The man who gunned down a Virginia Tech police officer last week did so with a legally purchased handgun, police say.
Ross T. Ashley, 22, purchased the .40-caliber semiautomatic weapon in January and then used it to kill officer Deriek W. Crouse, 39, according to the Virginia State Police. Authorities did not reveal the dealers' name. Ashley later turned the gun on himself, taking his own life.
Nearly one week after the shooting triggered a campuswide lockdown and nationwide media interest, a motive remains unclear. Investigators said they have found no link between Crouse, an Army veteran and married father of five, and Ashley, a part-time student at nearby Radford University.
"Despite investigators' nonstop pursuit of this case, there still remains no prior connection or contact between Ashley and Officer Crouse," the statement said.
The murder-suicide has hit Virginia Tech and the surrounding community particularly hard. The campus remains the site of the deadliest U.S. mass shooting and continues to heal from that tragedy. It occurred when a mentally disturbed man walked on campus in April 2007 and killed 32 people before taking his own life.
As the Virginia Tech campus tries to reclaim its peace of mind after last week's violence, state police are working to establish a motive and re-create the movements of shooter Ross Truett Ashley “in the days and hours leading up to the murder-suicide.”
In a recent statement, Virginia police confirmed that Ashley stole a white Mercedes SUV from a Radford, Va., real estate office at gunpoint the day before he shot and killed Virginia Tech police officer Deriek Crouse and then himself.
In a letter to the campus community, Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger called Thursday’s shootings “senseless,” “tragic” and “regrettably familiar.”
Students had their own take, including a dread of the “media field day” that would inevitably follow the new incident of violence on the campus.
“We felt like we knew we didn’t deserve” the negative media attention, said senior Drew Jenkinson.
The campus tragedies have been of horrifying scope. In 2007, undergraduate Seung-hui Cho killed 32 people in the deadliest shooting rampage by a lone gunman in U.S. history. In 2009, graduate student Xin Yang was decapitated with a knife by a man she knew. And on Thursday, Ashley gunned down Crouse, an Army veteran and father of five, for no apparent reason, according to police.
These incidents, however, are not what life at Virginia Tech is about, Jenkinson, a well-spoken communications major, told the Los Angeles Times. For the nearly 30,000 students, Virginia Tech is simply home.
He and fellow senior Bethany Darnley have been working diligently on “Hokies for Crouse,” a student fund-raising effort for Crouse’s family, and they’ve raised tens of thousands of dollars.
"Everybody's very supportive of the Crouse family," Jenkinson said. "We feel like they are one of our own, and they really are."
Jenkinson and Darnley's effort includes a system for donations. A PayPal account is linked to the official memorial fund for Crouse.
"I went to bed with $40 in the PayPal account, woke up the next morning and there was $10,000,” Jenkinson said. “And by the end of that day $40,000. Then by the next day we were approaching” $60,000.
By Monday night, the students had raised $82,000.
“We never could have imagined that this would have happened,” said Jenkinson, seeming a little weary and slightly overwhelmed. “The community's taken this project on as their own and really spread it in an amazing, kind of beautiful way."
The effort has become more than its beginnings as “a Facebook event,” he said. Jenkinson sees it as a movement -- and part of that is getting out a positive message about Virginia Tech.
“It’s a wonderful place,” Jenkinson said, full of “kind and generous” people. "It's unfortunate that we get such negative ... perceptions because of these uncontrollable events that have happened in our past and like the one on Thursday."
School pride is heartfelt and hasn’t dimmed because of those events, he said. At orientation, students learn that if someone asks them, "What's a Hokie?" The answer is, "I am. … That's the first thing you hear when you walk into the doors."
Jenkinson and his friends will continue to try to get out the message out that “Hokie Nation” remains unbowed: “We live Virginia Tech every day.”
Authorities have identified the gunman who killed a Virginia Tech police officer and then committed suicide as 22-year-old Ross Truett Ashley. But police are still investigating the motive behind the shooting that locked down the university for hours.
Ashley is beleived to be a part-time college student from nearby Radford University, according to the Associated Press.
Ashley approached Officer Deriek W. Crouse during a routine traffic stop and shot him as he sat in his patrol car, said Corinne Geller, spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police.
Crouse, an Army veteran and married father of five, was not able to return fire.
Ashley then fled on foot farther into the campus as authorities unleashed an intense manhunt. About 30 minutes later, after changing his clothes, he was spotted making "furtive movements" in a parking lot by a Montgomery County sheriff's deputy. By the time the deputy reached the man, he had turned the gun on himself.
But the motive has eluded investigators.
“That’s very much the fundamental part of the investigation right now, determining for what reason this man approached Officer Crouse and took his life,” Geller said.
Authorities have ruled out any history between the two men, and the gunman was not a current or former student at Virginia Tech. The male driver pulled over by Crouse is a Virginia Tech student. He is cooperating with police and has no connection to the shooter, Geller said.
Officials, stressing that they are still in the midst of their investigation, stopped short of calling the shooting a “random” attack.
The Virginia Tech shooting left two dead but no clear motive: What drove a man to walk up to Deriek W. Crouse and gun down the officer as he carried out what appeared to be a routine traffic stop?
Authorities have yet to publicly identify the gunman or reveal other details about the shooting. Did the gunman know the officer? Did the gunman know the motorist being stopped? Was the gunman a student?
The incident unfolded about 12:30 p.m. Thursday when Crouse -- an Army veteran and married father of five -- stopped a car on campus. Witnesses reported that the gunman walked up to Crouse and opened fire, seemingly without provocation. The gunman then fled.
The shooting triggered a campus-wide lockdown while several state and federal agencies launched a manhunt. A few minutes later, a second body was found about a quarter-mile away, leading some to fear another campus rampage akin to 2007, when 33 were killed in the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history.
Authorities announced Friday that the second body was that of the gunman, who appeared to have turned the weapon on himself. That weapon was found near his body.
"Ballistics evidence testing has officially linked the two fatal shootings" and "confirmed that both victims were shot by the same weapon," authorities said in a statement posted Friday on the school's website.
Authorities said they were still awaiting confirmation of the male suspect's identity.
They also added that a review of the video camera in the officer's car captured footage of the "male subject with a handgun at the officer's car at the time of the shooting." Investigators later found an abandoned backpack containing clothing similar to items belonging to the gunman, suggesting he attempted to change his appearance as he tried to escape.
Thursday's shooting took place on the same day that university officials, including campus police, were in Washington appealing a $55,000 fine by the Department of Education in connection with the 2007 shooting rampage. The department has fined the school for waiting more than two hours after the first ring of gunfire to send out an email warning students, teachers and others to take cover and avoid the campus.