“Today the university was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions. The university is shocked and indeed horrified.”
This was the reaction of Charles Steger, president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg (Virginia Tech), in southwest Virginia, after a gunman killed more than 30 people in a dorm and classroom at the college. At least 29 people are injured, some in critical condition.
The gunman, wearing a maroon hat and black leather jacket, said nothing as he fired shots. He had a 9-mm pistol and a 22-caliber handgun. Including the gunman, 31 people are believed dead. It is reported that the gunman killed himself. Twenty-nine people are being treated by local hospitals. The gunman has been described as a young Asian-American male.
The shooting started at co-ed residence hall, West Ambler Johnston Hall, about 7:15 a.m. ET. This hall houses 895 people. Two hours later, when the campus was still under lockdown, authorities received calls of more gunfire in classroom building Norris Hall. Norris is the engineering science and mechanics building.
The gunman tried to return after leaving a classroom, but was kept at bay by students blocking the door. One of the students reported that the gunman fired through the door but that no one was hit.
Virginia Tech Police Chief W.R. Flinchum said some, but not all of the dead were students, that one student in the dorm was killed, while others were killed in the classroom.
Federal investigators are doing ballistics work, although this is a local investigation.
In a brief statement, President Bush said, “Schools should be places of sanctuary and safety and learning. … Today, our nation grieves with those who have lost loved ones at Virginia Tech.”
This is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. Before today, the deadliest shooting was in 1991 in Killeen, Texas. George Hennard killed 23 people and then himself after driving his pickup into a Luby’s Cafeteria.
Previously, the deadliest campus shooting in the U.S. took place at the University of Texas in 1966. Charles Whitman killed 16 people from the 28th-floor observation deck of a clock tower. Police gunned him down. Whitman is the person about whom Harry Chapin sang in “Sniper,” from the album Sniper and Other Love Songs.
Sources: MSNBC, CNN, and NBC affiliate WSLS-TV in Roanoke, Virginia