Appalachian School of Law Shootings

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Thu, 17 Jan 2002


Foreign Staff
The Scotsman

A STUDENT killed three people and wounded three others in a shooting rampage yesterday at a law school in south-western Virginia.

Among the dead was Anthony Sutin, the dean of the school in the small town of Grundy, and another professor. Both were found “executed” in their offices, staff said. A student was also shot dead before others wrestled the gunman to the ground. Peter Odighizuma, 43, who had been suspended from the Appalachian School of Law earlier in the day, was being held in jail in Grundy in connection with the shooting, according to Virginia police.

He was described as a Nigerian student who failed his courses at the school last year, but was allowed to return.

Lieutenant Jason Miles of the state police said: “He was suspended from school effective today for some unknown reason and came back.”

Jack Briggs, a doctor who has a private practice half a mile from the college, said: “When I got there, there were bodies laying everywhere.” Dr Briggs said he had treated the suspect in the past year. “I think they were getting ready to tell him that he had not made the grade this year,” he added.

After Mr Sutin - the dean and a former official of the US justice department, who worked for the former president Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign - was shot dead, the gunman went downstairs into a common area and opened fire on a crowd of students, killing one and wounding three others. He was tackled by four male students as he left the building.

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

The weapon used appeared to be a single .38 semi-automatic handgun.

The three wounded students, airlifted from the scene, were described as being in a critical condition.

The shooting marked a tragic setback for recent attempts by authorities to improve the region’s image of lawlessness.

The law school in the Appalachian foothills, which has an enrolment of about 170 students, opened in 1997 with the hope of easing a historic shortage of lawyers in the coalfields of south-west Virginia. It has about 15 faculty members, including alumni of law schools at the prestigious University of California at Berkeley and Columbia, Harvard and Howard universities.

Police in New York’s schools kept a wary vigil yesterday a day after two students were wounded in the first shooting inside a city school since 1994. One teenager remained in serious condition after two boys were shot from behind in a hallway in the Martin Luther King Jr High School in Manhattan. No suspect has been named.

American colleges and universities have stayed largely free of the wave of shootings that have swept US schools. Six years ago, an engineering student shot dead three professors who were about to review his thesis at a university in San Diego, California.

The killer was sentenced to three consecutive life terms in prison.

In the past two years, about 10,000 convicted criminals and others barred from buying guns have acquired weapons after faulty background checks.

Critics have long complained that American gun laws allow free and easy access to weapons for people from all walks of life, including children.

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