US police cordon
Police are looking for an armed gunman who murdered a student in Goldsboro, North Carolina       (Reuters)

Police have launched a search for an armed gunman following a shooting at a community college in North Carolina.

The school was put in lockdown following reports of an active shooter at Wayne Community College in Goldsboro on 13 April at 8am local time.

A message posted on the school's website warned students of the potential danger, as teams of law enforcement officers searched and cleared each building on campus and allowed students and faculty to leave. "This is not a drill," it said. "The entire campus is under lockdown."

18-year-old school employee Ron Lane was killed in the shooting. The victim was an employee at the college's print shop.

The suspected gunman, thought to be 20-year-old Kenneth Stancil, entered a campus building that houses the library and cafeteria with a rifle where he allegedly shot Lane.

The Wayne County Sheriff's Office confirmed Stancil was a person of interest in the shooting. "We are actively pursuing him on an open count of murder," said Sheriff Larry Pierce.

Officials said Stancil was a third-year work/study student who also worked in the print shop, but did not graduate.

Police spokeswoman Kim Best said the two men knew each other, but authorities have not released a motive for the shooting.

Stancil is described as a white male, about 5'11", with a goatee and tattoo over his left eye, wearing a blue jacket and light-coloured pants, and carrying a gun. Officials said they couldn't immediately say if it was a rifle or a shotgun.

The gunman is believed to have fled the campus after the shooting.

A nearby private school attended by children aged five through 18 was also placed on lockdown as a precaution.

Kay Albertson, the school's president, said counselling was being offered to any students who sought it.

"This is indeed a sad day for Wayne Community College and this close family and community," she said. "Our hearts are heavy at the loss of a valued employee."