Reporting Kai Jackson
BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Nearly five years after Virginia Tech suffered the worst shooting rampage in U.S. history, a gunman opens fire on campus again.
As Kai Jackson reports, the shooting dredges up difficult, shocking memories.
We’re learning more about the shooting suspect– a person, police say, is responsible for a second shooting at Virginia Tech.
Virginia State Police have identified the gunman as 22-year-old Ross Ashley. He was a part-time student at nearby Radford University. But they still don’t know why he targeted 39-year-old Officer Deriek Crouse during a routine traffic stop on campus and shot him.
“That’s very much the fundamental part of the investigation right now is determining for what reason this man approached Officer Crouse and took his life,” said Corinne Geller of the Virginia State Police.
Police found the suspect about a half mile away in a parking lot. He had changed clothes to try to throw police off. As an officer approached, he shot and killed himself.
Heavily armed police, including SWAT teams, flooded the campus, which was locked down for hours.
The scene was sadly familiar for Virginia Tech; 32 students were killed and 17 injured in the 2007 massacre.
Colin Goddard was in the spring of his senior year when the gunman shot him four times and hid in his classroom.
He talked with Jessica Kartalija in April.
“I was in total disbelief what was going on,” Goddard said. “Bullets started coming through our door, and everyone hit the floor. I just dove under the desk, had nowhere to go and tried to act like I was already dead.”
Goddard still has three of the four bullets in his body and a metal rod in his leg, but he considers himself lucky. Of the 17 students in his class that day, he’s one of only seven who survived.
Now is with the James Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence. He spends his days on Capitol Hill lobbying lawmakers for universal background checks so anytime anyone sells a gun, there’s a background check.
“I’m not talking about removing all guns or banning guns,” Goddard said. “I’m trying to make sure we do a better job checking people so guns go into the hands of the good guys, not the bad guys.”
As Virginia Tech mourns gun violence once again, it’s hard for the school not to look back at that difficult day in 2007.
“We’re all here because of an angry young man who had easy access to violent killing weapons four years ago,” Larry Hincker of Virginia Tech Relations said. “There’s no way though that anyone ever becomes numb to the pain that you feel when your campus is visited by violence.”
The university said the alert system implemented after the 2007 mass slaying worked exactly as expected with updated text messages going out to students every few minutes.
Gigi Barnett spoke to several students from Maryland who were on campus while the shootings unfolded.
As police search for a motive for the crime, Maryland students who go to Virginia Tech say they’re relieved that the gunman is not one of their own.
Virginia Tech police and students spent the last 24 hours on high alert after a gunman shot and killed one of their own and threw the campus into chaos.
Final exams were set to start Friday. Now, they’re on hold.
“It makes me really angry that someone would come on our campus and give us that name again,” Lindsey Tinkersley, a Virginia Tech student from Maryland, said. “Give us that name that our campus is unsafe.”
Tinkersley is a Hereford High graduate and she talked with WJZ through Skype. She says the campus is trying to return to normal and fears that others will believe the campus is unsafe.
“It’s just sad that we’ve gotten a name for this but it’s not like that here. It’s really safe,” Tinkersley said.
Tinkersley remembers receiving several campus alerts on her cell phone from police minutes after the shooting. They were similar to to the ones students received back in 2007 after a massacre that killed 32 people.
Virginia Tech student and Hereford High graduate Karley Haldeman says people did a better job keeping students posted about the shooting this time.
“There were tons of rumors flying around. So it was hard to discern what was true and what wasn’t,” Haldeman said.
Friday night, students are planning a vigil to remember the slain officer.
Tinkersley says it will bring closure to the campus.
“It makes me emotional to say this but I cannot imagine to put my life for other people that you don’t even know. He gave his life for us,” Tinkersley said.
The Virginia Tech students that WJZ talked with say that their parents were concerned at first. After receiving phone calls and texts about the shooting. But now that they know their children are OK, they’re fine.