April 11, 2009 at 1:00 am

Police search for motive in Henry Ford Community College murder-suicide

Students leave campus as an officer stands outside the Fine Arts Center after a murder-suicide Friday at Henry Ford Community College. (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)

Dearborn -- Police are trying to piece together what led a 28-year-old male student to carry a shotgun into a classroom at Henry Ford Community College where he shot and killed a 20-year-old aspiring actress before turning the gun on himself Friday.

Police wouldn't comment on the couple's relationship, but said Anthony Powell of Detroit shot Asia McGowan of Ecorse before committing suicide.

The two had at least one class together -- a theater class held earlier Friday, according to police.

Aveah McGowan said Friday evening that her sister had spoken of Powell.

"I think they were just seeing each other," 22-year-old Aveah McGowan said by phone from Ecorse.

But the girls' father, Turahn McGowan, said he had never heard of Powell.

"She was beautiful, an aspiring actress and dancer," said Turahn McGowan, who added that his daughter had planned to try out for the Fox network's "So You Think You Can Dance" talent competition.

Little is known about Powell. No one answered the phone at his Detroit home Friday.

Anthony Powell was listed as one of Asia McGowan's 800 friends on Facebook.com, a social networking Web site.

On Friday night multiple messages of shock and disbelief were left on McGowan's page.

"I can't believe that such a sweet and beautiful person is gone just like that," one wrote.

Student Carolyn Cajas, 39, of Dearborn said she had recently performed in a play "Wisdom and Wonder" with McGowan. "It's going to affect us all here. We're like family," she said.

Some students were able to leave the campus quickly when word spread of the shooting.

Other students and faculty were confined to classrooms when the college enforced a campuswide lockdown. Classes have been canceled until Monday.

First-year nursing student Julia Barhoumeh was in the building next door to the Fine Arts Center where the shooting occurred.

A student ran into the building warning them a man with a gun was near.

"Everyone started running out of the building," said Barhoumeh, a 21-year-old Dearborn Heights resident. "I just ran. I didn't know if I was going to be the next target."

Shortly after 12:30 p.m., police responded to a call that initially described an assault with shots fired, said Gregg Brighton, Dearborn deputy police chief.

A team of cops entered a south hallway and heard another gunshot, Brighton said. Officers entered a classroom and discovered the two bodies. Police say McGowan was alone in the room when she was shot.

One 23-year-old student said she was inside the fine arts building during the shootings. The woman, who didn't want to be identified because she said she was too shaken up, said she heard people arguing and then heard what she later realized were shotgun blasts.

"The doors here are heavy. I thought it was the door slamming," she said. "It's just a tragedy."

At least eight detectives from Dearborn and the Michigan State Police worked the campus, piecing together what happened. Minutes after the incident, videos started showing up on YouTube showing police swarming the campus.

Marjorie Swan, comptroller for the community college, thanked police and said: "Our hearts go out to the family and the friends of the young woman who lost her life today."

The college released an e-mail after the shooting to warn the campus of a lockdown. "Armed police officers are on campus near the Fine Arts building," the e-mail said. "If you are on campus, lock down your classrooms and offices immediately. Do not leave until cleared to do so."

"We received an e-mail telling us to lock down our offices and classrooms," said James Smith, a physics professor.

Smith said he was on lockdown in his office for about an hour before he was cleared by authorities to go home.

Student Amanda Rebain had just dropped a friend off at class when she got a text message from a friend: "Gunman at HFCC leave now." She thought the sender was joking, so she called her.

It wasn't the last call she would make.

"I was so worried about her and all my friends," said Rebain, a 21-year-old nursing student. "I called everybody I knew who would be there to make sure they were OK. You don't expect that kind of thing to happen here."

tali@detnews.com">tali@detnews.com (734) 462-2094 Associated Press contributed.

Asia McGowan (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
Dearborn Deputy Chief Gregg Brighton discusses the shooting deaths on the ...
A Dearborn police officer mans the front of the Fine Arts Center, where ... (Daniel Mears / The Detroit News)
"Our hearts go out to the family and the friends of the young woman ... (Velvet S. McNeil / The Detroit News)