33 Killed on Virginia Tech Campus

Blacksburg, VA (CBS/AP) - A gunman opened fire in a Virginia Tech dorm and then, two hours later, in a classroom across campus Monday, killing at least 32 people in the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history, government officials told The Associated Press. The gunman was killed, bringing the death toll to 33.

At least 26 others were injured in the shootings, police said.

The FBI and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives believe the gunman, described as a young Asian male, used two handguns in the shootings before taking his own life, sources tell CBS News. One official added that the gunman was "heavily armed and wearing a vest."

Investigators offered no motive for the attack but said they are trying to confirm if the gunman was looking for his girlfriend, CBS News reports. The gunman's name was not immediately released, and it was not known if he was a student.

“Today the university was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions,” said Virginia Tech president Charles Steger. “The university is shocked and indeed horrified.”

Students complained that there were no public-address announcements or other warnings on campus after the first burst of gunfire. They said the first word they received from the university was an e-mail more than two hours into the rampage — around the time the gunman struck again.

Steger said authorities at first believed that the shooting at the dorm was a domestic dispute and that the gunman had fled the campus.

"We had no reason to suspect any other incident was going to occur," he said, adding, "We can only make decisions based on the information you had at the time," he said. "You don't have hours to reflect on it."

The shootings spread panic and confusion on campus. Witnesses reporting students jumping out the windows of a classroom building to escape the gunfire. SWAT team members with helmets, flak jackets and assault rifles swarmed over the campus. Students and faculty members carried out some of the wounded themselves, without waiting for ambulances to arrive.

The massacre took place at opposite sides of the 2,600-acre campus, beginning at about 7:15 a.m. at West Ambler Johnston, a coed dormitory that houses 895 people, and continuing at least two hours later at Norris Hall, an engineering and general classroom building about a half-mile away, authorities said.

Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said one male and one female student were killed in the dormitory shooting. The rest were killed at Norris Hall.

Officials are confident there was one gunman and that the shootings were not part of a larger plot, CBS News reports. FBI spokesman Richard Kolko in Washington said there was no immediate evidence to suggest it was a terrorist attack, "but all avenues will be explored."

Police said they were still investigating the shooting at the dorm when they got word of gunfire at the classroom building.

Some students bitterly questioned why the gunman was able to strike a second time, two hours after the bloodshed began.

“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.

Government officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they did not want to pre-empt an announcement by higher-ranking authorities, put the death toll at 31.

At least 26 people were being treated at three area hospitals for gunshot wounds and other injuries, authorities said. Their exact conditions were not disclosed, but at least one was sent to a trauma center and six were in surgery, authorities said.

Up until Monday, the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history was in Killeen, Texas, in 1991, when George Hennard plowed his pickup truck into a Luby's Cafeteria and shot 23 people to death, then himself.

The massacre Monday took place almost eight years to the day after the Columbine High bloodbath near Littleton, Colo. On April 20, 1999, two teenagers killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before taking their own lives.

Previously, the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history was a rampage that took place in 1966 at the University of Texas at Austin, where Charles Whitman climbed the clock tower and opened fire with a rifle from the 28th-floor observation deck. He killed 16 people before he was shot to death by police.

Founded in 1872, Virginia Tech is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains of southwestern Virginia, about 160 miles west of Richmond. With more than 25,000 full-time students, it has the state's largest full-time student population. The school is best known for its engineering school and its powerhouse Hokies football team.

The rampage took place on a brisk spring day, with snow flurries swirling around the campus. The campus is centered around the Drill Field, a grassy field where military cadets — who now represent a fraction of the student body — once practiced. The dorm and the classroom building are on opposites sides of the Drill Field.

A gasp could be heard at a campus news conference when Virginia Tech Police Chief W.R. Flinchum said at least 20 people had been killed. Previously, only one person was thought to have been killed.

Investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives began marking and recovering the large number of shell casings and will trace the weapon used, authorities said.

After the shootings, all entrances to the campus were closed, and classes were canceled through Tuesday. The university set up a meeting place for families to reunite with their children. It also made counselors available and planned an assembly for Tuesday at the basketball arena.

After the shooting began, students were told to stay inside away from the windows.

Aimee Kanode, a freshman from Martinsville, said the shooting happened on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston dormitory, one floor above her room. Kanode's resident assistant knocked on her door about 8 a.m. to notify students to stay put.

Police said there had been bomb threats on campus over the past two weeks by authorities but said they have not determined a link to the shootings.

It was second time in less than a year that the campus was closed because of a shooting.

Last August, the opening day of classes was canceled and the campus closed when an escaped jail inmate allegedly killed a hospital guard off campus and fled to the Tech area. A sheriff's deputy involved in the manhunt was killed on a trail just off campus. The accused gunman, William Morva, faces capital murder charges.

President Bush said the mass shooting affects every student across the nation.

“Schools should be places of safety, sanctuary and learning,” Bush said. “When that sanctuary is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom in every American community.”

Bush spoke with Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and Virginia Tech President Charles Steger.

“I told them that Laura and I and many across our nation are praying for the victims and all the members of university community that have been devastated by this terrible tragedy,” Bush said in the Diplomatic Room of the White House.

In the House, which returned Monday from a two-week recess, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., interrupted the proceedings to lead a moment of silence in remembrance.

“As the Virginia Tech community struggles with the mourning and questioning that is certain to follow, the continued prayers from this Congress are with the students, their families, the faculty and the staff at Virginia Tech,” Pelosi said.

Copyright 2007 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved.

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  • by jj Location: nevada on May 1, 2007 at 03:59 PM
    i give my condolences to everyone that has lost someone in this horrible tragity xxxxx
  • by Ashleigh Cross Location: Bunbury, Australia on Apr 17, 2007 at 02:22 AM
    My condolences to those that have losted loved ones and friends in this horrible tragedy xxx
  • by A.S. Location: TN on Apr 17, 2007 at 12:01 AM
    I agree 100% with J.D. from VA...When you make something illegeal that is a popular item, whether you make it illegeal or not, people WILL get their hands on it. I pray for those victims and their families
  • by John Location: world on Apr 16, 2007 at 07:04 PM
    J.D. Location: VA: After thinking about it, I believe banning guns is better. Existance of black market can't prove its correctness. Just like trader in human being can't prove we should trade human being. Easy access to gun makes wrongly impulse worse result, make human error enlarge. Imagine how things will be like if everyone can own atom bomb.
  • by Y.B. Location: Pennsylvania on Apr 16, 2007 at 06:19 PM
    If I were to make a prediction on this Asian student, (since the killer has not been identified or analyzed yet) I'd have to say he was probably very depressed, took drugs, started failing his classes, had no friends, and had no ambitions except to make a new record of mass school killings. I doubt this student snapped; rather the depression built up inside him and infected his mind for many months
  • by SEH on Apr 16, 2007 at 04:11 PM
    May God comfort the families and friends of those killed. America will be praying for you all. May God also guide the authorities as they investigate this crazy - dare I say sensless - shooing. I hope one day people will realize that killing somebody else will not relieve your personal heartaches and pains, only God can do that. But one way or the other, these incidents have to stop!
  • by J.D. Location: VA on Apr 16, 2007 at 03:00 PM
    People screaming for banning guns need to think a little harder. It's terrible what happened, yes, but a ban on handguns would not have prevented the shooter from getting a gun if he wanted one. Even with current lax gun control laws, it is STILL easier, and FASTER, to get a gun on the black market. Banning handguns would just increase the black market trade and make it even easier and faster for criminals or potential criminals to get their hands on a firearm. Not only would you have dealers on street corners selling drugs, but they'd start selling you handguns on the side. Weed and cocaine are banned drugs. Look at how easy it is to buy weed and cocaine. Heck, recent activity around my house has convinced me my neighbors sell BOTH in large quantities! My NEIGHBORS! The funniest part is that one of the teens has already been to juvie for possession twice! Guns are just as commonplace as drugs, they would be no different from each other as far as procurement goes if a ban were in place. Think about it.
  • by mohd azhar Location: kuala terengganu on Apr 16, 2007 at 12:53 PM
    Something is going wrong with this type of people.We do not know when this people will explode and kill innocent people.We have to pray to God to keep this people away.
  • by mitch Location: Philadelphia on Apr 16, 2007 at 12:52 PM
    Why don't these jerks start by killing themselves FIRST ?????
  • by Gordon Location: Texas on Apr 16, 2007 at 12:49 PM
    All hell what is this world coming to. This will be a tragedy that will carried for many months. i will pray hard for the victims and their loved ones.
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