At least 31 dead in Va. Tech shooting rampage
Gunman shoots 30 people in a dorm, second building; suspect also dead
NBC, MSNBC and news services
Updated: 25 minutes ago
BLACKSBURG, Va. - A gunman opened fire in a dormitory and a classroom at a college in Virginia on Monday, killing at least 30 people in the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history. The gunman also was killed, and at least 22 other people were injured.
“Today the university was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions,” said Charles Steger, president of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, in southwest Virginia. “The university is shocked and indeed horrified.”
The shootings spread panic and confusion at the college, which is popularly known as Virginia Tech. Witnesses reporting students jumping out the windows of a classroom building to escape the gunfire.
Authorities said the gunman was dead after he shot more than 50 people at two locations on campus. Thirty-one, including the gunman, were confirmed dead, NBC News reported.
At least 22 others were being treated at Montgomery Regional Hospital in Blacksburg and Lewis-Gale Medical Center in Salem, the hospitals said. Six of the victims were in surgery, and five were reported in stable condition. The conditions of the 17 others was not immediately reported.
The name of the gunman was not released. It was not immediately clear whether he shot himself or was killed by police.
The man did not appear to be shooting at random, NBC News’ Pete Williams reported, quoting federal law enforcement officials. He appeared to have specifically targeted the two locations, a co-ed dormitory and a classroom housing engineering and business classes.
Law enforcement officials said the gunman carried two weapons, a 9-mm pistol and a 22-caliber handgun, Williams reported. They said gunman chained the doors of the classroom building so his potential victims could not escape and police could not enter.
Richard Kolko in Washington, a spokesman for the FBI in Washington, said there was no immediate evidence to suggest it was a terrorist attack, “but all avenues will be explored.”
Silent gunman ‘just started shooting’
A student in the engineering class describe an “unreal” scene with “blood pretty much everywhere.”
“None of us thought it could have been gunshots,” the student, who identified himself as Trey Perkins, told MSNBC’s Chris Jansing in a telephone interview. “... I’m not sure how long it lasted. It seemed like a really long time.”
Perkins said the gunman never said a word. “He didn’t say, ‘Get down.’ He didn’t say anything.” He just started shooting.”
The gunman left the classroom and then tried to return, but students kept him out by bracing the door closed with their feet. “He started to try to come in again and started shooting through the door,” Perkins said, but hit no one.
“I got on the ground and I was just thinking, like, there’s no way I’m going to survive this,” Perkins said. “All I could keep thinking of was my mom.”
Until Monday, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history was in Killeen, Texas, in 1991, when George Hennard drove his pickup into a Luby’s Cafeteria and shot 23 people to death, then himself.
The deadliest previous 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, Colo., in 1999, two teenagers killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before taking their own lives.
The rampage began about 7:15 a.m. ET at West Ambler Johnston, a coeducational residence hall that houses 895 people. The campus was still under lockdown, with students asked to stay indoors and away from the windows, when authorities got word of more gunfire about two hours later at Norris Hall, a classroom building.
Some but not all of the dead were students. One student was killed in the dorm, and the others were killed in the classroom, said Virginia Tech Police Chief W.R. Flinchum.
After Monday’s shootings at Virginia Tech, all entrances to the campus were closed. The university set up a meeting place for families to reunite with their children at the Inn at Virginia Tech. It also made counselors available and planned a convocation for Tuesday at the Cassell Coliseum basketball arena.
Campus, community left stunned
Jamal Albarghouti, a graduate student, said that instead of fleeing, he began shooting video footage on his cell phone.
“I’m from the Middle East, so I’m not used to this sort of thing, but I’ve been in similar situations,” Albarghouti told MSNBC-TV.
“I heard many gunshots,” perhaps 10 to 15 in just 30 seconds, he said. “I don’t know who made the shots, whether it was the cops or the shooter.”
Albarghouti and other students described a stunned campus and surrounding community after the shootings.
Derek O’Dell, a sophomore biology major, told MSNBC-TV that it was “very surreal.”
“At first, I thought it was joke,” O’Dell said. “You don’t really think of a gunman coming on campus and shooting people.”
Albarghouti said: “Everybody here is sad, and you can see that all over. ... We are really looking forward to the end of this, when Blacksburg becomes a really nice town once again.”
Bomb threats last two weeks
Police said there had been bomb threats on campus over the past two weeks but that they had not determined a link to the shootings.
Dana Perino, a White House spokeswoman, said President Bush was horrified by the rampage and offered his prayers to the victims and the people of Virginia.
“The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed,” Perino said.
It was second time in less than a year that the campus was closed because of a shooting.
In August, the opening day of classes was canceled and the campus was 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.