The man who fatally shot three people last week at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, had resigned from another school, despite having tenure, after a female student accused him of making a sexual comment about her appearance.
Kristin Marshburn said she was sitting in the front row of Anthony Polito‘s business course at East Carolina University in Greenville, North Carolina, in 2016 when he walked in and made the remark.
“He said to me that if I wore a shirt that low cut for the rest of the semester, I’d be sure to get an A,” Marshburn, now 28, told NBC News.
Marshburn, of Wilmington, North Carolina, said she was shocked by the “bold comment,” as were some of the roughly 35 other students, mostly men, in Polito’s supply chain management course that fall.
“I remember their faces just being appalled,” she said. “They looked sad for me.”
Marshburn said she reported the incident to the business school’s dean that day. Months later, in January 2017, Polito resigned from his tenured associate professor position after having worked at ECU since 2001 in the marketing and supply chain management department, the university said.
It is unclear whether his exit was connected in any way to the comment he made to Marshburn midway through the fall semester of her junior year. Polito never returned to class after Marshburn reported him, she said.
An ECU spokesperson did not directly respond to requests for comment on the circumstances around Polito’s resignation and said a public records request must be submitted for potential disciplinary records. NBC News has filed the request but had not received a response as of Monday.
In previously posted online ramblings — reviewed by NBC News on the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine, which archives web pages — Polito blamed ECU’s higher-ups for costing him his career and destroying his reputation. He also referred to a student who he said helped those higher-ups justify the actions they took against him.
Polito, 67, had a “target list,” containing names of faculty members at UNLV and ECU, Las Vegas Metro Police Department Sheriff Kevin McMahill said last week.
On Dec. 6, Polito killed three faculty members at UNLV, where he applied for a teaching job in 2020 but was not hired, authorities said.
Polito also wounded a visiting professor, although none of the victims were on his hit list, police said. A specific motive for the attack is unknown.
Authorities said Polito had applied for multiple jobs within the Nevada higher education system but was denied each time.
He was struggling financially, evident by an eviction notice posted on the front door of the apartment, police said.
He was fatally shot during a confrontation with police.
In 2016, when Marshburn reported the classroom incident to the dean, she also said she complained about how unconventional Polito’s class was, noting he rarely stuck to the course topic, but would focus instead on Las Vegas.
“I did not learn one thing about supply chain management,” she said.
‘I felt preyed upon’
Marshburn is the second woman to come forward after the shooting to say Polito made them feel uncomfortable when they were students.
The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, previously told NBC News that Polito pursued her for nearly an entire semester, contacting her almost every day through email and texts and buying her gifts.
“I felt preyed upon,” she said.
The 32-year-old woman from Durham, North Carolina, said she viewed Polito as a mentor until he crossed the line by inviting her to Las Vegas during her senior year in 2012.
“I think that’s about when I was like, ‘I have to cut this man off because he got the wrong idea,’” the woman said.
She said she never thought to report Polito because he was well respected on campus and the entire ordeal struck her as odd.
“It was just so bizarre,” she said.
Some of Polito’s former students described him as eccentric but popular, saying that his memories and experiences about his frequent trips to Sin City would dominate classroom discussions.
Polito wore suspenders and fancy cufflinks and smoked Virginia Slims cigarettes, which he kept in a gold case, according to Josh Bryant, who took two supply chain management classes with Polito around 2011 and spoke extensively to him outside of the classroom.
Bryant, 32, said that he enjoyed his conversations with Polito, but that he considered Polito a narcissist who loved being idolized for his intellect.
On Polito’s personal website, in posts that are still available or have since been removed, he refers to himself as “Dr. 160IQ” and boasts about being part of Mensa, the high-IQ society, which requires members to first score in the top 2% of a standardized test.
A Mensa spokesperson said Polito joined in 1980 but let his membership expire this year by not paying his dues.
“He was soaked up in his own aura,” Bryant said. “I could see how his need and desire to be more smart than his peers could quickly escalate to an unstable situation.”
Marshburn praised ECU’s administration for how it handled her complaint against Polito. “East Carolina did an incredible job of making me feel safe, heard, believed,” she said.
Marshburn said she came forward with her account because she wanted to let other women know they should speak out if a person in a position of power mistreats them.
“It’s not OK for our professors, or anyone, to make sexual comments, or about anything we’re wearing, the way that we look,” Marshburn said.