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The news prompted Iron County Sheriff Mark Gower to put out an "attempt to locate" alert countywide although he had no indication the suspect, Christopher Dorner, 33, was anywhere near Utah.
Gower said his office learned early Thursday morning that Dorner attended SUU.
"It sounds like he's got nothing to lose, and he's desperate," Gower said. "So we worry."
SUU athletics spokesman Neil Gardner confirmed Thursday that Dorner played as a fullback for the Thunderbirds, but didn't see that much time on the field.
"I do remember Chris, but I can't say I knew him well," Gardner said.
Gardner said he was taken by surprise to learn Dorner was suspected in the Los Angeles killings.
"When Chris was in college, he was a very likeable, friendly, positive, up kind of guy," he said.
University Relations Vice President Dean O'Driscoll said Dorner attended the university between 1997 and 2001, graduating with a political science degree and a minor in psychology.
Brody Benson, who played football with Dorner at SUU for three years, remembers him as a good teammate and a good player no "All American, but he was good."
He was intellectual too, and well-educated, recalled Benson, who is now head football coach for Highland High School in Salt Lake City. But Dorner also was a man of strong opinions that he freely shared.
"Reading his manifesto, it stems around racial slurs. He was very willing to voice his opinion on that," Benson said.
Benson was stunned to learn of the slayings.
"I can't believe it … You see a guy you knew pretty well, three years of playing football with the guy, just to see that," Benson said.
"It makes you sad and sickened that people feel that that would be the best way or only way that they can react to the situation. It left me uneasy all day."
The only official record Iron County has of Dorner is a criminal trespass citation he was given in August 1999. Gower said Dorner was among a group of people caught wandering around an abandoned mine outside Cedar City limits.
In writings Dorner posted online before the killings, he mentioned Cedar City as one of the "locations where I resided from childhood to adulthood," which also included locations in California, Florida, Oklahoma and Nevada.
Tribune reporter Janelle Stecklein contributed to this story.