Virginia Tech, the site of a 2007 massacre in which 33 people died, reported that one of its police officers was shot and killed on campus after a traffic stop and another person was found dead from a gunshot wound in a parking lot.
The Blacksburg, Virginia, school was locked down for several hours today as police investigated the two crime scenes and searched for the shooter. The safety alert was lifted shortly before state police and university officials held a press conference at 4:30 p.m.
“We don’t know what took place,” Larry Hincker, head of university relations at Virginia Tech, told reporters. “We don’t know the motive of this tragedy on our campus.”
Virginia State Police, which is leading the investigation, declined to identify the person found in parking lot or say whether that person was suspected of shooting the officer. Police said a weapon was found near the body of a white male with a gunshot wound.
Asked if the police were still looking for a shooter, Rob Carpentieri of the Virginia State Police said, “We’re confident they’ve located a person.”
Carpentieri didn’t disclose details about the gun that was found.
The suspect was described on the university’s website as a white male wearing gray sweat pants, a gray hat with neon-green brim and a maroon hoodie. The suspect was carrying a backpack, according to the website.
The shootings occurred shortly after noon today when a Virginia Tech officer made a “routine” traffic stop of a vehicle on campus, according to the university. During the stop, the officer was shot and killed, the university said.
Police said they believe the gunman wasn’t an occupant of the vehicle that was stopped.
The gunman fled on foot toward a parking lot, where the second person was found, the website said. Reports of additional gunfire on campus were unfounded, the school said.
Students were instructed to stay indoors in a secure place, according to information posted on the university’s website. The school’s transit system was also suspended.
There were no classes today because final exams were scheduled to begin tomorrow, said Lauren Engel, a Virginia Tech senior. After the shooting, the school reported on its website that Dec. 9 exams would be postponed.
“Thankfully the campus was not as packed as it normally is,” said Engel, who lives about two miles from campus.
Virginia Tech continues to feel the effects of the April 16, 2007, on-campus shooting rampage that ended when the gunman, Cho Seung Hui, killed himself. Officials from the school were in Washington today contesting a $55,000 fine levied by the U.S. Education Department for a two-hour delay in warning students during that emergency.
The campus was locked down as recently as Aug. 4 after three people reported seeing a man holding what appeared to be a gun. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, Virginia State Police and several local police departments converged on campus and were unable to get additional information.
On Jan. 21, 2009, Haiyang Zhu attacked Xin Yang, a fellow Virginia Tech student, and stabbed her to death in an on-campus café after she had rejected his amorous advances. Zhu was sentenced to life in prison in 2010.
The university, formally known as Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, has more than 30,000 full-time students.