When reports came yesterday that a two people had been shot at Virginia Tech, everyone thought the same thing: not again. In that sense, the campus is "lucky"—it was an isolated incident and not another unfathomable massacre. But it's still not clear what exactly, happened.
Police say they've identified the shooter, but haven't publicly released his name. Based on what they've said, we can piece together something of a narrative: Virginia Tech police officer Deriek W. Crouse, 39, made a routine traffic stop around 12:15. According to his dashboard camera, the unidentified shooter killed Crouse with a handgun
possibly getting out of the car to do so—from what we can tell, he ran up to Crouse and killed him randomly. (Police say the driver who was stopped has nothing to do with the shooting.)
The shooter then seems to have run to the campus greenhouses, where he took off a wool cap and "pullover top" and stuffed them in a backpack. (This change of clothes seems to have confused reports later.) From there—at around 12:45—he headed to the Cage parking lot, less than half a mile away, where he was spotted "acting furtively" by police. Officers drove toward him; lost sight; and then found him, dead, of a self-inflicted wound.
And why? Authorities say there's no connection between Crouse and the shooter, but police have said that he's likely "connected" to a stolen vehicle—which would seem to imply that the man shot Crouse to avoid arrest.
One thing everyone seems to agree on: the university handled the crisis event—its first since the 2007 shooting that killed 32 people—very well:
The episode provided the first real test of Virginia Tech's vaunted emergency response system, created after the mass shooting by Seung Hui Cho, a disturbed English major from Fairfax County. University officials devised the system after intense criticism from victims' families and independent investigators that they did not react quickly enough in 2007.
Thursday's response - a barrage of text messages, e-mails, phone calls, classroom alerts and audible sirens across the 30,000-student campus - was nearly flawless, according to students, staff members and public officials.
"The plan played a very significant role in protecting all the students and the faculty and also to help facilitate a rapid and proper response by law enforcement officers," Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R) told reporters late Thursday.