BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — The Virginia Tech police officer who was shot dead at his parked cruiser was a trained firearms and defense instructor with a specialty in crisis intervention. His death leaves investigators puzzling over how and why a gunman walked up to the patrol car during a traffic stop, killed the officer and wound up dead himself in a nearby parking lot.
The campus shooting prompted officials to lock down the university for hours Thursday while police and SWAT teams searched the school, the scene in 2007 of the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Authorities have in-car video from officer Deriek W. Crouse’s cruiser that shows a male suspect with a handgun at the officer’s car at the time of the shooting. But they have not identified the gunman and say they don’t know what motivated the killing or whether there was any link between the shooter and Crouse.
Crouse, an Army veteran and married father of five, was killed after pulling a driver over in a school parking lot. Police said the gunman was not involved in the traffic stop. Instead, he approached, shot the officer and then fled on foot before apparently killing himself in another lot.
“At this point, we haven’t been able to establish any kind of immediate connection between the officer and the shooter,” State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller told the Associated Press late Thursday. “That’s obviously something that’s being looked into.”
State police said in a news release early Friday that ballistics tests confirmed Crouse and the deceased suspect had been shot by the same handgun. The tests have “officially linked the two fatal shootings,” the release said.
The news release said clothing found inside a discarded backpack recovered by Blacksburg police seemed to match that of the male subject in the officer’s video. Police said they were awaiting confirmation of the deceased suspect’s identity as well as autopsy results from the medical examiner in Roanoke.
The events unfolded on the same day Virginia Tech officials were in Washington, fighting a federal government fine over their handling of the 2007 massacre where 33 people were killed. The shooting brought back painful memories. About 150 students gathered silently for a candlelight vigil on a field facing the stone plaza memorial for the 2007 victims. An official vigil is planned for Friday night.
Police would not rule out a connection between the shootings and an armed robbery Wednesday in Radford, about 10 miles from Blacksburg. According to media reports, Radford police were looking for a man they considered armed and dangerous after an armed robbery at a local real estate office.
Police said Crouse called in the traffic stop at 12:15 p.m. After a few minutes passed without hearing from the officer, dispatch tried to get in touch with him, but didn’t get a response. About 15 minutes later, police received the first call from a witness who said an officer had been shot at the Cassell Coliseum parking lot and the gunman had fled on foot.
Authorities refused to say whether Crouse was able to defend himself or fire back at his assailant.
Local, state and federal officials responded immediately. At 1 p.m., an officer saw a suspicious man in a parking lot. He had a gunshot wound and a gun nearby.
This time, though, the school applied the lessons learned during the last tragedy, locking down the campus and using a high-tech alert system to warn students and faculty members to stay indoors.
Heavily armed officers swarmed the campus and caravans of SWAT vehicles and other police cars with emergency lights flashing patrolled nearby.
Crouse was an Army veteran and married father of five children and stepchildren who joined the campus police force in October 2007. He previously worked at a jail and for the Montgomery County sheriff's department.View Entire Story
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