33 dead, 15 injured in Virginia Tech shootings
Monday, April 16, 2007
Two shootings at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia have left 33 people dead, gunman included, in the deadliest civilian shooting in the United States. A further 15 people are being treated in a hospital. According to police, the gunman committed suicide.
At a 4:45 p.m. EST press conference, it was stated that no names of the injured or killed will be released soon. According to the press conference, the shooter shot and killed two people at an on-campus dormitory in a "domestic dispute." He then walked to the other end of the campus and began to open fire on students.
Two separate shootings are reported to have taken place; one at 7:15 AM at West Ambler Johnston Hall, a co-ed dormitory, and one at about 9:30 AM EDT in Norris Hall, an engineering building on the other side of the campus. In the week preceding the shooting there had been two bomb threats directed at Virginia Tech; the first at Torgersen Hall, the second at multiple engineering buildings. The university had offered a $5,000 reward for information on these threats.
Police do not know if the incidents are connected and are trying to establish a link.
West Ambler Johnston Hall
Two people, one male and one female were shot and killed at West Ambler Johnston Hall, in what police initially were led to believe was a domestic incident. That building was secured immediately by police, who had "reason to believe " that the gunman had already left the building.
Police, who were hiding behind trees and other cover at the time, told students to "get out of there". Matt Waldron, a student at Virginia Tech, claims that two students panicked and jumped out of the top story of West Ambler Johnston Hall, which houses at least 895 male and female students out of Virginia Tech's student population of over 26,000. One student broke his leg, while another was described as "not in good shape".
The second shooting occurred approximately two hours after the first at Norris Hall. In this incident 31 people died, including the gunman. Police indicated that he had taken his own life.
Video taken from the cell phone camera of Jamal Albarghouti watches police move into position as 27 shots (some fired in continuous bursts) are fired inside Norris within the small time it was recording. The weapon or weapons involved have been speculated to be either a pair of 9mm handguns or a single 9mm handgun with a .22 caliber handgun, although the police declined to reveal the weapon or weapons used by the shooter.
The video also gives a loud bang at the end. This has been speculated to be some kind of an instrument or tactical explosive used by police (the doors to Norris Hall were found to be chained), or whether it is a separate weapon used by the shooter is still unclear.
Officials believe that the shooter at Norris Hall was an Asian male in his 20s who was wearing a maroon cap and a leather jacket.
The university has canceled all classes, and is urging students to stay indoors and away from windows, even though the police had already taken one person into custody. The university also requests that "persons off campus not come to campus".
A message posted on the Virginia Tech web page said that classes will be canceled today and tomorrow. Faculty and students have been told to evacuate the campus. All 23 schools in Montgomery County, VA, are on lockdown.
President George W. Bush was made aware of the shootings and according to the White House said, "thoughts and prayers for those who are dealing with this." Senate majority and minority leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell led a prayer service and moment of silence for the faculty, students, and everyone at Virginia Tech during the Senate floor session. House speaker Nancy Pelosi led a prayer and moment of silence on the House floor.
Charles W. Steger, President of Virginia Tech, said the following in a news conference:
|“||Today, the university was struck with a tragedy we consider to be of monumental proportion. There were two shootings which occurred on campus. In each case, there are fatalities. The university is shocked, and indeed horrified. I want to extend my deepest and most sincere and profound sympathies to the families of these victims, which include our students.
At about 7:15 this morning, a 911 call came to the university Police Department concerning an event in West Ambler Johnston Hall. There were multiple shooting victims. While in the process of investigating, about two hours later, the university received reports of a shooting at Norris Hall. The police immediately responded. The shooter in Norris Hall is deceased. There are multiple fatalities. The number of fatalities has not been confirmed, victims have been transported to various hospitals in the immediate area and the region to receive emergency treatment. We will proceed to notify the next of kin as the victims' identities are available.
In a press conference aired on television, President Bush said "Schools should be places of safety, sanctuary and learning, when that sanctuary is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom in every American community."
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