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Finals On Hold, Vigil Set After Va. Tech Shooting


Virginia Tech University is quiet this morning after a gunman shot and killed a campus police officer and then killed himself yesterday afternoon. For hours, the sprawling campus in Blacksburg, Virginia relived the horror of a 2007 shooting that left 33 dead and raised troubling questions about the university's slow response to the tragedy. As NPR's Claudio Sanchez reports, this time Virginia Tech was prepared.

CLAUDIO SANCHEZ, BYLINE: According to Virginia State police, here's how Thursday's shooting on the Virginia Tech campus unfolded. At about 12 noon, Sergeant Derrick Crouse had pulled over to call in a traffic violation, minutes later, witnesses say a man walked from out of a nearby parking lot and shot Crouse while he was sitting in his car. The gunman fled on foot. Gene Deisinger is Virginia Tech's deputy chief of police.

GENE DEISINGER: Shortly before 12:30 PM, Virginia Tech police received its first call advising that they had witnessed a subject approach the officer and fire a weapon at the officer and then leave the scene.

SANCHEZ: Across campus, Caroline Crowe, a freshman, was in the library. Classes were not in session. Students had the entire day to study and prepare for finals. At 12:46, Crowe's cell phone beeped. It was a text message from the university's advanced security alert system. It read: gunshots reported.

CAROLINE CROWE: And then I got one at 12:56, saying - describing the suspect. I got another one at 1:30, saying: a police officer has been shot. I got another one at 2:31.

SANCHEZ: And another one at 3:14, followed by another at 4:46.

CROWE: Saying that it's no longer an active threat and that your lockdown's over.

SANCHEZ: Students across campus got text messages, emails and updates on the school's home page, ordering students to stay indoors, away from windows. Shortly before 5 PM, police announced that the search for the gunman was over. He had apparently shot and killed himself. Also dead was Officer Crouse, 39, an Army veteran and father of five. Virginia Tech University president, Charles Steger.

CHARLES STEGER: Our hearts are broken again for the family of our police officer and we extend our deepest sympathy and condolences.

SANCHEZ: Neither Steger nor police investigators would confirm the identity of the gunman, describing him only as a white male, nor would they confirm that the man found dead and the gunman were one in the same. But by late Thursday night, heavily armed officers and SWAT teams that were on campus were gone, evidently satisfied that there was no longer a threat.

Ironically, the shooting took place right around the time that Virginia Tech officials were in Washington, appealing a $55,000 government penalty for the university's slow response to the 2007 shootings that left 33 dead.

Daryl Wilkinson, a freshman, wasn't here in 2007, but in a way, he says, he feels reassured that this time Virginia Tech did all it could to keep students safe and informed.

DARYL WILKINSON: This was a fairly isolated incident, there was, unfortunately, one death, but that's better than 32.

SANCHEZ: Virginia Tech has suspended finals for now. A student vigil is scheduled for this evening on campus, and police say their investigation will continue into the identity and motives of the shooter.

Claudio Sanchez, NPR News, Blacksburg, Virginia.


WERTHEIMER: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Former elementary and middle school teacher Claudio Sanchez is the education correspondent for NPR. He focuses on the "three p's" of education reform: politics, policy and pedagogy. Sanchez's reports air regularly on NPR's award-winning newsmagazines Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Sanchez joined NPR in 1989, after serving for a year as executive producer for the El Paso, Texas, based Latin American News Service, a daily national radio news service covering Latin America and the U.S.- Mexico border.