito's apartment, the sheriff said Thursday.

Investigators are wiping the devices and tracking Polito's social media in an effort to understand any possible motive, he said.

In addition, authorities discovered ammunition that matched cartridges found at the scene of the shooting, as well as a Taurus box that matched the gun police believe the gunman used, he said.

Investigators also discovered a document similar to a "last will and testament" on a chair, McMahill said.

The attacker was fascinated by Las Vegas and conspiracy theories

Polito's online writings paint the picture of a man who was fascinated by Las Vegas and had an interest in various conspiracy theories.

His personal website includes some syllabi from his previous courses, but it's largely a list of hundreds of links related to his personal interests titled "Resources." While the list includes common topics like "travel" and "shopping," one section is dedicated to "Powerful Organizations Hell-Bent on World Domination!"

It also includes links to common conspiracy theories such as Freemasonry, the Trilateral Commission, and "The Rothchild Family (sic)." George Soros, a common target of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, is listed as one of the "great minds of the 20th century," along with Albert Einstein and others.

Three of Polito's alumni say he spoke frequently about Las Vegas and visited the city as much as he could while teaching in other states. His website also notes that he had made "more than two dozen trips to Las Vegas over the past fifteen years," though it was unclear when the statement was originally released.

Jonathan Peralta, who was in one of Polito's classes at ECU in 2013 or 2014, told CNN that Polito had an unorthodox teaching style and usually began his classes with stories, often about Las Vegas.

"This was surprising," Peralta said of the UNLV shooting. "The connection to Las Vegas is what makes him so crazy, because he talked about Vegas a lot."

Polito worked at ECU's College of Business from 2001 until he resigned in 2017 when he was a tenured associate professor, a university spokesperson told CNN. He had ties to Roseman University of Nevada from October 2018 to June 2022, attended the school and worked as an adjunct professor, a school spokesperson said.

How did the shooting unfold?

Sean Hathcock, right, kisses Michelle Ashley on Wednesday in front of candles left by victims of the UNLV shooting. (Credit: John Locher/AP)

Authorities are still trying to piece together what happened inside Beam Hall, which has no interior cameras, but have been able to construct a timeline of events before and after Polito entered the building, the sheriff said.

Polito arrived at the university shortly before 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, and police began receiving 911 calls around 11:45 a.m. about a shooting at the university, prompting law enforcement, both on and off duty, to rush to campus, according to McMahill.

University and city police arrived at the scene and entered Beam Hall, where classrooms of students and faculty were preparing for next week's exams, the sheriff said. The first officer arrived at the scene 78 seconds after the first 911 call, according to Adam Garcia, director of the University Police Services of the South Sector.

Polito, armed with a 9mm handgun and nine full magazines, roamed several floors of the building before leaving around 11:55 a.m., the sheriff said. Outside, he clashed with campus police and a shootout ensued, McMahill said.

Polito was shot multiple times and collapsed, McMahill said. He was later taken into custody and died at the scene, he added.

"Agents then assembled action teams and began a systematic search for additional suspects and victims. Those teams went through several buildings and several floors. Many times we had to force our way into rooms where students and teachers were sheltering," the sheriff said.

The fear and panic on campus evoked memories of the Route 91 Harvest music festival massacre, which took place near UNLV on Oct. 1, 2017, and remains the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Wednesday's tragedy marked the 80th shooting at U.S. schools so far this year, 29 of which have occurred on college campuses and colleges, according to a CNN analysis.

CNN's Cheri Mossburg, Jillian Sykes, Andy Rose and Evan Perez contributed to this report.