Virginia Tech officials report that a police officer and one other victim have been shot and killed on the school's campus, prompting Virginia State Police to take over the investigation as the school reels from its second on-campus shooting in five years.
Virginia Tech confirmed to news sources around 1:00 p.m. that a shooting had taken place on campus and that a police officer and unidentified second victim had been shot. No suspect has been identified so far, but the shootings have occured in the same week that families of the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre victims moved to fine the school for its slow response four and a half years ago.
Virginia Tech Launches Campus-Wide Alert
The shootings began near the Coliseum parking lot on the Virginia Tech campus. Thursday was a designated reading day' before end-of-semester exams, so no classes were in session.
A campus-wide alert was issued shortly after the shooting was reported, and students and faculty were advised to stay inside with the doors locked. A second victim was found in the Cage parking lot shortly afterwards.
The reaction time of Virginia Tech officials was much faster than in a similar case almost five years ago, when a lone gunman shot two students in a dorm room two hours before going on a shooting rampage that claimed over 30 lives. Within an hour after a police officer was reported shot, multiple agencies were involved, including the FBI and Virginia State Police, who are taking the lead in the investigation, a statement by Virginia Tech confirmed.
The first shooting, which occurred during a routine traffic stop by the unidentified Virginia Tech police officer, comes four and a half years after the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre on April 16, 2007, another on-campus shooting that claimed 32 student and faculty lives before shooter Seung-Hui Cho committed suicide.
Cho, 23, wounded an additional 25 students and faculty members before turning the gun on himself. The massacre was the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history, and the worst mass shooting of college students since Syracuse University lost 36 students in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.
A Virginia Tech Review Panel was completed in August 2007, with more than 127 pages devoted to Cho's troubled history, faulting university officials for failing to share information about Cho's past that might have prevented the shooting and criticizing Virginia tech's counseling center.
An Education Department report released in May 2010, meanwhile, claimed Virginia Tech failed to comply with a federal law that requires quick alerts to students in the event of campus emergencies. Though Virginia Tech contested the findings, saying the school could only act based on the best information then available, investigators stuck by their contention that the school failed to respond in a timely manner.
In the immediate aftermath of the shooting and for years afterward, friends and family of the victims slammed Virginia Tech for its slow response time to reports of the massacre. Cho began his shooting spree by killing two people in an on-campus dorm-room, but it was only two hours later, when Cho went to the college's Norris Hall, that word spread to authorities of the shooter loose on campus.
Virginia Tech Hearing Happening This Week
In fact, parents of the Virginia Tech shooting victims testified only yesterday that they believed their children would have been alive today if the university has followed proper protocol, and senior VA Tech cops and officials were all in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 8 to appeal the resulting fine for their handling of the shooting.
James Moore, an Education Department official speaking with the parents, told ED administrative judge Ernest C. Canellos, pushed for Virginia Tech to face a heavy fine (up to $27,500 per violation) for failing to follow the Clery Act, which require timely and appropriate reporting of on-campus incidents to the proper authorities.
Moore testified in the 2007 case that there were shell casings and bloody footprints in the dorm room, but no suspect and no weapon at the scene, all reasons the university should have acted quickly to notify the authorities.
Suzanne Grimes meanwhile, the mother of injured student Kevin Sterne, said her son's injuries and other students' deaths could easily have been prevented. He was never informed, Grimes said, according to a Fox News report.
Two Shootings Connected?
Coming as it does in the same week that families victimized by the 2007 Virginia Tech shooting testify against the university,the most recent shooting at the college has led some news sources to speculate that the two on-campus shootings may be linked.
Virginia State police had no comment on whether or not the two shootings could be connected, or whether the shooter could be an admirer of Cho's from some years ago. Campus police referred all questions to university officials.
Dana Cruikshank, communications manager at Virginia Tech's College of Architecture and Urban Studies, said there was nothing to indicate that the 2011 shootings that occurred today were connected to the 2007 massacre by Seung-Hui Cho.