"All of a sudden, I felt the crowd move a little faster. And a police officer with a machine gun or something told everyone to start moving a lot faster," he said.
Whitehead, who has lived in the dorm for two years, said the students were moved to an open area about 1,000 feet from UCF Arena. The area is a busy section of the campus, with restaurants and shops nearby.
Grant Hernandez, 20, a sophomore from Orlando who also is a resident at the dorm, said he woke up sometime after midnight when police were evacuating the building.
"We weren't allowed to get our cars. We weren't allowed to get our personal effects," Hernandez said.
"All we saw were people running, and they were not telling us what was going on," he added. "We were left unsure of things. It wasn't till about 6 o'clock that we got more information and a clearer picture of what was going on." He said officers on the scene began providing more information, and students checked updates on the university's website.
A statement there said the UCF Arena would open to accommodate displaced students. Counselors would be available to talk to students who need assistance.
The Tower 1 dorm is part of the school's popular Towers at Knight Plaza apartment building complex, according to UCF's website. Tower 1 has seven floors. The typical apartment layout has four bedroom and two bathrooms, the website says. Students on the scene Monday said there also are single-person apartments.
A spokeswoman for State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan said he was called this morning by UCF President John Hitt and told about the situation unfolding on campus.
"As far as we know no other students are in danger," Kim Wilmath said.