A lovers' tiff in the dormitory... then the university killer began his rampage
UK Daily Mail | April 17, 2007
Terrified students lined up against the wall of their classroom and shot, execution-style.
Doors chained shut by the killer to keep his victims in and police out. Blood-soaked bodies piled on top of each other.
These were the scenes of almost inconceivable horror at Virginia Tech University yesterday as a gunman claimed at least 32 lives before killing himself.
He was said to have quarrelled in a dormitory with his girlfriend, whom he believed had been seeing another man. A student adviser was called to sort out the row. But the killer produced a gun and shot dead both his girlfriend and the adviser.
Two hours later he rampaged through an engineering building on the other side of the campus in the town of Blacksburg, killing indiscriminately.
Student Matt Maroney said: "He had an ungodly amount of ammo on him. He was just dressed in a vest filled with clips and started firing away at classrooms."
Another witness said of the killer: "He had a smile on his face but there was no emotion in his eyes."
Last night, with 15 more victims injured and the death toll expected to rise further, police and university authorities faced stark questions about their failure to act during the crucial two hours and prevent America's worst-ever massacre.
Some students continued their work unaware there was a killer in their midst, while university authorities merely sent round an email saying that a shooting was being investigated.
The gunman was said to be of Asian appearance and dressed in maroon hat, leather jacket and black-military style shooting vest.
He had ammunition strapped across his chest as he calmly walked from room to room refilling his two 9mm handguns as he shot students.
He locked the doors of several classrooms to stop anyone escaping. Some terrified students jumped for their lives from fourthfloor windows, while others used desks to barricade doors.
Student David Jenkins said: "I know one person who was in a room when the shooter came in and everyone was shot. To escape this person lay on the floor and played dead."
Several teachers were among those shot. Student Derek O'Dell, who was hit in the arm, spoke of his terror as he faced the killer.
"He came into our room and started shooting," he said.
"He let off a full round of bullets and I was probably one of ten or 15 people hit. There was no warning. It was just random shooting. He didn't say anything. He just shot and left. A lot of my classmates were hit, and possibly my professor too.
"The people who were less critical like myself were able to hold the door shut because he tried to get back inside our room. He tried shooting through the door at us.
"Then the police came into our hall and cleared the hall and we all managed to get out to where ambulances were waiting for us."
Virginia Tech president Charles Steger said: "The university was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions ... the university is shocked and indeed horrified."
He said authorities at first believed that the first shooting at the dorm was a domestic dispute and that the gunman had fled the campus.
He added: "We can only make decisions based on the information you had on the time. You don't have hours to reflect on it."
The sprawling 2,600-acre campus of 25,000 students housed in 100 buildings had been closed down twice in the last ten days after bomb scares.
It was unclear whether the bomb threats were related or whether the gunman had any possible terror associations.
The first shootings yesterday took place at 7.15am (12.15pm British time) at the West Ambler Johnston complex, a coeducational hall of residence which houses 895 students.
Security there is said to have been tight with individual identity passes used to enter the dormitory complex.
An immediate lockdown was ordered with students told to remain in their rooms and away from windows as police and security officials swamped the area.
As some students fled the scene, they were tackled to the ground and handcuffed by police seeking to stop the killer fleeing in the chaos.
However other students around the campus were allowed to leave for their 8am classes.
Police said they were still investigating the shooting at the dormitory when authorities got word of gunfire at Norris Hall, the engineering building.
The gunman appeared to pick his victims indiscriminately. Some, for no apparent reason, he spared. Others he shot from less than 10ft away.
He is then said to have turned one of his guns on himself despite still having ammunition available.
Student Jason Piatt said: "I'm pretty outraged that someone died in a shooting in a dorm at 7am and the first email about it had no mention of locking down the campus, no mention of cancelling classes.
"They just mentioned that they were investigating a shooting. That's pretty ridiculous. Meanwhile, while they sent out that email, all these people got killed."
Student Matt Maloney told how terrified students used desks to barricade themselves in their classrooms as the gunman walked down the main corridor blasting off shots.
He said he saw several badly wounded students being led away while others had been injured leaping for their lives from upstairs windows.
Josh Wargo was one of those who jumped. He said: "I was in an engineering class. We all of a sudden heard loud banging noises. We heard screaming through the walls and everyone started to panic and jumping out of the windows.
"We heard 40 or 50 shots. They went on for almost two minutes. The window I jumped out of was two or three storeys up. When I landed I was in a daze, standing outside of the building. Some of my friends got shot. They told me my professor was shot in the face."
Tiffany Otey, who was one floor up in the Norris Building, said that when the gunfire started she and about 20 other students went to a teacher's office and locked the door.
"The gunshots were going off downstairs and half of our classmates were downstairs," said Miss Otey.
"We were just sitting there as if the shooter was going to come up the next floor.
"Maybe ten minutes later we were in the room when police arrived. They told us to put our hands above our heads and if we did not put our hands above our heads we will shoot you. We were running out of the building freaking out."
The shooting will re-open the often heated debate over gun controls in the U.S., whose Constitution declares that the people's right to bear arms must not be infringed.
A sombre President Bush went on TV last night to say: "Schools should be places of safety, sanctuary and learning. When that sanctuary is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom, in every American community.
"We hold the victims in our hearts. We lift them up in our prayers."
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