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Virginia Tech: Same Gun Used To Kill Officer And Suspect

A student paused Thursday evening at the memorial for the victims of the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech. There was another vigil last night, following Thursday's killing of a campus police officer.
Steve Helber
A student paused Thursday evening at the memorial for the victims of the 2007 massacre at Virginia Tech. There was another vigil last night, following Thursday's killing of a campus police officer.

Virginia State Police and other officials briefed reporters this morning about Thursday's shooting on the campus at Virginia Tech, in which a campus police officer was killed and the suspect apparently later shot himself and died. We updated as it happened and put those posts in chronological order after the briefing was over.

-- 10:20 a.m. ET. Same Gun Used: State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller just confirmed that tests show the same handgun that killed officer Deriek Crouse also was used to kill the suspect.

That adult male, she says, apparently shot himself in a parking lot about one-half mile from where Crouse was killed.

Police believe the suspect, Geller says, ran to some greenhouses after he shot Crouse. The suspect changed clothes there. It was about a half hour after Crouse's killing that the suspect was spotted in a parking lot. As a Montgomery County (Va.) sheriff's deputy drove toward the suspect, he briefly lost sight of the man. When the deputy came upon him again, the suspect was dead and a handgun was nearby, Geller says.

Police are confident they know who the suspect was, says Geller, but have to wait for a positive identification from the local medical examiner before releasing the name. They do know he was not a student at the school.

She says the shooter's motive is unknown and that police know of no connection between the suspect and officer Crouse.

-- 10:27 a.m. ET. "Vivid Memories" Of 2007 Rampage: Wendell Flinchum, chief of the Virginia Tech police department, says that Thursday's killing of officer Deriek Crouse "has brought back vivid memories of April 16" — the 2007 rampage by a Virginia Tech student who killed 32 people and then himself.

-- 10:31 a.m. ET. Did Suspect Leave A Message? Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller is asked about a message written on a wall near where police found the suspect's backpack. It was to someone named Sara (or Sarah). "We are aware of the writing on the wall and that's something we're looking into," she says.

-- 10:37 a.m. ET. No Information About Any Additional Targets: Asked if authorities have any indication that the suspect planned to shoot anyone else, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller says there is "no information to indicate he had any additional targets."

-- 10:43 a.m. ET. No Comment Yet On Circumstances Of Shooting: Investigators don't want to comment yet on just what happened when the gunman approached officer Deriek Crouse, Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller says. That's still being investigated. Witnesses have said Crouse was in his unmarked police vehicle, conducting an unrelated traffic stop, at the time. The shooting happened a little after 12:30 p.m. ET.

-- 10:47 a.m. ET. Audio As Well As Video? As has been reported, officer Deriek Crouse's dash cam captured video of a man with a gun — the same man authorities suspect killed Crouse. Asked if there might also be audio, campus Police Chief Wendell Flinchum says "the officer does [typically] wear a microphone," but that he doesn't know if any sound was also picked up.

Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller says the video will not be made public because under Virginia law it is part of a criminal investigation.

-- 10:52 a.m. ET. "Incredulous, Aghast": Campus Police Chief Wendell Flinchum was in Arlington, Va., yesterday when officer Deriek Crouse was killed and the campus when into lockdown. Asked about his reaction to the news when he heard of it, Flinchum says "I'm not sure I have words to describe how it felt and the emotions I went through. ... Incredulous, aghast."

-- 10:56 a.m. ET. Beseiged?

The attention being paid to Thursday's tragedy has obviously been intense because of the April 16, 2007, shooting rampage by a Virginia Tech student who killed 32 people and then himself.

Asked if university officials feel beseiged or that they're getting an unfair amount of attention, university spokesman Larry Hincker says it's obvious that reporters have descended on the campus because of "an angry young man who had easy access to violent killing weapons four years ago."

He does not express frustration about that, and says "I don't believe I feel any less safe" that he would be anywhere else.

-- 11 a.m. ET. Key Witness Was "Very Cooperative":

Officer Deriek Crouse had stopped a vehicle at the time of the shooting. The driver of that vehicle was on the scene when Crouse was shot by the suspect, who approached on foot. That driver has been "very cooperative," campus Police Chief Wendell Flinchum says. The individual remained at the scene and was able to tell other officers about what happened.

-- 11:04 a.m. ET. No Additional News Conference Planned: University spokesman Larry Hincker wraps up the news conference by saying school officials don't expect to hold another one today, but will if there's a need. He says any updates on the news will be posted to the university's website.

-- 6:36 p.m. ET. Police Identify Subject: The AP reports that police have identified the shooting suspect as Ross Truett Ashley, a 22-year-old part-time Radford University student.

The AP says authorities say Truett stole a vehicle at gun point on Wednesday, which he dumped on campus and was found on Thursday. Police have not identified a motive.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Mark Memmott is NPR's supervising senior editor for Standards & Practices. In that role, he's a resource for NPR's journalists – helping them raise the right questions as they do their work and uphold the organization's standards.
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