Gunman on Virgina Tech Campus

Kathryn Elliott

UPDATE 3:30 p.m.

A statement from Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum, read at a press briefing, included the following:

“As you know, we received a report this morning from three young people, we think about 14 years old, who reported seeing a person with a weapon in the vicinity of Deitrick Dining Hall or New Residence Hall East.  They gave a good description upon being interviewed. 

Based on the information provided and lacking further information, we couldn’t rule out that this wasn’t credible.   Therefore, we felt like there was no other option than to issue a campus alert and ask our people to remain secured indoors…..

We have kept the campus on alert since then through an abundance of caution.   We believe that this was a most prudent course of action.

Since the time of the initial call (@9am this morning) there have been no on-going threats known or discovered.  We have received NO other reports of a person with a gun or any other threatening behaviors.   We have interviewed several persons similar in description to that provided by witnesses this morning.   None of those subjects are the person described by the witnesses.”

UPDATE 12:10 p.m.

As of about an hour ago, VT News reported police are continuing to investigate the campus, but no more sightings of the gunman have been reported. One commenter on the school’s Facebook page commended the school for its response.

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Officials from Blacksburg school Virginia Tech issued a warning at 9:37 EST that a gunman was seen near the dining center, Dietrick Hall.

The alert on the school’s web site reads: “Person with a gun reported near Dietrick. Stay Inside. Secure doors. Emergency personnel responding. Call 911 for help.”

Commenters on an official Virginia Tech Facebook account debated whether or not a visitor carrying a handgun violates school policy, among other messages of well-wishing and prayers.

Another fan of the Facebook page described his friend, a student, being yanked into a building Thursday morning by faculty members implementing the instruction to “stay inside.”

An email sent to students titled “Update on weapon sighting” explains that:

“At 9:09 a.m. three juveniles attending a camp at the university reported seeing a white male, 6 feet tall, with light brown hair outside of New Residence Hall East holding what may have been a handgun.  They say the weapon was covered by a cloth or covering of some sort.  He was walking fast in the direction of the volleyball courts.   He was wearing a blue and white striped shirt (stripes were vertical), gray shorts and brown sandals.  The subject had no facial hair or glasses.

Officers responded immediately to the area but found no one matching the description.  Police have encountered no other witnesses reporting this individual or anything suspicious.  Law enforcement officers from VTPD, Blacksburg PD, Christiansburg PD, Virginia State Police, and Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office are patrolling the campus, continuing to look for the subject.”

The email also instructed that students should report suspicious activity to the VT Police Department at 231-6411 or 911 and anyone on campus should stay inside.

The alert comes four years after “The Virginia Tech Massacre,” in which undergraduate Seung-Hui Cho went on the rampage, killing 32 people and wounding 17 people.

An Associated Press report says that the school was fined in March because of a court ruling that administrators violated campus safety law in 2007 by waiting too long to notify students and faculty of a possible threat. They had waited two hours before sending a mass email.