News24

Cops seek motive in Virginia Tech shooting

2011-12-09 20:22

Washington - Police sought a motive behind the killing of a police officer by a gunman who then apparently took his own life at Virginia Tech, the scene of the deadliest campus massacre in US history.

Virginia State Police said the same handgun was used in Thursday's killings at the university where 32 people were cut down by a student who then killed himself in April 2007.

Giving more details, state police spokesperson Corrine Geller said on Friday campus police officer Deriek Crouse, 39, was slain by a gunman who strolled up to his patrol car during a "routine traffic stop" involving a third person.

"He was not able to return fire or fire his weapon," she said.

Not a student

It appeared the gunman - not a Virginia Tech student - then went to a nearby greenhouse and changed his clothes, leaving a backpack containing garments behind, she told a press briefing.

About 30 minutes later, a local county sheriff spotted a man alone and "acting a bit strangely" in a fenced-in campus parking lot known as the Cage, Geller said.

When the sheriff caught up to him, the individual was deceased from "what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound", she said, adding: "Nobody actually witnessed him taking his own life."

"At this point, we have nothing to connect him with Virginia Tech," Geller said, adding that the dead man carried no identification and that an autopsy is being carried out.

Motive

"We're still determining the motive," said Geller when asked if the killing of the police officer had been a random act or whether it was related to a hold-up in the area the day before.

But Virginia Tech associate vice president Larry Hincker said the university had, once again, been the scene of "a wanton random act of violence".

"We have experienced this tragedy before," he said.

Crouse, a US army veteran and father of five children and step-children, joined the campus police force six months after Virginia Tech suffered the deadliest shooting incident by a single gunman in US history.

Seung-Hui Cho, 23, an English senior whose family emigrated from South Korea to the United States when he was a youngster, gunned down 32 people in that attack in April 2007 before taking his own life.

Lockdown

Twenty-five others were wounded.

A subsequent inquiry found that Cho suffered from anxiety disorder and depression in high school, and faulted educators and mental health professionals for not acting on his deteriorating condition in university.

Thursday's shootings prompted a campus-wide lockdown a day before the start of final exams. Students planned to stage an outdoor vigil for the slain officer.

The university, as big as a small American city, is situated in Blacksburg, 355km southwest of Washington.

Geller said the driver of the silver Honda automobile that Crouse had stopped was a male Virginia Tech student who has been "extremely co-operative" in the investigation.

Of the shooter, Geller said: "We are very confident that he was the only individual involved in this."