33 killed at Virginia Tech University

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— A gunman opened fire in a Virginia Tech dorm and then, two hours later, in a classroom across campus Monday, killing at least 30 people in the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history, government officials told The Associated Press. The gunman was killed, bringing the death toll to 31.

"Today the university was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions," said Virginia Tech president Charles Steger. "The university is shocked and indeed horrified."

It was not immediately clear whether the gunman was shot by police or took his own life. His name was not released, and investigators offered no motive for the attack. It was not known if the gunman was a student.

The shootings spread panic and confusion on campus, with students complaining that the university did not warn them about the first burst of gunfire until more than two hours later.

Witnesses reporting students jumping out the windows of a classroom building to escape the gunfire. SWAT team members with helmets, flak jackets and assault rifles swarmed over the campus. Students and faculty members carried out some of the wounded themselves, without waiting for ambulances to arrive.

The massacre took place at opposite sides of the 2,600-acre campus, beginning at about 7:15 a.m. at West Ambler Johnston, a coed dormitory that houses 895 people, and continuing at least two hours later at Norris Hall, an engineering building about a half-mile away, authorities said.

Police said they were still investigating the shooting at the dorm when they got word of gunfire at the classroom building.

Some students bitterly questioned why the gunman was able to strike a second time, two hours after the bloodshed began.

"What happened today this was ridiculous. And I don't know what happened or what was going through this guy's mind," student Jason Piatt told CNN. "But I'm pretty outraged and I'll say on the record I'm pretty outraged that someone died in a shooting in a dorm at 7 o'clock in the morning and the first e-mail about it _ no mention of locking down campus, no mention of canceling classes _ they just mention that they're investigating a shooting two hours later at 9:22."

He added: "That's pretty ridiculous and meanwhile, while they're sending out that e-mail, 22 more people got killed."

FBI spokesman Richard Kolko in Washington said there was no evidence to suggest it was a terrorist attack, "but all avenues will be explored."

Up until Monday, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history was in Killeen, Texas, in 1991, when George Hennard drove his pickup into a Luby's Cafeteria and shot 23 people to death, then himself.

The massacre Monday took place almost eight years to the day after the Columbine High bloodbath near Littleton, Colo. On April 20, 1999, two teenagers killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before taking their own lives.

Previously, the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history was a rampage that took place in 1966 at the University of Texas at Austin, where Charles Whitman climbed the clock tower and opened fire with a rifle from the 28th-floor observation deck. He killed 16 people before he was shot to death by police.

Founded in 1872, Virginia Tech is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia, about 160 miles west of Richmond. With more than 25,000 full-time students, it has the state's largest full-time student population. The school is best known for its engineering school and its powerhouse Hokies football team.

The rampage took place on a brisk spring day, with snow flurries swirling around the campus. The campus is centered around the Drill Field, a grassy field where military cadets _ who now represent a fraction of the student body _ once practiced. The dorm and the classroom building are on opposites sides of the Drill Field.

A gasp could be heard at a campus news conference when Virginia Tech Police Chief W.R. Flinchum said at least 20 people had been killed. Previously, only one person was thought to have been killed.

Investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began marking and recovering the large number of shell casings and will trace the weapon used, authorities said.

A White House spokesman said President Bush was horrified by the rampage and offered his prayers to the victims and the people of Virginia.

"The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed," spokeswoman Dana Perino said

After the shootings, all entrances to the campus were closed, and classes were canceled through Tuesday. The university set up a meeting place for families to reunite with their children. It also made counselors available and planned an assembly for Tuesday at the basketball arena.

After the shooting began, students were told to stay inside away from the windows.

Aimee Kanode, a freshman from Martinsville, said the shooting happened on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston dormitory, one floor above her room. Kanode's resident assistant knocked on her door about 8 a.m. to notify students to stay put.

"They had us under lockdown," Kanode said. "They temporarily lifted the lockdown, the gunman shot again."

"We're all locked in our dorms surfing the Internet trying to figure out what's going on," Kanode said.

Maurice Hiller, 21, a mechanical engineering student from Richmond, saw police and SWAT team members with guns drawn going toward Norris Hall. "This is something just totally beyond anybody's expectations," he said.

Police said there had been bomb threats on campus over the past two weeks by authorities but said they have not determined a link to the shootings.

It was second time in less than a year that the campus was closed because of a shooting.

Last August, the opening day of classes was canceled and the campus closed when an escaped jail inmate allegedly killed a hospital guard off campus and fled to the Tech area. A sheriff's deputy involved in the manhunt was killed on a trail just off campus. The accused gunman, William Morva, faces capital murder charges.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Comments

aselch 7 years, 4 months ago

I wonder why it was not reported, who killed the "gunman" and how. Does anyone know?

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workerbee 7 years, 4 months ago

It just posted that he shot himself in the face, and that they still don't know who he is. He didn't have any ID on him, and his fingerprints didn't bring up an ID. Plus shooting himself in the face I'm sure will make it hard to ID him.

How sad for everyone at the college.

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gwendolyn 7 years, 4 months ago

Given this is the anniversary week of the Columbine shootings...is the school district taking any additional safety precautions in securing the schools?

since that last bomb "incident" I've noticed that security is right back to it's general sense of laxness.

any chance that could be altered for a week or two until this has passed by the anniversary date and the kids are off for spring break?

please.

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80488mom 7 years, 4 months ago

Horrific and I'm afraid not the last of like incidents to come if we don't do something to curtail the violence in video games and movies. Kids have become desensitized. Very, very sad.

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dundalk 7 years, 4 months ago

Gwen:

Interesting viewpoint about the Columbine anniversary.

Personally, when I hear about incidents such as these, I wonder why we don't have metal detectors on campuses and lock downs of campuses. Sadly, quite a large number of parents and/or college administrators decry foul about civil liberties, etc when faced with having to pass through a detector or be searched.

I am curious how any civil liberties fanatics can support today's episode - 32 dead people, 32 civil liberties violated? I think I would rather have my privacy invaded just a bit so that I could be guaranteed a trip home in one piece at the end of the day.

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bolter 7 years, 4 months ago

Would gun control be an unacceptable infringement on civil liberties? Think about it---3,000 were killed in 9/11 and our legislature rushed to give up any civil liberty to prevent that from happening again. Now we are snooped on by our government without warrant or reason. At the same time, 30,000 Americans are killed EVERY YEAR by guns, and we are not even willing to DISCUSS limiting guns in any way.

The VT massacre was not done with hunting guns. I am a hunter and sport shooter and own several rifles and shotguns. I would be happy to give up a little bit of my total gun freedom to prevent another VT from happening again. Is the unfettered right to keep and bear arms worth 30,000 lives a year?

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Slapper 7 years, 4 months ago

Ann McArthur alias (dumbtalk) posts this beauty on todays campus tragedy. "I am curious how any civil liberties fanatics can support today's episode - 32 dead people, 32 civil liberties violated?"

What a stupid and nasty comment given the circumstances.

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gwendolyn 7 years, 4 months ago

these kinds of incidents tend to trigger copycats, each trying to outdo the previous event. and, it would seem that columbine has become the model of terror for the disenfranchised.

I just have an ugly gut feeling this won't be the only incident this week. It would be some reassurance to know the local school district is tightening in the reins some this week...

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cheesehead 7 years, 4 months ago

It almost seems like these scumbags are trying to achieve some kind of legacy...and for some reason we're willing to give it to them. All of the coverage has mentioned how this guy has taken over as the deadliest, and they all mention the names of the previous record holders.

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citizenjohnq 7 years, 4 months ago

Gwen: I doubt that the district has done anything, or will. There is an attitude of 'not in Steamboat'... Platte Canyon admitted they were not prepared and should have made changes long ago. Columbine said likewise. The fact that students here in Steamboat are still allowed to make knives in shop class is a perfect example. So is the fact that the bomb threat came and went with out permanent changes. Sure, they checked backpacks everyday, but only for a week, and not those of faculty/staff or 'trusted students'. (I suppose it speaks to what a sad world we live in that not even faculty/staff can be trusted.) Sure they posted someone outside by the front entrance, but only for a week. It's time a lot of the adults in Steamboat GREW UP! Stop denying what is right in front of our faces! It should be obvious that these tragedies don't have much rhyme or reason: A 'transient' walks into Platte Canyon and takes several female students hostage, sexually assaults many of them and then kills one before killing himself as police raid the room; a freshman shoots and kills his principal in Wisconsin; a very disturbed father goes into an Amish school house and kills and wounds several young girls before killing himself; and today, a man in his twenties walks into a college engineering building, chains the door shut, and then walks into classrooms and begins shooting, killing 32 and wounding 15 more before he shoots himself in the face. The statement from The White House should be listened to: "Schools should be places of sanctuary and safety and learning. When that sanctuary is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom and every American community. Today, our nation grieves with those who have lost loved ones at Virginia Tech." If you agree with the President or not on any other issue is moot. Schools should be safe. Steamboat should be safe. It's up to the adults, us, to ensure that safety. Call the high school: 879-1562; Mike Knesevich, principal 871-2774; Kevin Taulman. asst. principal 871-3696; Deb Funston, school police officer 871-3643. Let them know that we need safety in our schools.

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corduroy 7 years, 4 months ago

One of the people responding to the call (I believe an EMT) said something that makes total sense. Yes, they could lock down the campus, they could cancel classes. It doesn't matter what preparations schools do to ensure student safety, if ONE nutter decides to flip out, there's not a lot that you can really do to prevent it. It's so true.

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1FRANKENSTEIN 7 years, 4 months ago

have there been any thought on this guy being so quiet and from out of the country being a possible suicide shooter for family or some iraq type reason? scary thoughts ........

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