A gunman opened fire in a dorm and classroom at Virginia Tech on Monday, killing 21 people in the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history. The gunman was killed but it was unclear if he was shot by police or took his own life.
“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.”
The university reported shootings at opposite sides of the 2,600-acre campus, beginning at about 7:15 a.m. at West Ambler Johnston, a coed residence hall that houses 895 people, and continuing about two hours later at Norris Hall, an engineering building.
Some, but not all, of the dead were students. One student was killed in a dorm and the others were killed in the classroom, Virginia Tech Police Chief W.R. Flinchum said.
The name of the gunman was not released. It was not known if he was a student.
President Bush was described Monday as shocked and saddened by the mass shooting at Virginia Tech, the deadliest incident of campus violence ever in this country.
“He was horrified and his immediate reaction was one of deep concern for the families of the victims, the victims themselves, the students, the professors and all the people of Virginia who have dealt with this shocking incident,” White House deputy press secretary Dana Perino said. “His thoughts and prayers are with them.”
“The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed,” Perino said, noting that Bush and Education Secretary Margaret Spellings held a conference on school gun violence last October. “Certainly, bringing a gun into a school domitory and shooting … is against the law and something someone should be held accountable for,” Perino said.
Before Monday, the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history took place in 1966 at the University of Texas, where Charles Whitman climbed to the 28th-floor observation deck of a clock tower and opened fire. He killed 16 people before he was gunned down by police. In the Columbine High School bloodbath near Littleton, Colorado, in 1999, two teenagers killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before taking their own lives.
After Monday’s shootings, all entrances to the campus were closed and classes canceled through Tuesday. The university set up a meeting place for families to reunite with their children and made counselors available. A convocation was planned for Tuesday at the school’s basketball arena.
“There’s just a lot of commotion. It’s hard to tell exactly what’s going on,” said Jason Anthony Smith, 19, who lives in the dorm where the shooting took place.
Aimee Kanode, a first-year student, said the shooting happened on the 4th floor of West Ambler Johnston dormitory, one floor above her room. The resident assistant in Kanode’s dormitory 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.
Madison Van Duyne, a student who was interviewed by telephone on CNN, said, “We are all in lockdown. Most of the students are sitting on the floors away from the windows just trying to be as safe as possible.”
Police said there had been bomb threats on campus over the past two weeks, 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.
In August 2006, 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.
A List of Deadly Campus Shootings
A list of some fatal shootings that took place at U.S. colleges or universities in recent years. Monday’s campus shooting at Virginia Tech was the deadliest in U.S. history.
April 16, 2007: A gunman kills 21 people in a dorm and a classroom at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.
Sept. 2, 2006: Douglas W. Pennington, 49, kills himself and his two sons, Logan P. Pennington, 26, and Benjamin M. Pennington, 24, during a visit to the campus of Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va.
Oct. 28, 2002: Failing University of Arizona Nursing College student and Gulf War veteran Robert Flores, 40, walks into an instructor’s office and fatally shoots her. A few minutes later, armed with five guns, he enters one of his nursing classrooms and kills two more of his instructors before fatally shooting himself.
Jan. 16, 2002: Graduate student Peter Odighizuwa, 42, recently dismissed from Virginia’s Appalachian School of Law, returns to campus and kills the dean, a professor and a student before being tackled by students. The attack also wounds three female students.
Aug. 28, 2000: James Easton Kelly, 36, a University of Arkansas graduate student recently dropped from a doctoral program after a decade of study and John Locke, 67, the English professor overseeing his coursework, are shot to death in an apparent murder-suicide.
Aug. 15, 1996: Frederick Martin Davidson, 36, a graduate engineering student at San Diego State, is defending his thesis before a faculty committee when he pulls out a handgun and kills three professors.
Nov. 1, 1991: Gang Lu, 28, a graduate student in physics from China, reportedly upset because he was passed over for an academic honor, opens fire in two buildings on the University of Iowa campus. Five University of Iowa employees killed, including four members of the physics department, two other people are wounded. The student fatally shoots himself.
May 4, 1970: Four students were killed and nine wounded by National Guard troops called in to quell anti-war protests on the campus of Kent State University in Ohio.
Aug. 1, 1966: Charles Whitman points a rifle from the observation deck of the University of Texas at Austin’s Tower and begins shooting in a homicidal rampage that goes on for 96 minutes. Sixteen people are killed, 31 wounded.
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