Appalachian School of Law Shootings

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Thu, 17 Jan 2002

Disgruntled law student kills 3 at school

The Record (Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario)

- A student who had been dismissed from law school went on a campus shooting rampage yesterday, killing the dean, a professor and a student before he was tackled by students, authorities said.

The attack also wounded three female students at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va. They were in hospital in fair condition.

“When I got there, there were bodies laying everywhere,” said Dr. Jack Briggs, one of the first to arrive after the shooting in the tiny mountain community in western Virginia.

Dean L. Anthony Sutin and Prof. Thomas Blackwell were gunned down in their offices, school officials said. Police said the third person slain was student Angela Dales, 33.

Authorities said the 42-year-old suspect, Peter Odighizuwa, had arrived at school to meet with the dean about his academic dismissal, which went into effect yesterday.

Briggs said Odighizuwa, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Nigeria, failed last year but had been allowed to return to the school.

Odighizuwa first stopped in the office of Prof. Dale Rubin to talk about his grades and as he left he was reported to have asked Rubin to pray for him, police said. Rubin, reached by telephone, declined comment.

He then walked to Sutin’s and Blackwell’s offices and shot them with a pistol, State Police spokesman Mike Stater said. Blackwell had taught contract law to Odighizuwa.

Witnesses said Odighizuwa then went downstairs into a common area and opened fire on a crowd of students, killing Dales and seriously wounding three others.

Todd Ross, 30, of Johnson City, Tenn., was among the students who were outside when Odighizuwa left the building. Ross said the suspect was holding his hands in the air and dropped the gun at his prompting.

Odighizuwa was promptly tackled and “struggled after we got him on the ground but then just laid there,” Ross said.

He said the suspect kept shouting: “‘I have nowhere to go. I have nowhere to go.”’

The suspect was being held at the Buchanan County Jail on three counts of capital murder and three weapons counts, authorities said.

Ellen Qualls, a spokeswoman for Gov. Mark Warner, said Odighizuwa had a history of mental instability school officials knew about.

First-year student Justin Marlowe from Richwood, W.Va., said the suspect had been in all of his classes.

“He was a real quiet guy who kept to himself. He didn’t talk to anybody but he gave no indication that he was capable of something like this,” Marlowe said.

The private law school, with an enrolment of about 170 students, was closed for the rest of the week.

School president Lucius Ellsworth was meeting with government officials in Richmond and flew back when he learned of the shootings.

“Each of us is suffering but as a family, we can find strength to pass through this terrible dark and tragic valley,” he said.

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