|Appalachian School of Law Shootings|
Thu, 17 Jan 2002
A student who had been dismissed from law school went on a campus shooting spree Wednesday, killing the dean, a professor and a student before he was tackled, authorities said.
The attack also wounded three female students at the Appalachian School of Law. They were hospitalized 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 this tiny mountain community in western Virginia.
Dean L. Anthony Sutin and professor Thomas Blackwell were gunned down in their offices, according to school officials. 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 Wednesday.
Briggs said Odighizuwa, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Nigeria, had flunked out last year and been allowed to return to the school.
Odighizuwa first stopped in the office of professor Dale Rubin to talk about his grades and as he left reportedly asked Rubin to pray for him, police said. Rubin, reached by telephone, declined to comment.
He then walked to Sutin’s and Blackwell’s offices and shot them with a .380-caliber 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 tackled by students 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 that 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.
He said that after Odighizuwa flunked out a year ago, “the dean bent over backward to get him enrolled again.”
The private law school, with an enrollment 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.
The governor, who had served on the school’s board until he took office last week, said he was shocked by the shooting.
“I commend the students who acted swiftly to apprehend the suspect,” Warner said. “My heart goes out to the school and the community.”
Sutin, a 1984 graduate of Harvard Law School, was also an associate professor at the school. He left the Justice Department to help 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.
Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a statement expressing his condolences to Sutin’s wife and their two children.
The school opened five years ago in a renovated junior high school in Grundy, a town of about 1,100 a few miles south of the Kentucky and West Virginia state lines.
School officials 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, but 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.