Appalachian School of Law Shootings

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Wed, 16 Jan 2002

Three slain, three wounded during shooting spree at law school

Roger Alford
The Associated Press State & Local Wire

A law school student went on a shooting spree Wednesday, killing three people and critically wounding three others before he was wrestled to the ground by students, officials said.

The victims included the dean of the Appalachian School of Law and a professor who were gunned down in their offices. The third person slain was a student, said Ellen Qualls, a spokeswoman for Gov. Mark Warner.

“When I got there there were bodies laying everywhere,” said Dr. Jack Briggs, who has a private practice a half-mile from the school in this tiny western Virginia community.

Briggs said he had treated the suspect in the past year. He described the gunman as a Nigerian in his early 40s who had flunked out last year and been allowed to return.

“I think they were getting ready to tell him that he had not made the grade this year,” Briggs said.

Dean L. Anthony Sutin and the professor were “executed” in their offices, Briggs said.

He said the gunman then went downstairs into a common area and opened fire on a crowd of students, killing one and wounding three others. He was tackled by some male students as he left the building.

“They just wanted the guy,” Briggs said. “They weren’t worried about their own personal safety.”

Qualls said the weapon used was a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun.

The three wounded students were in critical condition, Gov. Mark Warner told reporters in Richmond.

“We knew before we heard there was a shooting that something was wrong,” said Tiffany Street, who works at a nearby motel. “There were fire trucks, ambulances, state police and cops all heading toward the school.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Street, 20. “Grundy’s a very small town, and I’ve been here all my life.”

The private law school has an enrollment of about 170 students.

The governor, who had served on the school’s board until he took office last week, said he was shocked and saddened by the shooting.

“I commend the students who acted swiftly to apprehend the suspect, who is now in custody,” Warner said. “My heart goes out to the school and the community. I know that such a close-knit community will feel such a tragedy especially deeply.”

Sutin, a 1984 graduate of Harvard Law School, was also an associate professor at the school. He left the Justice Department 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.

The school opened five years ago in a renovated junior high school in Grundy, a town of about 1,100 just a few miles south of the Kentucky and West Virginia state lines.

School founders hope to ease a shortage of lawyers in the coalfields of southwest Virginia, help change the region’s image and foster renewal in Appalachia. The American Bar Association rejected the school’s first application for accreditation in 1999.

The school graduated its first class of 34 in 2000. There are about 15 faculty members, including alumni of law schools at the University of California at Berkeley and Columbia, Harvard and Howard universities.

“You read about it in other areas, but when it comes home it really hurts,” said state Del. Jackie Stump of Grundy, fighting back tears as he hung his head and walked away from a news conference in Richmond.

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