Police try to uncover what led to Virginia Tech shooting

CNN Wire Service

The person suspecting of shooting and killing a police officer at Virginia Tech had no known contact with the officer before the shooting, authorities said Friday.

Investigators continue to follow leads as they investigate the death of Virginia Tech Police Officer Deriek Crouse, said Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police.

A second person believed to be the shooter was found dead not far from where Crouse was shot.

Ballistics evidence shows that Crouse and the other man who was found dead were shot with the same gun, state police said Friday.

Investigators are confident that they have identified the suspect in Crouse’s death, authorities said. They plan to reveal the alleged shooter’s identity after an official determination is made and the shooter’s family is notified, Geller said. Police have said they believe the other man matches the description of the gunman who shot the officer.

The suspect was not a student at the university, school spokesman Larry Hincker said.

Thursday’s double shooting conjured memories of a 2007 mass slaying that killed 33 people at Virginia Tech.

“Once again, the campus and the community that we love so well have been visited by senseless violence and tragic loss,” Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger said in a statement. “Tragedy again struck Virginia Tech in a wanton act of violence where our police officer, Deriek Crouse, was murdered during a routine traffic stop.”

“Words can’t express the loss we’ve experienced,” said Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum, who also noted that a memorial fund has been established for Crouse’s family.

Thursday’s shooting differed from the April 16, 2007, mass killing when student Seung-Hui Cho went on a shooting rampage, but it still served as a test of the new policies the school has implemented since that tragedy.

The incident began about 12:15 p.m., when Crouse, a four-year Virginia Tech police veteran, pulled over someone during a routine traffic stop in the Cassell Coliseum parking lot near McComas Hall. The Cassell Coliseum at Virginia Tech houses athletic facilities. McComas Hall houses exercise facilities.

Shortly before 12:30 p.m., police received their first call from a witness who said he’d seen the suspect — not the driver of the car that had been pulled over — approach the officer’s vehicle and open fire.

The suspect ran from the area. About a quarter-mile from the first shooting, a man that appeared to be the suspect was found dead from a gunshot wound, police said.

Geller told reporters the suspected shooter was also seen acting suspiciously shortly after Crouse was shot. There was some “kind of furtive movement,” Geller said. A policy deputy was unable to catch up with the suspect before his apparent suicide, she noted.

Maj. Rick Jenkins of the Virginia State Police said a video camera mounted inside the slain officer’s car captured footage of a man with a weapon who matched the description of the man they found dead.

Campus officials put out six alerts to students and faculty about the shooting.

On Thursday, law enforcement and school officials said the alert system put in place in recent years worked well, both from technological and communications standpoints.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, whose daughter goes to Virginia Tech, lauded the communications effort. McDonnell said his daughter was confined to a basement classroom during the four-hour episode.

“Like so many parents who had children on the Virginia Tech campus, I felt a lot of that angst and uncertainty,” he said. “Again, I want to express my gratitude to law enforcement for making sure that they kept the faculty (and) parents regularly informed.

Crouse, 39, joined the Virginia Tech police force six months after the 2007 mass shooting, according to a release on the school’s website. A U.S. Army veteran who had worked at the New River Valley jail and with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, the Christiansburg resident is survived by his wife as well as five children and stepchildren.

A small vigil was held Thursday night on the Blacksburg campus, and a similar event is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Friday.

CNN’s Carol Cratty, Phil Gast, Greg Botelho, Athena Jones, Vivian Kuo, Eric Fiegel, Alan Silverleib, and Sally Holland contributed to this report