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By Patricia Zengerle
BLACKSBURG, Va., April 16 A gunman killed 32
people at a Virginia university, many of them students
attending class, and then shot himself dead on Monday in the
deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history.
Most of those killed were students attending classes at a
hall at Virginia Tech, where the gunman apparently used chains
to lock doors before shooting the victims, university and
police officials said.
Fifteen people were wounded, included those shot and
students hurt jumping from windows in a desperate attempt to
escape the gunfire, officials said.
One student told CBS News the killer was an Asian male,
about 6 feet (1.8 metres) tall, who walked into his German
class and shot a student and professor before systematically
shooting nearly all of the other students in the room.
"I hid under the desk and he proceeded to shoot everybody
else in the class, practically," said Derek O'Dell, who
suffered an gunshot wound in his arm. "There were probably 15
to 20 people in the class and he shot 10 to 15 of them."
He said the gunman, who was wearing a black leather coat
and maroon hat, fired several shots from a handgun, reloaded
and resumed shooting. The man left the room, but later returned
and fired into the door before leaving again, O'Dell said.
Television images of terrified students and police dragging
bloody victims out of the building revived memories of the
infamous Columbine High School massacre in 1999 and is likely
to renew heated debate about U.S. gun laws.
The rampage began two hours earlier at a dormitory a
half-mile (0.8 km) away where a male and a female student were
shot dead as other students began crisscrossing the sprawling
campus for morning classes.
University police said they had thought the first shooting
was an isolated incident and believed the gunman had left the
campus, drawing criticism that they were slow to warn other
students of the danger.
Virginia Tech campus police chief Wendell Flinchum said the
gunman was a male, but gave no details of his age or
nationality nor on what kind of gun he used. While he would not
confirm there was only one gunman, Flinchum said police were
not looking for another suspect.
A student's video of the chaos was replayed repeatedly on
U.S. television networks. It showed people scurrying around the
campus as more than two dozen shots rang out.
"Today our nation grieves with those who have lost loved
ones at Virginia Tech," President George W. Bush said.
The death toll was worse than a massacre at the University
of Texas in Austin on Aug. 1, 1966, when Charles Whitman, a
25-year-old student, killed 13 people and wounded 31 in a
Students told CNN there were multiple bomb threats to the
Virginia Tech campus in the last few weeks. Two of the threats
were aimed at the university's science and engineering school.
TWO HOURS BETWEEN ATTACKS
The first shooting was reported to campus police at about
7:15 a.m. (1115 GMT) in West Ambler Johnston Hall, a dormitory
housing some 900 students. It was followed by more shooting at
Norris Hall, site of the science and engineering school that
has given the university much of its fame as a leading
technical institute in the United States.
During the two hours after the first shooting some students
had ventured out again. University police were still
investigating the first shooting at the dormitory when they got
word of gunfire at the classroom building.
"I'm really at a loss for words to explain or understand
the carnage that has visited our campus," Virginia Tech
President Charles Steger said at a news conference.
Steger, facing questions over the university's initial
response, stressed that its efforts to alert students could not
possibly reach the thousands of people moving around the campus
at the start of the school day.
"We had no reason to suspect any other incident was going
to occur," Steger said of the first shooting.
More than 30,000 people die from gunshot wounds in the
United States every year and there are more guns in private
hands than in any other country. But a powerful gun lobby and
support for gun ownership rights has largely thwarted attempts
to tighten controls.
In 1999, two student gunmen killed 12 other students and a
teacher before killing themselves at Columbine High School in
"We live in a society where guns are pretty well accepted,"
said Jim Sollo, of Virginians Against Handgun Violence. "There
are 200 million guns in this society and obviously some in the
Virginia Tech, with 26,000 students and some 100 buildings
on 2,600 acres (1,050 hectares), is located in the town of
Blacksburg and set in lush rolling hills in the southwest
corner of the state, about 240 miles (390 km) from Washington.
FACTBOX-Shootings at U.S. schools [ID:nN16334217]
FACTBOX-School shootings around the world [ID:nN16315150]
Debate over U.S. gun violence [ID:nN16328198]
(Additional reporting by Peter Szekely, John O'Callaghan,
Sandra Maler, David Storey, David Alexander and David