News

22 dead in shootings on Virginia Tech campus

Mike Holtzclaw
Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) (MCT)

At least 22 Virginia Tech students are dead and many others have been injured in a pair of campus shootings Monday.

Initial reports said there was only one fatality, but at a noon news conference officials at the Blacksburg, Va., campus announced that there were more than 20, and more than two dozen others injured. At the news conference, the officials also said the gunman himself was dead, though earlier reports had him in police custody.

In TV news reports, witnesses described the gunman as a young Asian man.

The assaults took place in the West Amblin Johnston Hall dormitory and the Norris Hall classroom building. None of the victims or suspects has been identified by police.

"Police have one shooter in custody, and as part of routine police procedure they continue to search for a second shooter," the university said in a written statement.

The first shooting occurred at West Ambler Johnston Hall, a co-ed dormitory with 895 students. The second shooting was at Norris Hall a short time later.

Steve Mehr, a Virginia Tech freshman, said he knew something was wrong before he heard about the shooting.

"I was walking home from my 9 o'clock class and hearing sirens everywhere," he said. "I had no idea what it was about, but people were running to their dorms and the buildings were locked down, so you had to have your key card to get in If that's happening, you know something's going on."

Mehr described the campus as being in "a very hectic state."

He said he has a friend on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston Hall, where the first shooting took place. As he spoke by phone from his fifth-floor dorm room in Pritchard Hall, he looked out the window and described heavily armed police officers on the grounds. At one point, he said he heard gunfire - "a lot of gunfire" - but he later said the officers appeared to be checking the area.

Brenden Hill of Newport News, Va., who graduated from Virginia Tech in December and still lives just off campus, was still waiting for more information on the shootings, which prompted university officials to lock down the campus.

"The weather has been so bad out here that I don't know if a lot of students were out in the first place," Hill said. "The weird thing is that we've had some bomb threats the last couple of weeks, and everybody is a little frustrated with the Blacksburg Police Department. The campus police is usually pretty good about getting information out to us, but there's very limited information being distributed on this thing today."

On Friday, a bomb threat on campus forced the cancellation of classes in three buildings, and earlier this month the Torgerson Hall dormitory was evacuated after a bomb threat.

Hill, a football player who still works out on campus while preparing for the NFL draft, said he was planning to go to the athletic complex - very close to West Amblin Johnston Hall - later in the day.

"But everything is shut down right now," he said. "I'm worried about some of my teammates over there. I hope they're all OK."

___

(Staff writer Norm Wood contributed to this report.)

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