Students and faculty at Virginia Tech were thrust into all-too-familiar territory Thursday, stunned by the shooting death of a campus police officer and another person - reportedly the gunman - nearly five years after a campus massacre left 33 people dead.
Some 16,000 to 20,000 students and faculty were ordered to hunker down as police swarmed the campus in a four-hour manhunt. The campus-wide lockdown was lifted after cops recovered a weapon near an unidentified dead body, reported to be that of the suspected killer.
Officials did not explicitly say whether the second man was the suspect, but implied he was during a news conference. They did not say whether the wound was self-inflicted, but said police had not shot him.
"I believe investigators are confident we've located the person," said Sgt. Robert Carpentieri, spokesman for the Virginia State Police. "I won't specifically address that, but you can read between the lines."
Officials did not identify the dead officer, but said he was a four-year veteran of the school's police department. The motive for the shooting was unclear.
At around noon Thursday, the gunman walked into a campus parking lot where the officer had pulled over a car for a routine traffic stop, officials said. The officer was shot dead after a gunfight with the suspect.
The shooter then fled on foot toward another campus parking lot. Police sighted what they called a "suspicious man" at that lot soon after, and found a dead body along with a gun when they approached it.
The shooting brought back painful memories from 2007, when student Seung-Hui Cho stalked through campus, killing 32 people and wounding 25 others in the worst incident of campus violence in history. He later killed himself.
While the school was criticized and fined for its handling of that deadly shooting spree, officials quickly shut down the campus Thursday afternoon and regularly posted updates on the school's website and through email and social media.
A history of violence
The Virginia Tech shooting on April 16, 2007, was the deadliest outbreak of school violence in U.S. history. Thirty-two people were shot dead in a dorm and classroom before the gunman killed himself. Here are other notable campus shootings:
March 9, 2010 — A fired Ohio State University maintenance worker killed a manager and himself.
February 12, 2010 — A biology professor killed three colleagues during a faculty meeting at the University of Alabama.
February 14, 2008 — A former grad student at Northern Illinois University shot dead five students and injures 21 in a lecture hall before killing himself.
- October 29, 2002 — A failing nursing student killed three professors and himself at the University of Arizona.
- August 15, 1996 — Student shot dead three professors at San Diego State University as he was defending his master’s thesis.
- Nov 1, 1991 — Former student killed four faculty members, a student and himself.
- August 1, 1966 — Student killed 16, wounded 32 on University of Texas campus before being shot dead by police.