Virginia Tech shooting: 1 of 2 dead might be gunman
Virginia Tech officials said there is no longer any threat after two people -- one of them a campus police officer -- were shot and killed Thursday, and hinted that the gunman may be the second unidentified slain man.
At a news conference, university and law enforcement officials would not confirm that the second person found dead in a parking lot was the gunman, though they did say a weapon had been found.
A weapon was found near the second body, the university said in a news release on its website.
“We’re all trying to figure out what is going on,” said Larry Hincker, a school spokesman.
When asked directly if the gunman was still on the loose, Virginia State Police Sgt. Bob Carpentieri suggested that the media “read between the lines.”
“I really can't give you a specific answer,” he said. “I think investigators feel confident they have located the person" responsible for the shooting.
Officials said that students were free to go about their business and that there was no further threat suspected. "We feel confident that the situation is under control at this time," Carpentieri said.
Authorities said they believe that during a routine traffic stop on campus, a suspect walked up and shot the Virginia Tech police officer.
They said they do not believe that the person in the vehicle was the shooter.
The gunman is believed to have then fled through a nearby parking lot, where a second male body and the weapon were found.
Officials would not say whether the second male has been identified, or if his clothing matched the description of the suspect released shortly after the shooting. They would also not comment on a possible motive.
The slain officer has not been publicly identified, but the university said he was a four-year veteran of the Virginia Tech police department.
An intense search for the gunman took place after the shooting, with state police, FBI agents and officers with the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives searching the campus.
Students and faculty were alerted through text message, and warning sirens rang out all over campus. Officials said they initiated the alert system five to seven minutes after the shooting.
Freshman Bronwyn Foley, 18, of Salem, Va., lives in a dorm near the area where the first shooting occurred and was walking on campus when she heard the warning sirens blaring.
“I immediately received a text message that told me what was happening and to go back to my dorm,” she said.
Ryan Waddell, 21, a junior from Virginia Beach, said the university’s text messaging warning system worked as planned and students were alerted to go indoors before news of the shooting broke on the major networks.
Every student provides a phone number as part of the registration process and then signs up to receive the alerts.
Waddell said it was unlikely the campus was packed with students because final exams for the semester were set to begin Friday. Thursday is a "reading day" and no classes were scheduled.
In his mind, there is “no connection” between Thursday's shooting and the 2007 massacre (he wasn’t a student then) and that he thinks it’s unfortunate that today’s event will be linked to that tragedy.
“It’s unthinkable what happened in 2007 but that was a one-time catastrophic incident,” he said.
But, he said, the 2007 shootings “instilled a sense of community at Virginia Tech. I’ve never talked to one student who felt unsafe.”
He said he didn’t favor teachers or students being allowed to carry guns on campus. “I don’t really think any students or teachers think being allowed to have guns on campus is a logical idea.”
The shootings came on the same day the university was appealing a $55,000 federal fine over its "failure to provide timely warning" in response to the 2007 shootings that left 33 dead, including the shooter.
The Washington, D.C., hearing, attended by Virginia Tech’s police chief and other university officials, concluded before Thursday’s shooting.
The Department of Education, in levying the fine, said the university waited more than two hours after two students were shot in a dorm before sending out a warning by email.
In appealing the fine to an administrative judge, Virginia Atty. Gen. Kenneth Cuccinelli earlier this year accused “federal bureaucrats" of “Monday-morning quarterbacking at its very worst,” contending that law enforcement initially thought they were dealing with "an isolated, domestic-related shooting."
“Based on what they knew at the time, law enforcement officers and the Virginia Tech administration acted appropriately," he said, regarding the 2007 shootings. “They did the best they could under the circumstances as they understood them. And that is the only fair standard by which their actions can be assessed.’’
On Wednesday, parents of victims of the 2007 shootings testified at the hearing. The administrative judge did not signal when he would rule. Both sides have until Jan. 30 to submit additional arguments.
There was no immediate response from the Department of Education to the university’s response to Thursday’s shootings.
--Stephen Ceasar, Rene Lynch, Richard Simon and James Oliphant
Photo: From left, Virginia State Police Sgt. Robert Carpenteri, Virginia Tech Police Officer Gene Deisinger and Virginia Tech President Charles Steger at a news conference Thursday. Credit: Don Petersen / Associated Press