Good lord. I’ve been peeking at this story for hours and until a few minutes ago there was one reported dead and the gunman was in custody. Now the death toll is 22 and the gunman is supposedly dead too.
Update: Apparently one of the cops said at the presser that many of the dead were students in classrooms. The gunman had an ammo vest on and was unloading at will.
Update: They think there’s only one shooter, but verrrry odd: “Local FOX affiliate WFXR-TV in Richmond reported that one shooting occurred between 7:15 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. at West Ambler Johnston, and another at 10 a.m. at Norris Hall.”
Update: More oddness from Fox: “On April 13, the campus closed three of its academic halls after they received a letter stating that explosive devices were in the building. Classes were canceled for the remainder of the day. A bomb threat was also made against Torgerson Hall on April 2.”
Update: Someone told Fox — purely unconfirmed — that the suspect went into Norris Hall looking for his girlfriend, then lined a bunch of people up and shot them execution-style. The debate at the moment is what kind of weapon he must have had.
Update: The scene at Norris Hall:
Update: The press corps is already pushing Dana Perino about gun control. Drudge is pushing the other way.
Update (Ian): Gun control talk at the WH briefing:
Update: Just got this from a reader who says it was posted on his VTech frat listserv. Grain of salt:
Zach just got back and he told us his story. he can tell u the details better but he deserves to be recognized immediately. He was in norris hall and heard the gunshots comign from down the hall. while others hid in the class room zach got up and got a few others to help him baracade the door with desks. He could hear the gunman coming down the hall opening doors n firing into class rooms. Zach then saw his door handle turn and the gun man tried to get in but zach slammed the door back shut, others then got up to help, trying to hold the door shut with desks. zach then said he heard the the gunman reload a new magazine and fired two shots directly through the door, luckily didnt hit anybody. the gunman then gave up an continued down the hall
Update: 29 now, says ABC News. Now Fox says it’s 32, according to federal sources.
Update: Virginia Tech’s college newspaper is posting bulletins here.
Update: CNN’s got video taken by someone on campus this morning. You can see the cops approaching the building and hear rounds being fired in the background. Apologies for the relatively long commercial; I’ll replace this with an embeddable clip once it pops up on LiveLeak or wherever. Click the image to watch. Update: Okay, replaced it with a video sans commercial.
Update: Thinking on the Margin has a map of the campus and notes that there’s quite a bit of distance between the two scenes of the crimes.
Update: Fox is hearing that the gunman might have chained the doors shut to stop people from escaping.
Update: According to WaPo, this is now the deadliest shooting spree of any kind, on campus or off, in American history. And if Wikipedia is right, it’s already the third worst in modern world history.
Update: It might not be relevant, but the Blotter’s found its angle and it’s sticking to it.
Update: Bush is going to speak at 4:15. I can’t imagine he’ll have anything interesting to say but we’ll have video. Here’s a description of the suspect from NBC and a suggestion that this wasn’t as random as it might seem:
The name of the gunman, whom witnesses described as a young Asian man wearing a maroon cap and a black leather jacket, was not released. It was not known if he was a student.
The man did not appear to be shooting at random, NBC News’ Pete Williams reported, quoting federal law enforcement officials. He appeared to have specifically targeted the two locations, a co-ed dormitory and a classroom in an engineering building.
Update: Drudge just linked to this video at LiveLeak from MSNBC of one of the shooting victims describing the gunman. According to the victim, he emptied a full magazine into the room, hitting between 10 to 15 people.
Update (Ian): A moment of silence in the House:
Update: ABC News is collecting eyewitness reactions. The V Tech administration is in for a world of trouble, it sounds like: “Communication from college? I checked my e-mail about 8:30…I went to my class as I usually would. By 8:30 no one was notified that something had happened at 7. We went onto a dangerous campus not knowing…”
Update (Ian): Obama makes a statement:
Update: More complaints about the university being slow to notify students after the first shooting:
“What happened today this was ridiculous,” student Jason Piatt told CNN. He said the first warning from the university of a shooting on campus came in an e-mail about two hours after the first deadly burst of gunfire. “While they’re sending out that e-mail, 22 more people got killed,” Piatt said.
Update: Dan Riehl‘s following rumors on the V Tech sports bulletin board that the shooter caught his girlfriend in bed with someone and shot both of them. That doesn’t make sense, though; how often do crimes of passion turn into spree killings?
Update: It’s 33 now, according to the president of V Tech.
Update: Dan’s theory makes more sense if you assume that the killer had been dumped recently by his GF and went to her dorm intending to kill her in the first place. In that case he might have planned the rampage beforehand.
Update (Ian): President Bush said the nation is “shocked and saddened” at a 4pm press conference:
Update: NBC is reporting that the first warning to students didn’t go out until the shooting in Norris Hall had begun:
About 9:15, the gunman chained the doors of the classroom building so his potential victims could not escape and police could not enter. Once inside There, he shot more than 50 people in multiple classrooms.
Not until 9:26 a.m. did the first warning to students and employees go out by e-mail, according to the time stamps on copies obtained by NBC News. By then, the shooting was over.
The first e-mail had few details. It said: “A shooting incident occurred at West Amber Johnston earlier this morning. Police are on the scene and are investigating.” The message warned students to be cautious and contact police about anything suspicious.
Maurice Hiller, a student, told The Associated Press that he went to a 9 a.m. class just two buildings away from the engineering building and that no warnings were coming over the outdoor public address system on campus at the time.
Update: VTech student Erin Sheehan was in German class when the killer opened the door and “peeked in”:
“It seemed so strange,” Sheehan said. “Because he peaked 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.”
“He 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.
Update: I read somewhere earlier that it’s only a 10 minute walk or so between the dorm and Norris Hall. Where did the killer go between 7:15 and 9?
Update: Why wasn’t the school shut down after the first shooting? “According to Dr. Charles Steger, president of Virginia Tech, the administration locked down Ambler Johnston Hall dormitory after the first shooting. But classes weren’t cancelled because it was believed to be a domestic dispute and campus police thought that the shooter had left the campus.”
Update: Sounds like the cops know who the killer is. The 7:30 press conference is coming up; maybe they’re about to reveal.
Investigators offered no motive for the attack, reports CBS News correspondent Bob Orr. Police have been working on identifying the suspect and say they expect to release the name in the coming hours. When asked if the gunman was a student, police say “something like that,” indicating that perhaps he was a teaching assistant, reports Orr.
Update: The cops are being awfully coy about not linking the first shooting to the second, insisting that they’re waiting for lab tests to come back. The Chicago Sun-Times claims to have a hot tip about the killer’s — or one of the killers’ — ID:
Authorities were investigating whether the gunman who killed 32 people on the Virginia Tech campus in the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history was a Chinese man who arrived in the United States last year on a student visa.
The 24-year-old man arrived in San Francisco on United Airlines on Aug. 7 on a visa issued in Shanghai, the source said. Investigators have not linked him to any terrorist groups, the source said.
Police believe three bomb threats on the campus last week may have been attempts by the man to test the campus’ security response, the source said.
Update: I’m utterly confused by the press conference. The cops claim they were speaking to a “person of interest” in the first shooting, who knew the two victims, when they got the word about the second shooting. They refuse to say whether that person has been ruled out yet.
Update: An interesting tip from reader Michael B. — there was a gun show in Roanoke County this weekend. Says Michael, he could have purchased anything he needed there with minimal background checks.
Update: Via Drudge, the Daily Mail embellishes the caught-in-bed theory: “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.”
Update: MSNBC says the “person of interest” is cooperating with police, is not in custody, and is not believed to be under suspicion. Federal and state cops all say they think it’s the work of a lone gunman.
Update: Early reports of two 9mm handguns appear to have been wrong. It was one 9mm and one .22.