|Appalachian School of Law Shootings|
Thu, 17 Jan 2002
A law school student who had just been suspended went on a shooting rampage at the school Wednesday, killing the dean, a professor and a student before he was wrestled to the ground and arrested, school officials and witnesses said.
Three students also were critically injured in the hail of gunfire at the Appalachian School of Law.
“When I got there, there were bodies lying everywhere,” said Dr. Jack Briggs, who has a private practice a half-mile from the school in this tiny mountain community in western Virginia.
Dean L. Anthony Sutin and Professor Thomas Blackwell were gunned down in their offices, school officials said. The third person slain was a student, said Ellen Qualls, a spokeswoman for Gov. Mark Warner.
State police identified the suspect as Peter Odighizuma, 43. Briggs said Odighizuma was a Nigerian who had flunked out last year and been allowed to return.
Odighizuma had been suspended from school earlier Wednesday, Qualls said. She said Odighizuma had a history of mental instability of which school officials were aware.
Sutin, a former Justice Department official who left the Clinton administration to become dean, 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.
The gunman was tackled by four male students as he left the building.
The wounded students were hospitalized in critical condition, the governor said. Qualls said the weapon used was a .38-caliber semiautomatic handgun.
The private law school, with an enrollment of about 170 students, was closed for the rest of the week.
Justin Marlowe, a first-year law student from Richwood, W.Va., said the suspect had been in all 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 that Odighizuma had flunked out a year ago and that “the d ean had bent over backward to get him enrolled again.”
Sutin arrived at the Justice Department in 1994, working on community policing issues, and then served as deputy associate attorney general. He was acting assistant attorney general in the office of legislative affairs until November 1998, when he left to join the school staff.
Sutin, who graduated from Harvard Law School in 1984, also had worked for the Democratic National Committee and President Bill Clinton’s campaign in 1992, according to the Web site of Jurist, the Legal Education Network.
Sutin’s death prompted a statement of condolence from U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.
“The entire Department of Justice is mourning the loss of a dedicated public servant who served the Department of Justice with distinction, integrity and honor,” the statement said.
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.