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News :: Media
Virginia Tech shooting
17 Apr 2007
(CNN) -- Officials at Virginia Tech said Monday that they thought the situation was under control during the hours between two shootings that claimed 33 lives.

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"We concluded first that the incident in Ambler Johnston [dormitory] was domestic in nature. In fact we had some reason to think the shooter had left campus," Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said during a late-afternoon news conference.

Police in Blacksburg, Virginia, were alerted to the shootings at around 7:15 a.m. ET, when they were notified in a 911 call that there were several victims in a dormitory, Steger said. (Watch why SWAT trainer said cops needed to rush in )

At about 9:15 a.m., more than 30 shots were reported in nearby Norris Hall, he said.

One student told CNN that he was upset with the way the university notified students about the shooting.

"I'll say on the record I'm outraged that someone died in a shooting in a dorm at 7 in the morning. The first e-mail about it, no mention of locking down campus, no mention of canceled classes, they just mention they're investigating a shooting a few hours later at 9:26," said student Jason Piatt. (Warning e-mails to students)

"Meanwhile, while they sent out that e-mail,people got killed."

According to The Associated Press, the e-mail read:

"A shooting incident occurred at West Amber Johnston earlier this morning. Police are on the scene and are investigating. The university community is urged to be cautious and are asked to contact Virginia Tech Police if you observe anything suspicious or with information on the case. Contact Virginia Tech Police at 231-641. Stay attuned to the www.vt.edu. We will post as soon as we have more information."

Other students complained about the timing of warnings.

"We were kept in the dark a lot about exactly what was going on," Andrew Capers Thompson, a 22-year-old graduate student from Walhalla, South Carolina, told the AP.

Steger defended the university's reaction to the first shooting.

Steger said that soon after the dorm shooting the university used a telephone alert system to notify resident assistants of the tragedy and sent out e-mails to help notify the students who lived on- and off-campus. He also said warning sirens went off.

Officials said 9,000 of Virginia Tech's 26,000 students live in residence halls.

Steger said the university will review how it reacted to Monday's events.

"But it's one of these things that no one anticipated and you have to remember that you can only make the decision based on the information that you know at that moment in time," he said. "And you don't have hours to reflect on it, you have to take immediate action."

The school's lockdown system worked very well,Steger said. Students were cooperative and very few people were out after the lockdown, he said.

Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said his office will investigate to see if the shootings were related to two bomb threats that were called in recently.

In the first, on April 3, university officials closed down Torgersen Hall and a main gateway to the campus after a written note threatened the 100,000-square-foot building, according to the Roanoke Times.

The school canceled classes in the building and sent bomb-sniffing dogs in to check it out. No device was found.

The second incident took place Friday, according to WTVR in Richmond, which reported that a bomb threat forced closures of Torgersen, Durham and Whittimore halls. The buildings were closed over the weekend and reopened only in time for classes Monday morning, according to the New River Valley Times.

The university has offered a $5,000 reward for information about the bomb threats.

"We're looking into that to see if they are or are not connected," he said. "It's certainly a possibility we're exploring. "

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