|Appalachian School of Law Shootings|
Thu, 17 Jan 2002
GRUNDY, Va. - A struggling Nigerian law school student went on a campus shooting spree Wednesday, killing the dean, a professor and a student before he was tackled by students, authorities said.
The attack also wounded three students at the Appalachian School of Law. Two were in surgery Wednesday evening and the third was listed in fair condition.
“When I got there, there were bodies laying everywhere,” said Dr. Jack Briggs, who was one of the first to arrive after the shooting in this tiny mountain community in western Virginia.
Cool Ridge, W.Va., resident Melanie E. Page, a second-year student at the 170-student school, said she did not believe any of the West Virginia students enrolled in the law school were harmed.
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.
The 42-year-old suspect, Peter Odighizuwa, had arrived at school to meet with the dean about his academic suspension, which went into effect Wednesday, State Police spokesman Mike Stater said.
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.
He then walked to Sutin’s and Blackwell’s offices and shot them with a .380-caliber pistol, Stater said. 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.
“I saw one of the girls that was shot and she was screaming for a tourniquet,” said former Charleston, W.Va., resident Jeremy Burnside, a student who was in the library when the shooting erupted.
The University of Charleston graduate had seen Odighizuwa earlier in the day. “I knew him from class, and I knew he was mad because he flunked out,” Burnside said.
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 that school officials knew about.
Rubin, the professor who spoke with the suspect moments before the rampage, declined comment after the shooting.
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 also said Odighizuwa had flunked out a year ago and “the dean bent over backward to get him enrolled again.”
Odighizuwa had children and a wife, students said. He once told classmates he had no money to feed his children and other students gave him money.
“He’s just a little bit not there,” said Burnside, a former state employee in Charleston.
“He was hostile,” said Charleston resident Eric Wilson, a student at the school. “We called it [a shooting incident] jokingly, but we never thought it would happen.”
Page said she only slightly knew Odighizuwa. “He barely spoke English. No one understood him,” she said.
The private law school was closed for the rest of the week.
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. 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 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 just 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 Delegate Jackie Stump of Grundy, fighting back tears as he hung his head and walked away from a news conference in Richmond.