Virginia Tech campus is on lockdown after two people – including a police officer – are shot dead by a crazed gunman who went on a shooting rampage this afternoon.
According to Virginia Tech, a police officer pulled someone over for a routine traffic stop and was shot and killed. The ganman ran toward a nearby parking lot, where he gunned down the second victim, believed to be a student.
Montgomery County Schools are now on lockdown, sparking fears the gunman may have left the campus.
The suspect was described as a white male wearing gray sweat pants, a gray hat with neon green brim, a maroon hoodie and backpack.
TV footage showed heavily armed officers walking around campus. Caravans of SWAT vehicles and other police cars with emergency lights flashing patrolled nearby as students remained on lockdown.
Police were tracking several white males on campus who fit the description but it was unclear if any of them were the suspect.
It was the first shooting on campus since 33 people were killed in 2007 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
FBI agents were called to the Performance Arts Building where they believed the gunman was hiding, but it turned out to be a false alarm as a student wearing similar clothes surrendered.
A SWAT team was placed at the Squires Student Centre but left after finding no suspicious persons inside.
Senior Virginia Tech police and university officials were all in Washington DC today to appeal the $55,000 fine for the way they handled the 2007 shooting.
Police are investigating if an armed robbery in the area which occurred at 11:25 a.m. is related.
Virginia Tech spokesman Mark Owczarski held a news conference and told reporters they have all hands on deck and are dealing with the situation in the most efficient, effective way possible. He told all students to stay inside and keep doors locked.
The university issued a statement saying: “Shortly after noon today, a Virginia Tech police officer stopped a vehicle on campus during a routine traffic stop in the Coliseum parking lot near McComas Hall.
“During the traffic stop, the officer was shot and killed. There were witnesses to this shooting.
“Witnesses reported to police the shooter fled on foot heading toward the Cage, a parking lot near Duck Pond Drive. At that parking lot, a second person was found. That person is also deceased.
“Several law enforcement agencies have responded to assist. Virginia State Police has been requested to take lead in the investigation.
“The status of the shooter is unknown. The campus community should continue to shelter in place and visitors should not come to campus.”
The shooting came the same day as Virginia Tech was appealing a $55,000 fine by the U.S. Education Department in connection with the university’s response to the 2007 rampage, when a student gunman killed 32 students and faculty and then shot himself.
A report of a possible gunman at Virginia Tech on August 4 set off the longest, most extensive lockdown and search on campus since the 2007 bloodbath led the university to overhaul its emergency procedures.
No gunman was found, and the school gave the all-clear about five hours after sirens began wailing and students and staff members started receiving warnings by phone, email and text message to lock themselves indoors.
Alerts were also posted on the university’s website and Twitter accounts.
The emergency was triggered by three teens who were attending a summer programme on campus and told police they saw a man walking quickly across the grounds with what might have been a handgun covered by a cloth, authorities said.
Police searched some 150 buildings on the square-mile campus and issued a composite sketch of a baby-faced man who was said to be wearing shorts and sandals, but they found no sign of him. They continued to patrol the grounds as a precaution even after the lockdown was lifted.
“We’re in a new era. Obviously this campus experienced something pretty terrible four years ago,” Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker said at the time.
“Regardless of what your intuition and your experience as a public safety officer tells you, you are really forced to issue an alert.”
That incident marked the first time the entire campus was locked down since the 2007 shooting, and the second major test of Virginia Tech’s improved emergency alert system.
The system was revamped to add the use of text messages and other means besides email of warning students.
It was also put to the test in 2008, when an exploding nail gun cartridge was mistaken for gunfire. But only one dorm was locked down during that emergency, and it reopened two hours later.
Virginia Tech has opened a student help line on (540) 231-3787 and a police tip line on (540) 231-6411.