* Gunman found dead after shooting, news reports say
* 'Words don't describe our feelings'
By Rick Rothacker
BLACKSBURG, Va., Dec 8 A gunman ambushed and
killed a campus police officer and was later reported to have
been found dead on Thursday at Virginia Tech University, the
site of one of the worst shooting rampages in U.S. history.
Authorities declared the campus safe and lifted a lock-down
after a nearly four-hour manhunt, seeming to lend credence to
television news reports that a body found in a Virginia Tech
parking lot was that of the shooter.
Police at a televised news conference declined to say
whether they suspected a murder-suicide and offered no motive
for the crime, citing an ongoing investigation.
"Today tragedy again struck Virginia Tech with a wanton act
of violence where a police officer was murdered during a
routine traffic stop," Virginia Tech President Charles Steger
told reporters. "Words don't describe our feelings."
The place where the officer was shot is in a parking lot in
the shadows of the Virginia Tech football stadium. Small groups
of students stood nearby as police removed yellow tape from
around the crime scene on Thursday evening.
Second-year student Fuller Hoepner, 19, said he stayed
inside his apartment after he saw the school's emergency
message this afternoon: "shots fired."
"We did not move. We watched the news all day," he said.
The incident evoked grim memories of April 2007 when a
mentally deranged student killed 32 people and wounded 25
before committing suicide on the school's rural campus in the
Shenandoah Valley about 250 miles (400 km) southwest of
Washington. It was the deadliest attack by a single gunman in
A few dozen students gathered on Thursday evening at a
memorial for that attack, talking quietly among themselves. At
a stone memorializing one of the victims, a student left a note
on orange paper. It read: "We are the hokies," the name of the
school's sports teams. "We will prevail."
In Thursday's incident, the gunman walked up and shot to
death a four-year veteran of the campus police force during a
routine traffic stop, police said.
The man then fled on foot toward a nearby parking lot, and
a body was later found there along with a gun, police said.
But Sergeant Bob Carpentieri of the Virginia State Police
would not confirm the second body was that of the unidentified
He said, however, that investigators were looking at the
possibility the shooter was linked to an armed robbery earlier
in the day in the nearby town of Radford, Virginia.
Police, some in combat gear with assault rifles, swarmed
the campus after the shooting, while students and faculty were
ordered to hunker down inside university buildings and
'ACTIVE THREAT' ENDS
Hours later, the university declared an end to an "active
threat" on campus and told people to "resume normal
During the lock-down, parents of students sought
frantically to locate their children through cell phones and
social networking sites.
"Right now it's kind of scary and hectic around here that
this is happening again," Matthew Spencer, a first-year
Virginia Tech student, told a local NBC station before the
all-clear was given.
U.S. House of Representatives Republican Leader Eric Cantor
of Virginia was among the first members of Congress to weigh
in. "Such violence is never easy to explain, and cuts to our
core - especially on a campus that has experienced such grief
in the past," he said.
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell said: "I am deeply saddened
by today's news of another tragedy affecting the Virginia Tech
community. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of
those impacted by these shootings."
The school, formally known as Virginia Polytechnic
Institute and State University, was criticized for its slow
response to the 2007 incident and has since put a campus-wide
alert system in place.
Third-year student Allison Pisieczko, who was taking an
exam on campus when the alert went out, said the school did a
good job of notifying students and keeping them safe.
"There were police everywhere," Pisieczko said. "They were
sending messages all day long."
Autumn semester final exams that were scheduled for Friday
Student Elizabeth Sullivan said about 200 students were
sent to the second floor of the Squires Student Center from the
ground floor about an hour after the shooting.
Shortly afterward, a SWAT team arrived to pat down each
student and check every bag in the building.
"I was pretty nervous at first. I didn't really know what
was going on," Sullivan told a local NBC television station.
She said most students had been keeping in touch with their
families through Facebook and Twitter.
The 2007 Virginia Tech massacre renewed a chorus of calls
for tougher gun control laws, particularly in the U.S.
Those calls did not get far since Republican lawmakers have
traditionally opposed gun control and Democrats, having been
burned on the issue politically, did not push it.
Since taking office in January 2009, President Barack Obama
has shied away from stiffer gun laws despite demands for it by
members of his largely liberal base.