BLACKSBURG, Va. — Once more there were gunshots, a lockdown and a campus community trapped in offices and classrooms, waiting in fear. Once more, there was terror at Virginia Tech.
Less than five years after a deranged undergraduate carried out the bloodiest shooting by a lone gunman in U.S. history, the picturesque campus between the Blue Ridge and Allegheny mountains was paralyzed Thursday by an incident that left a university police officer dead, as well as an unidentified man reported to have been the shooter.
The officer was identified as Deriek W. Crouse, a 39-year-old Army veteran and married father of five who joined the campus police force about six months after the 2007 massacre, the school said. He previously worked at a jail and a sheriff's department.
But many other details were hazy Thursday night; police would divulge neither a motive nor the names of the shooter. Nor would they confirm that the case was, as reported by several news outlets, a murder-suicide — even though the university told students and employees in late afternoon there was "no longer an active threat," and a state police sergeant encouraged media to "read between the lines" when asked if the gunman was still at bay.
While the tally of dead did not approach the 32 killed on April 16, 2007, by Seung-Hui Cho, the resurgence of fear and grief could not be measured in numbers.
"It's unimaginably sad," professor Andrew S. Becker, who left campus 30 minutes before news of the shooting, said in an email.
Authorities said that about 12:15 p.m., Crouse was conducting a routine traffic stop in a parking lot when a gunman approached and fired at him.
Eventually, a second body was found in another parking lot, and a weapon was recovered. The voluntary lockdown was lifted before sundown.
The shooting came on the same day that university officials, including the campus police chief, were in Washington appealing a $55,000 fine by the Department of Education for the school's failure to provide a "timely warning" in the 2007 case.
Since then, however, Virginia Tech took the lead among universities in implementing a sophisticated emergency notification system. Praised Thursday by school officials as highly effective, it alerted faculty and students on phones, desktops and social media outlets moments after the first shooting occurred.