Appalachian School of Law Shootings

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Thu, 17 Jan 2002

Gunman kills three at Va. law school

Brian Mcneill
University Wire

A shooting rampage Wednesday by a disgruntled student at the Appalachian Law School left three dead, including the school’s dean, who was also a former acting assistant U.S. attorney general.

Peter Odighizuwa, 43, a Nigerian resident of Grundy, was apparently angered that he was going to be expelled from school because of low grades, said Mike Stater, public information officer for Virginia State Police.

At about 1:15, Odighizuwa went to the office of Dale Reuben, a professor at the school, to discuss his academic suspension that went into effect Wednesday. As he left the office, police say Odighizuwa told Reuben to pray for him.

Odighizuwa then allegedly entered Dean L. Anthony Sutin’s second floor office and shot the administrator at point-blank range with a .380 semiautomatic handgun. The suspect then allegedly entered the office of Thomas Blackwell, a 41-year-old professor, and shot him point blank as well, police said.

As Odighizuwa left the building, police say he sporadically opened fire on a group of students, killing Angela Denise Dales, a 33-year-old student at the school, and wounded three other students.

Police say a number of students then tackled Odighizuwa and subdued him until police arrived.

Rebecca Brown, a resident of Roanoke, was shot in the abdomen and arm and taken to Bristol Regional Hospital. Martha Short, a resident of Grundy, was shot in the neck and taken to Holston Valley Hospital in Kingsport. Stacey Bean, a resident of Kentucky, was shot in the chest and taken to Bristol Regional Hospital.

Hospital officials and police could not comment on the wounded students’ conditions Wednesday night.

Odighizuwa is being held at Buchanan County Jail and is charged with three counts of capital murder and three counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony, police said. More charges will be added in the coming days that address the wounded students, police said.

Zeke Jackson, a friend and fellow student of Odighizuwa’s at the law school, said the suspect had an “abrasive, ‘everybody’s against me’ attitude,” and typically kept to himself.

Jackson said Odighizuwa was suspended from the law school last year for poor grades, but Sutin, the murdered dean, decided to give him a second chance.

However, police say that the suspect once again received poor marks in the fall 2001 semester.

Jackson said the failing grades, coupled with his wife and children leaving him in September, left Odighizuwa agitated, and Jackson became worried the suspect was going do something to get back at the school.

“I just knew he was going to do something,” Jackson said. “I thought he’d just take something, or break something. I never thought he’d hurt anyone.”

The law school was opened in 1997 in an attempt to help revitalize Grundy, a struggling coal-mining town on the Virginia-West Virginia border. The school has an enrollment of approximately 170 and has 15 faculty members.

Sutin was a senior official in President Bill Clinton’s Justice Department and was also an associate professor at the school.

“The ASL community is profoundly shocked and saddened by this tragedy,” said a statement issued by the law school. “We extend our heartfelt sympathy to the family and friends of the victims.”

A memorial service will be held Thursday at noon in the Grundy Baptist Church, located next to the law school.

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