|Appalachian School of Law Shootings|
Thu, 17 Jan 2002
A student upset about flunking out of law school shot his dean and a professor to death in their offices before opening fire in a commons area, killing a student and injuring three others, authorities said.
Peter Odighizuwa, 43, went to the Appalachia School of Law on Wednesday to talk to his dean, L. Anthony Sutin, about his dismissal, officials said. He shot Sutin and Professor Thomas Blackwell, who taught Odighizuwa’s contracts classes during the fall and winter, with a .380-caliber pistol, authorities and students said.
Odighizuwa, known around the rural campus as “Peter O,” had been struggling with his grades for more than a year and had been dismissed once before. Chris Clifton, the school’s financial aid officer, met with Odighizuwa a day earlier when Odighizuwa learned he was to be kicked out of school.
“He was angry. He thought he was being treated unfairly, and he wanted to see his transcript,” Clifton said. Odighizuwa, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Nigeria, scheduled a meeting for Wednesday to talk to school officials about his grades.
“I don’t think Peter knew at this time that it was going to be permanent and final,” Clifton said.
Also killed was student Angela Dales, 33, of Vansant, said State Police spokesman Mike Stater. Three injured students were in fair condition at southwest Virginia hospitals.
Odighizuwa is being held in the Buchanan County Jail on three counts of capital murder and three counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony, authorities said. He is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday morning in Grundy General District Court.
Dr. Jack Briggs, who has a private practice a half-mile from the school, said Odighizuwa went downstairs from Sutin’s and Blackwell’s offices to a commons area and opened fire on the crowd there.
“When I got there there were bodies laying everywhere,” Briggs said.
Odighizuwa left the building and dropped his gun after being confronted by student Todd Ross of Johnson City, Tenn. Ross said he then tackled Odighizuwa, and two or three other students helped hold him down.
Odighizuwa kept saying, ‘“I have nowhere to go. I have nowhere to go.”’ Ross said.
Hospital officials identified the three wounded students as Rebecca Brown, 38, of Roanoke; Martha Madeline Short, 37, of Grundy; and Stacy Beans, 22, of Berea, Ky. Amy Stevens, a spokeswoman for Wellmont Health Systems, said Short was in fair condition, and Beans and Brown were in fair condition after surgery Wednesday evening.
Justin Marlowe, a first-year law student 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. He said “the dean bent over backwards to get him enrolled again” when Odighizuwa flunked out last spring.
Other classmates, however, described him as an “abrasive” person who would regularly have swearing outbursts in class when he was challenged by classmates or the professor.
“I knew he’d do something like this,” Zeke Jackson, 40, who tried to recruit him for the schools’ Black Law Students’ Association.
The private law school has an enrollment of about 170 students. It opened five years ago in a renovated junior high school to help ease a shortage of lawyers in the region and foster renewal in Appalachia.
Sutin, a 1984 graduate of Harvard Law School, also was an associate professor at the school. He left a Justice Department position as an assistant attorney general to found the school after working for the Democratic National Committee and Bill Clinton’s campaign in 1992, according to the Web site of Jurist, the Legal Education Network.
“My thoughts and prayers go out to Mr. Sutin’s wife, Margaret, their two children and to all of their family and friends,” said Attorney General John Ashcroft.
“The entire Department of Justice is mourning the loss of a dedicated public servant who served the Department of Justice with distinction, integrity and honor.”
Blackwell, who enjoyed running and playing trumpet, moved to the area from Dallas, Tex., about three years ago. Constance C. Bausell, 52, of Grundy, served with Blackwell on a committee at her church searching for a new pastor.
Even though Blackwell was new to the area, “he fit in like a glove,” Bausell said.