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Deadly Virginia Tech Shootings Bring Back Fears, Memories

December 8, 2011 at 12:00 AM EST
Shootings Thursday on the campus of Virginia Tech left two people dead, and roused fears and memories of the tragedy that occurred there four years ago. Jeffrey Brown reports.
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JEFFREY BROWN: A shooting today on the campus of Virginia Tech left two people dead and roused fears and memories of the tragedy that occurred there four years ago.

Officials reported that, shortly after noon today, a Virginia Tech police officer was shot and killed during a traffic stop.

JULIET FIELDING, eyewitness: I could see his face and he was covered in blood. I don’t know if the blood was coming from his head or his face exactly. And then they immediately started reviving him.

JEFFREY BROWN: The shooter then ran toward a parking lot, where a second person, still unidentified, was later found dead.

A spokesman from the university referred to the lockdown in place earlier today.

MARK OWCZARSKI, Virginia Tech: We’re asking the campus community to stay, to shelter in place, to stay indoors, to secure themselves. And we’re asking for no visitors, for no one to come onto campus.

JEFFREY BROWN: A procession of police squad cars and SWAT team vehicles poured in this afternoon, something this campus in Blacksburg, Va., has experienced before.

Just a short while ago, university officials held another press conference to announce they are satisfied the campus is now secure.

LARRY HINCKER, Virginia Tech: We have lifted the stand-down, where we have asked people to secure in place. And we have relieved the campus community to go about their normal and regular activity.

JEFFREY BROWN: The university’s president, Charles Steger, spoke about the tragedy.

CHARLES STEGER, Virginia Tech: Tragedy again struck Virginia Tech in a wanton act of violence where a police officer was murdered during a routine traffic stop. And in light of the turmoil and the trauma and the tragedy suffered by this campus by guns, I can only say that words don’t describe our feelings, and they’re most elusive at this point in time. Our hearts are broken again.

JEFFREY BROWN: Law enforcement officials wouldn’t talk about what kind of weapon was used or whether the second person found dead could be the shooter.

MAN: We can’t comment that right now. It’s still being investigated.

JEFFREY BROWN: In 2007, Virginia Tech was the scene of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, when 33 people were killed.

Officials were criticized at the time for not locking down the campus or sending out emergency notifications quickly enough. Just yesterday, in fact, parents of victims in the 2007 shooting told an administrative law judge that they believe their children might have been saved if earlier warnings had been made.

They spoke at a hearing on the university’s appeal of a $55,000 fine levied by the U.S. Department of Education after that shooting. Today, officials said the new alert system was in fact used successfully.

LARRY HINCKER: And so we continued to use V.T. alerts. And I’m counting, one, two, three, four, five, six times, including the stand-down notification, six times, we notified our community through the alerts, which, of course, as you know, is a multifaceted, multi-communication-channel system.

JEFFREY BROWN: Officials said they would not speculate about any motive in today’s shooting.