Thirty-three people died yesterday in a massacre at a US university campus in the bloodiest school shooting in the country's history. The bloodbath ended with the gunman committing suicide, bringing the death toll to 33 and stamping the campus in the picturesque Blue Ridge Mountains with unspeakable tragedy, perhaps forever.
Investigators gave no motive for the attack. The gunman's name was not immediately released, and it was not known whether he was a student.
Wielding two handguns and carrying multiple clips of ammunition, the killer opened fire about 7:15 a.m. on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston, a high-rise coed dormitory, then stormed Norris Hall, a classroom building a half-mile away on the other side of the 2,600-acre campus. Some of the doors at Norris Hall were found chained from the inside, apparently by the gunman.
Two people died in a dorm room, and 31 others were killed in Norris Hall, including the gunman, who put a bullet in his head. At least 15 people were hurt, some seriously. Students jumped from windows in panic.
At an evening news conference, Police Chief Wendell Flinchum refused to dismiss the possibility that a co-conspirator or second shooter was involved. He said police had interviewed a male who was a "person of interest" in the dorm shooting who knew one of the victims, but he declined to give details.
"I'm not saying there's a gunman on the loose," Flinchum said. Ballistics tests will help explain what happened, he said.
Sheree Mixell, a spokeswoman for the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, said the evidence was being moved to the agency's national lab in Annandale. At least one firearm was turned over, she said.
Mixell would not comment on what types of weapons were used or whether the gunman was a student.
Young people and faculty members carried out some of the wounded themselves, without waiting for ambulances to arrive. Many found themselves trapped behind chained and padlocked doors.
SWAT team members with helmets, flak jackets and assault rifles swarmed over the campus. A student used his cell-phone camera to record the sound of bullets echoing through a stone building, the AP reports.
Governor Tim Kaine, in Tokyo, canceled a trade visit today and boarded a plane for Virginia. The U.S. House of Representatives observed a moment of silence.
“Today our nation grieves with those who have lost their loved ones at Virginia Tech,” President George W. Bush said at a White House news conference.
U.S. Education Secretary Margaret Spellings said her department is working with the White House and other agencies to identify resources that can be provided to Virginia Tech.
The college is offering counseling for students, faculty and staff, and will hold a public gathering at Cassell Coliseum at 2 p.m. tomorrow, according to a statement on its Web site, Bloomberg reports.
Prepared by Alexander Timoshik
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