Associate Vice President for University Relations Larry Hincker, University President Charles Steger, VA Tech deputy chief Gene Deisinger and Sergeant Bob Carpentieri of the Virginia state police met with local and national media to discuss the shooting of a police officer and another victim on the VA Tech campus today.
Before the media briefing began, reports came in that the second body, initially believed to be that of another victim, could in fact be the original shooter. Investigators also said that they don't believe the person involved in the traffic stop was the shooter, but that the shooter walked up to his victim from the parking lot entrance.
University officials and police officers answered what questions they could, while edging away from absolute confirmations as reports continue to flood in.
Below, a live blog of the press conference.
Larry Hincker expresses his sadness at the tragedy. I am exceedingly sorry and upset that we have to meet again under these circumstances, he tells reporters.
He then confirms that the general campus alert has been lifted, and says he, President Steger, Gene Deisinger and Sgt. Bob Carpentieri are all here to tell reporters whatever information is available. We're going to tell you as much as we can, and much as we know.
He then turns the mike over to President Charles Steger.
As you all know today, tragedy again struck Virginia Tech in a wanton act of violence, Steger says. Words don't describe our feelings, and they're most elusive at this time.
He says: Our hearts are broken again, for the family of our police officer, and we extend our deepest sympathy and condolences.
Gene Deisinger, deputy chief of Virginia Tech police department, says police received a report saying the suspect had approach the officer while the officer was covering a routine traffic stop for someone else. This contradicts earlier reports that it was the suspect who was initially pulled over.
Earlier today, the VA Tech community lost one of its guardians, Deisinger says. He also notes that after the first alert, which happened almost immediately after the officer failed to respond to a request for an update, local law enforcement agencies were contacted immediately.
At approximately 1:00pm, an officer observed a suspicious subject near the lot [I Lot, also known as the Cage]. When the officer followed the man, he found him dead of a gunshot wound.
Though Deisinger won't say that the second victim is the shooting suspect, he does note that since the time of the second incident, there have been no other founded reports.
Sgt. Bob Carpentieri of the Virginia State Police takes the mike. He confirms that the dead officers served on the Virginia Tech force for four years in the patrol division, but would not disclose his identity.
Carpentieri confirmed that a weapon had been recovered, but would not disclose the exact location of the recovery, nor say what caliber the weapon was.
Crime scene investigators are presently processing these scenes, Carpentieri says, noting reporters' likely frustration at the limited amount of information available.
We are going to be limited in what we can say, he says. because we don't want to jeopardize this case... [but] we feel confident that the situation is under control at this time.
Asked if the second dead man was the same person who was initially the subject of the traffic stop, Carpentieri says no. The shooter walked up to the officer while he was dealing with a separate traffic incident.
Hincker takes a moment to thank Virginia Tech and State Police (we very much appreciate their protection) and the student body for their cooperation.
That's the way it's supposed to work, he says, referencing the emergency system, and we thank you.
The floor is opened for questions.
Sgt. Carpentieri has no comment at this time regarding whether any students were involved in the shooting.
Frustrated by repetitive questions on what information officials can disclose, Carpentieri takes to the mike again.
There's a lot of people to be interviewed, he says. The crime scenes are still up, we're still out there, there's a lot going on behind the scenes that you don't know about... and investigators have to compare notes.
Was the officer who was shot sitting in his patrol car at the time? We don't know.
Hincker addresses the information gap once more.
I hope you'll understand why we're here, he says. In this day and age of instant communication, everyone wants to know what's going on... were all trying to figure out what's going on. We're doing the best we can.
There are still unknowns yet, Hincker continued, but we're here in the spirit of disclosure, so that you can go do what you need to do, which is tell your readers what you need to address.
Is this the first time a VA Tech officer was killed in the line of duty?
I believe it is, Deisinger says.
Reporters ask whether the officer may have been specifically targeted, but officials say they can't speculate on that yet.
Steger addresses the differences between getting the word out in 2007 and sending out the alert today. Hincker adds that we're gonna do our best to put a timeline together, in order to determine what happened when and how long each response time took.
It's important to point out, as Deisinger said, a call came into them [police] at about... just before 12:30, and at 12:46 our officers dispatched a call through the alert system.
An armed robbery in Radford, Va. Comes up in connection to the Virginia Tech shootings. That's still a possibility, and that's still under investigation, yes, Carpentieri says.
What about reports of a maroon Mitsubishi at the scene?
I don't know anything about a maroon Mitsubishi.
Steger says the Virginia Tech community is rocked by the second tragedy. This brings back some very difficult memories of the past, he tells reporters, before saying that the university is setting up counseling support as we speak.
Deisinger addresses how the other officers are coping.
As you can imagine, this is a very difficult time, not only for members of our department but for our brothers and sisters across the region, he says.
Officials cannot confirm how many students were on campus when the shootings occurred, but estimated the figure to be around 16,000-20,000.
The person involved in the initial traffic stop is being interviewed. Police will not say that there is only one shooter, but Sgt. Carpentieri suggests in his response that there were not two or more shooters involved. He also would not outright confirm that the second victim is in fact the shooter.
Investigators feel confident that we've located the person... you can kind of read between the lines, [but] I can't address that, he said.
Deisinger confirms that the dead officer's family has been contacted, and explains that part of the reason they haven't released his name is because they're still trying to reach his extended family.
Sgt. Carpentieri cannot disclose the second victim's identity or comment on a possible motive.
When other information becomes available, then we will pass it along to you... it's a long, drawn-out process. This is probably going to go on for weeks.
One brave reporter asks this question: Can one of you talk about the timing of the shooting in relation to the appeal in Washington [involving the Clery Act]?
Larry Hincker seems quite taken aback by the question. I beg your pardon? he asks, before saying, that's a degree of speculation that... I don't see how I can answer that. I just don't know how to answer that.
Hincker takes the mike again as the conference closes.
I want to answer your question again, he says. We don't know the motive of this tragedy on our campus... one would have to assume that this is simply highly coincidental. He does say, however, that there's always the possibility that it could be otherwise.