CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. - The widow of a slain Virginia Tech police officer said Saturday he was the love of her life and that they had exchanged text messages about an hour before he was fatally shot by a man he apparently didn't know.
The Roanoke Times reports that Tina Crouse said her family has been shattered by the shooting death Thursday of Officer Deriek Crouse, a retired Army reservist. Police don't have a motive for why 22-year-old Ross Truett Ashley shot Crouse, seemingly at random, on the school's campus and then killed himself.
Tina Crouse said the 39-year-old officer had texted her "Love you lots" at 11:20 a.m., about an hour before he was shot after pulling over a motorist who was not involved in the shooting. She responded, "Kisses!!!!!! Love you."
As word of the shooting spread and the campus was locked down, she said she texted her husband at 12:52 p.m., "What's going on?????" Three minutes later, she texted again, "I just need to Kno Ur ok."
She said she told herself he was busy with the emergency response but learned an hour later that two people had come by the house looking for her. She dropped her coffee mug and her knees buckled, and then a car pulled into the parking lot of her cosmetology school.
"My first thought was, `I wish I had kissed him better that morning,"' Tina Crouse, 37, told the newspaper at her Christiansburg home.
Tina Crouse said she and her husband met and became friends in high school and reconnected years later after their first marriages didn't work out. He had one son, she had four boys. Deriek Crouse, who had joined the Army Reserves after three years in the Army, mostly at Fort Hood, Texas, found her on the classmates.com web site as he waited to be taken to the war zone during his deployment to Iraq in 2004.
They corresponded during his year in Iraq, and upon his return, he moved in with her and her sons. He began pursuing a career in law enforcement, using benefits from the Army and a layoff from a textiles company to attend a criminal justice academy. He joined the Virginia Tech police department about six months after the April 16, 2007 massacre in which a student gunman killed 32 people and himself.
Tina Crouse said her husband carried himself with authority at work, but could be like a kid at home, shouting at Pittsburgh Steelers games on TV and still listening to a favorite band from high school, Metallica.
She said he was her "idol" and had a way of calming her down, such as when she expressed frustration about her job and he encouraged her to quit and attend cosmetology school. "Don't sweat the small stuff," he liked to say.
Tina Crouse said her husband had finally settled down after moving around his whole life. He had left early for work Thursday, but not before climbing back into bed to stroke her hair and tell her he loved her, as he always did.
"He deserved to be able to live out his life . and he didn't get to enjoy it because some stupid person chose him," she said, sobbing.
She told the newspaper, "Somebody took our life from us."