virginia shooting 298.
(photo credit: AP Photo/The Roanoke Times, Alan Kim)
A gunman massacred 32 people at Virginia Tech in the deadliest shooting rampage in modern US history, cutting down his victims in two attacks two hours apart before the university could grasp what was happening and get the warning out to students.
The bloodbath ended Monday with the gunman committing suicide, bringing the death toll to 33 and stamping the campus in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains with unspeakable tragedy, perhaps forever.
The US Embassy confirmed late Monday night that no Israeli citizens were harmed in the shooting, Army Radio reported.
Investigators gave no motive for the attack. The gunman's name was not immediately released, and it was not known if he was a student.
"Today the university was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions," Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said. "The university is shocked and indeed horrified."
But he was also faced with difficult questions about the university's handling of the emergency and whether it did enough to warn students and protect them after the first burst of gunfire. Some students bitterly complained they got no warning from the university until an e-mail that arrived more than two hours after the first shots rang out.
Wielding two handguns and carrying multiple clips of ammunition, the killer opened fire about 7:15 a.m. (1115 GMT) on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston, a high-rise coed dormitory, then stormed Norris Hall, a classroom building a half-mile away on the other side of the 2,600-acre (1,052-hectare) campus. Some of the doors at Norris Hall were found chained from the inside, apparently by the gunman.
Two people died in a dorm room, and 31 others were killed in Norris Hall, including the gunman, who put a bullet in his head. At least 15 people were hurt, some seriously.
Students jumped from windows in panic. Young people and faculty members carried out some of the wounded themselves, without waiting for ambulances to arrive. Many found themselves trapped behind the chained and padlocked doors. Police commando team members with helmets, flak jackets and assault rifles swarmed over the campus. A student used his cell-phone camera to record the sound of bullets echoing through a stone building.
Trey Perkins, who was sitting in a German class in Norris Hall, told The Washington Post that the gunman barged into the room at about 9:50 a.m. (1350 GMT) and opened fire for about a minute and a half, squeezing off 30 shots in all.
The gunman, Perkins said, first shot the professor in the head and then fired on the students. Perkins said the gunman was about 19 years old and had a "very serious but very calm look on his face."
"Everyone hit the floor at that moment," said Perkins, 20, of Yorktown, Virginia, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering. "And the shots seemed like it lasted forever."
Erin Sheehan, who was also in the German class, told the student newspaper, the Collegiate Times, said she was one of only four of the approximately two dozen people in the class to walk out of the room. The rest were dead or wounded, she said.
"It seemed so strange," Sheehan said. The gunman "peeked in twice, earlier in the lesson, like he was looking for someone, somebody, before he started shooting. But then we all heard something like drilling in the walls, and someone thought they sounded like bullets. That's when we blockaded the door to stop anyone from coming in."
She said the gunman "was just a normal-looking kid, Asian, but he had on a Boy Scout-type outfit. He wore a tan button-up vest, and this black vest, maybe it was for ammo or something."
"I saw bullets hit people's body," Sheehan said. "There was blood everywhere." She added, "My professor, Herr Bishop, I'm not sure if he's alive."
Students said that there were no public-address announcements on campus after the first shots. Many said they learned of the first shooting in an e-mail that arrived shortly before the gunman struck again.
"I think the university has blood on their hands because of their lack of action after the first incident," said Billy Bason, 18, who lives on the seventh floor of the dorm.
"If you had apprehended a suspect, I could understand having classes even after two of your students have perished. But when you don't have a suspect in a college environment and to put the students in a situation where they're congregated in large numbers in open buildings, that's unacceptable to me."
Steger defended the university's handling of the tragedy, saying authorities believed that the shooting at the dorm was a domestic dispute and mistakenly thought the gunman had fled the campus.
"We had no reason to suspect any other incident was going to occur," he said.