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Shock And Outrage After Va. Tech Massacre

A gunman's furious shooting rampage Monday at Virginia Tech has left the school living a nightmare — shocked and horrified over the deaths of 32 students and teachers and wondering how such a massacre could occur.

Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said Tuesday that a university student was the gunman in at least the second of the two campus attacks that became the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history.

Twelve people remain hospitalized in stable condition, a Virginia hospital spokesman said Tuesday.

Though Steger did not explicitly say the student was also the gunman in the first shooting, he said he did not believe there was another shooter. The gunman struck down two people at a dormitory Monday before killing 30 more people at a campus building and finally killing himself with a shot to his head.

Steger also defended the delay in warning students about the gunman. Some students said their first warning came more than two hours after the first shooting, in an e-mail at 9:26 a.m. By then the second shooting had begun.

"I can understand the anger and the rage," Steger told CBS' The Early Show. But Steger, who said the shooter was a student, added bluntly, "We believe we have acted appropriately."

Some students bitterly complained they got no warning from the university until an e-mail that arrived more than two hours after the first shots.


Read the e-mail alerts sent to students and staff
The e-mail had few details. It read: "A shooting incident occurred at West Amber Johnston earlier this morning. Police are on the scene and are investigating." The message warned students to be cautious and contact police about anything suspicious.

"I think the university has blood on their hands because of their lack of action after the first incident," said Billy Bason, 18, who lives on the seventh floor of the dorm.

Student Maurice Hiller said he went to a 9 a.m. class two buildings away from the engineering building, and no warnings were coming over the outdoor public address system on campus at the time.

Everett Good, junior, said of the lack of warning: "I'm trying to figure that out. Someone's head is definitely going to roll over that."

"We were kept in the dark a lot about exactly what was going on," said Andrew Capers Thompson, a 22-year-old graduate student from Walhalla, S.C.

Steger said the university was trying to notify students who were already on-campus, not those who were commuting in.

"We warned the students that we thought were immediately impacted," he told CNN. "We felt that confining them to the classroom was how to keep them safest."


Katie Couric will anchor The CBS Evening News from Blacksburg, Va., tonight at 6:30 p.m. and there will a one-hour special on the massacre on 48 Hours Tuesday night at 10 p.m.

Steger said authorities believed the shooting at the dorm was a domestic dispute and mistakenly thought the gunman had fled the campus.

"We had no reason to suspect any other incident was going to occur," he said.

Steger emphasized that the university closed off the dorm after the first attack and decided to rely on e-mail and other electronic means to spread the word, but said that with 11,000 people driving onto campus first thing in the morning, it was difficult to get the word out.

He said that before the e-mail was sent, the university began telephoning resident advisers in the dorms and sent people to knock on doors. Students were warned to stay inside and away from the windows.

"We can only make decisions based on the information you had at the time. You don't have hours to reflect on it," Steger said.

President Bush and first lady Laura Bush will attend Tuesday's convocation at Virginia Tech to remember those affected by the massacre. Mr. Bush will also speak at the ceremony, CBS News reports.

The slayings left people of this once-peaceful mountain town and the university at its heart praying for the victims and struggling to find order in a tragedy of such unspeakable horror it defies reason.

"For Ryan and Emily and for those whose names we do not know," one woman pleaded in a church service Monday night.

Another mourner added: "For parents near and far who wonder at a time like this, 'Is my child safe?"'


Photo Essay: Virginia Tech Massacre
That question promises to haunt Blacksburg long after Monday's attacks. Investigators offered no motive, and the gunman's name was not immediately released.

The shooting began about 7:15 a.m. on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston, a high-rise coed dormitory where two people died.

Police were still investigating around 9:15 a.m., when a gunman wielding two handguns and carrying multiple clips of ammunition stormed Norris Hall, a classroom building a half-mile away on the other side of the 2,600-acre campus.


At least 15 people were hurt in the second attack, some seriously. Many found themselves trapped after someone, apparently the shooter, chained and locked Norris Hall doors from the inside.

Students jumped from windows, and students and faculty carried away some of the wounded without waiting for ambulances to arrive.

SWAT team members with helmets, flak jackets and assault rifles swarmed over the campus. A student used his cell-phone camera to record the sound of bullets echoing through a stone building.

Inside Norris, the attack began with a thunderous sound from Room 206 — "what sounded like an enormous hammer," said Alec Calhoun, a 20-year-old junior who was in a solid mechanics lecture in a classroom next door.

Screams followed an instant later, and the banging continued. When students realized the sounds were gunshots, Calhoun said, he started flipping over desks to make hiding places. Others dashed to the windows of the second-floor classroom, kicking out the screens and jumping from the ledge of Room 204, he said.

"I must've been the eighth or ninth person who jumped, and I think I was the last," said Calhoun, of Waynesboro, Va. He landed in a bush and ran.

Calhoun said that the two students behind him were shot, but that he believed they survived. Just before he climbed out the window, Calhoun said, he turned to look at his professor, who had stayed behind, apparently to prevent the gunman from opening the door.

The instructor was killed, Calhoun said.

Erin Sheehan, who was in the German class next door to Calhoun's class, told the student newspaper, the Collegiate Times, that she was one of only four of about two dozen people in the class to walk out of the room. The rest were dead or wounded, she said.

She said the gunman "was just a normal-looking kid, Asian, but he had on a Boy Scout-type outfit. He wore a tan button-up vest, and this black vest, maybe it was for ammo or something."

The gunman first shot the professor in the head and then fired on the class, another student, Trey Perkins, told The Washington Post. The gunman was about 19 years old and had a "very serious but very calm look on his face," he said.

"Everyone hit the floor at that moment," said Perkins, 20, of Yorktown, Va., a sophomore studying mechanical engineering. "And the shots seemed like it lasted forever."

At an evening news conference, Police Chief Wendell Flinchum refused to dismiss the possibility that a co-conspirator or second shooter was involved. He said police had interviewed a male who was a "person of interest" in the dorm shooting and who knew one of the victims, but he declined to give details.

"I'm not saying there's a gunman on the loose," Flinchum said. Ballistics tests will help explain what happened, he said.

Among the dead were professors Liviu Librescu and Kevin Granata, said Ishwar K. Puri, the head of the engineering science and mechanics department.

Librescu, an Israeli, was born in Romania and was known internationally for his research in aeronautical engineering, Puri wrote in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Granata and his students researched muscle and reflex response and robotics. Puri called him one of the top five biomechanics researchers in the country working on movement dynamics in cerebral palsy.

Also killed was Ryan Clark, a student from Martinez, Ga., who had several majors and carried a 4.0 grade-point average, said Vernon Collins, coroner in Columbia County, Ga.

His friend Gregory Walton, a 25-year-old who graduated last year, said he feared the nightmare had just begun.

"I knew when the number was so large that I would know at least one person on that list," said Walton, a banquet manager. "I don't want to look at that list. I don't want to.

"It's just, it's going to be horrible, and it's going to get worse before it gets better."

Until Monday, the deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history was in Killeen, Texas, in 1991, when George Hennard plowed his pickup truck into a Luby's Cafeteria and shot 23 people to death, then himself.

The massacre Monday took place almost eight years to the day after the Columbine High bloodbath near Littleton, Colo. On April 20, 1999, two teenagers killed 12 fellow students and a teacher before taking their own lives.

Previously, the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history was a rampage that took place in 1966 at the University of Texas at Austin, where Charles Whitman climbed the clock tower and opened fire with a rifle from the 28th-floor observation deck. He killed 16 people before he was shot to death by police.

Founded in 1872, Virginia Tech is nestled in southwestern Virginia, about 160 miles west of Richmond. With more than 25,000 full-time students, it has the state's largest full-time student population. The school is best known for its engineering school and its powerhouse Hokies football team.

Police said there had been bomb threats on campus over the past two weeks but that they had not determined whether they were linked to the shootings.

It was second time in less than a year that the campus was closed because of gunfire.

Last August, the opening day of classes was canceled when an escaped jail inmate allegedly killed a hospital guard off campus and fled to the Tech area. A sheriff's deputy was killed just off campus. The accused gunman, William Morva, faces capital murder charges.