|Appalachian School of Law Shootings|
Thu, 17 Jan 2002
BRYANT GUMBEL, co-host:
An immigrant law student is being held on three counts of capital murder after opening fire at his Virginia school on Wednesday, killing three people and injuring three others. Forty-three-year-old Peter Odighizuwa was apparently upset about being kicked out of the Appalachian School of Law because of poor grades. Jason Arthur, Ted Besen and Tracy Bridges were among a group of students who took the gunman down. They’re all in Grundy, Virginia.
Gentlemen, good morning.
Mr. JASON ARTHUR (Shooting Witness): Good morning, sir.
Mr. TED BESEN (Helped Subdue Suspect): Good morning.
Mr. TRACY BRIDGES (Helped Subdue Suspect): Good morning.
GUMBEL: Mr. Arthur, let me start with you, if I might, because I’m told you actually witnessed the sooting–shooting. Tell me what you saw.
Mr. ARTHUR: It was shortly after 1:00 and I had returned from lunch and I was walking through the lobby of the school when Peter–was very close to me when he pulled a gun and began shooting.
GUMBEL: Was this after he had already shot Dean Rubin and Professor Blackwell?
Mr. ARTHUR: I–I’m–was not sure, sir. I had just gotten back to campus. I–I–I don’t know exactly in what order the shootings occurred.
GUMBEL: You say he began shooting. Was he picking out particular students or–or just spraying wherever he wished?
Mr. ARTHUR: He seemed to, as he walked all the way to the–to the back corner of the lobby area and walked up to a group of three females and opened fire.
GUMBEL: A group of three females. Was he necessarily going after female students? I ask that because supposedly he’d had problems with female students before.
Mr. ARTHUR: I can’t comment as to that, sir.
GUMBEL: Mr. Besen and Mr. Bridges, you two, I’m told, were together when the shooting started. You both have police backgrounds. Did you know immediately that it was gunfire you were hearing?
Mr. BESEN: No. We couldn’t tell exactly what it was at first. We thought it might have been maintenance in the hallways because there’s an echo. But after the–the second group of shooting–shots and the screams, that’s when we knew that something was going on.
GUMBEL: You say the second group. Can I assume that the first group was the grouping that–that took down Dean Sutin and Professor Blackwell?
Mr. BESEN: I–I believe was the first was that–was Professor Blackwell was shot first, and then I believe the second grouping was Dean Sutin.
GUMBEL: Yeah. You chased Peter O–which I understand he’s called–you chased Peter O down outside. Tell me about what happened.
Mr. BESEN: Well, we came–we exited our class. We came out. That’s when other professor had come out and stated that Professor Blackwell had been shot by Peter O. Tracy and I went back to the room, got the students out of the classroom, we went down the stairs in the back of the building and showed them the door so they could go to the rear of the–the school. I went around the–the back corner, opposite side of the school here, to get a visual on him as he was walking out of the–the Lions Lounge downstairs.
GUMBEL: Was he still armed?
Mr. BESEN: And at that–at–at that point in time he was still armed. He had walked over to a light just directly back over here, where he had set down the weapon. He put up his arms and he was yelling and screaming something. I couldn’t tell. I was trying to creep up on him, and when he turned toward the street out here, that’s when I–I rushed him.
GUMBEL: Did he try to fight back or resist?
Mr. BESEN: Oh, yes. I–I ordered him to get down to the ground when he turned back on me because he–he obviously heard me coming from behind. He said no, and then I went to put him on the ground. He punched me in the jaw, then started swinging at me furiously. At that point in time I just let him come toward me, keep him busy while some other students…
Mr. BESEN: …came and hit him from the backside.
GUMBEL: And, Tracy, I understand that’s when you came along. You helped pin him down. Once you had him down, did–did Peter O say anything to you?
Mr. BRIDGES: The only comment that I know that he was mumbling was something about him being a Muslim and to be taken to a mosque.
GUMBEL: Did you know him, Tracy? Did you know him? What was he like?
Mr. BRIDGES: I knew of him. It’s a relatively small school here, so we know most of the faces here at the school. So I did know of Peter.
GUMBEL: We’re told he had a history of mental instability. Did that surprise you?
Mr. BRIDGES: I’m not really sure. I–I didn’t have any classes or anything with Peter. You know, I’ve heard rumors of him having conflicts with other students, but I’ve not personally dealt with him.
GUMBEL: Yeah. Campus will be closed there for a while. What’s the mood there?
Mr. BRIDGES: It’s just kind of surreal right now. It is a very close campus. Everybody was very close with the students who were injured and the faculty and their families. And we just hope we can help them get through this.
GUMBEL: Don’t we all. Gentlemen, I thank you all very much. Tracy Bridges, Ted Besen, Jason Arthur, I appreciate you getting up with us. Thank you.
Mr. ARTHUR: Thank you, sir.
Mr. BESEN: Thank you.
Mr. BRIDGES: Thank you.