A gunman is on the loose at Virginia Tech, according to local media reports.”Virginia Tech officials report a shooting this morning at West Ambler Johnston Hall dormitory on the university campus,” according to WDBJ-TV. School authorities are now saying that the gunman is loose on the campus and they are urging students and staff to stay inside and away from windows.”
The Roanoke Times says “a shooting occurred at Virginia Tech’s West Ambler Johnston residence hall earlier this morning.”
â€¢ Background: Previous school shootings
According to the Virginia Tech website, 895 people live in West Ambler Johnston, which is also known as West AJ. The school was locked down on the first day of classes last August while police searched for a man suspected of shooting two people.
Update at 10:21 a.m. ET: WSLS-TV has the full text of the warning that appeared on the school’s website. CNN says Virginia Tech has canceled classes for the day. The Collegiate Times, a student-run newspaper, has a page with frequent updates on the situation.
Update at 10:29 a.m. ET: A state official tells The Associated Press that one person is dead after a shooting on the Virginia Tech campus.
Update at 10:35 a.m. ET: The Roanoke Times says on its website that there are multiple victims. “The second shooting happened in Norris Hall, the engineering building near Burruss Hall. Police are on the scene and rescue workers have set up a temporary treatment facility. The campus is on lock down,” the paper reports. The student newspaper says one person died and one person was wounded in the incident.
Update at 11:10 a.m. ET: The Associated Press says police have arrested a suspected gunman.
WSLS-TV has the following details on its website: Virginia Tech officials say two incidents on campus today. One shooting occured [sic] between 7:30 and 7:15 AM at West Ambler Johnston Dorm. A second happend [sic] at 10 AM, no location was given at this time.
The AP, quoting unidentified government officials, says there are seven or eight casualties.
Update at 11:32 a.m. ET: WSLS-TV says a press conference will be held at noon.
Update at 11:57 a.m. ET: Montgomery Regional Hospital Center tells WSLS-TV that 17 students are being treated for a variety of injuries, including an unknown number with gunshot wounds.
Update at 12:17 p.m. ET: A hospital spokeswoman says that 21 Virginia Tech students have been treated for gunshot wounds and other injuries, according to the AP.
Local media are reporting that police said there were “at least 20” fatalities.
Update at 12:21 p.m. ET: Virginia Tech President Charles Steger just told reporters that there were two shootings, both of which resulted in fatalities. He said the school is in the process of notifying the victims’ next of kin. The second shooter is dead. The number of fatalities have not been confirmed, he said.
“The university is horrified,” he said.
Update at 12:25 p.m. ET: “We have a ballpark figure on fatalities,” a police official just said. “It’s at least 20 fatalities.”
Update at 1:23 p.m. ET: President Bush was “horrified” by the news, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
The Associated Press, which puts the death toll at 21, says this was the deadliest school shooting in U.S. history. WDBJ-TV reports that 22 people died in the shootings.
“We are all in lockdown,” one student told CNN. “Most of the students are sitting on the floors away from the windows just trying to be as safe as possible.”
Here’s how Virginia Tech’s president described the sequence of events during his press conference:
At about 7:15 this morning, a 911 call came to the university police department concerning an event in West Ambler Johnston Hall. There were multiple shooting victims. While in the process of investigating, about two hours later, the university received reports of a shooting in Norris Hall. The police immediately responded.
The shooter in Norris Hall is deceased. There are multiple fatalities. The number of fatalities has not been confirmed. Victims have been transported to various hospitals in the immediate area in the region to receive emergency treatment. And we will proceed to contact the next of kin as the victims’ identities are available. All classes are canceled and the university is closed for the remainder of the day.
The Collegiate, a student-run newspaper, says police are investigating whether the shootings were linked to a series of bomb threats that the university received last week.
Update at 1:43 p.m. ET: Virginia Tech is holding another press conference right now. The police chief says the gunman died at the scene and that investigators are still trying to determine whether he took his own life. At least one news organization is reporting that the gunman committed suicide.
NBC News says two law enforcement officials told a reporter that the gunman killed himself. The network says the gunman used two 9-mm handguns during the rampage.
The school has posted information on its website for students’ relatives: Families wishing to reunite with students are suggested to meet at the Inn at Virginia Tech. The university is planning a convocation for tomorrow at noon at Cassell Coliseum for the university community to come together to begin to deal with the tragedy.
Update at 2:30 p.m. ET: FoxNews is reporting that there are now 32 dead, several more injured.