|Appalachian School of Law Shootings|
Thu, 17 Jan 2002
Peter Odighizuwa returned to his law school campus hoping to get another chance from his dean after flunking out for a second time. But he came armed with a pistol and, moments after being rejected, authorities say he started firing.
Odighizuwa shot his dean and a professor to death in their offices and then opened fire on a crowd of students, killing one and injuring three others before students tackled the gunman and handcuffed him, officials said.
“He was angry. He thought he was being treated unfairly, and he wanted to see his transcript,” said Chris Clifton, the school’s financial aid officer.
“I don’t think Peter knew at this time that it (dismissal) was going to be permanent and final,” Clifton added.
Odighizuwa, a 43-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen from Nigeria, was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Grundy General District Court.
Odighizuwa went to the campus of the Appalachia School of Law on Wednesday to talk to his dean, L. Anthony Sutin, about his dismissal, officials said. He shot Sutin and professor Thomas Blackwell, who taught contract law to Odighizuwa, with a .380-caliber pistol, authorities and students said.
Police said the third person slain was student Angela Dales, 33. The injured students were in fair condition at area hospitals.
The suspect, known around the rural campus as “Peter O,” had been struggling with his grades for more than a year and had been dismissed once before. Clifton met with Odighizuwa a day earlier when the student learned he was to be kicked out of school.
Odighizuwa is being held in the Buchanan County Jail on three counts of capital murder and three counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony, authorities said.
Dr. Jack Briggs, who has a private practice a half-mile from the school, said Odighizuwa went downstairs from Sutin’s and Blackwell’s offices to a commons area and opened fire on students.
“When I got there, there were bodies laying everywhere,” Briggs said.
Odighizuwa left the building and dropped his gun after being confronted. Students then tackled him and helped hold him down. A student who is a sheriff’s deputy handcuffed Odighizuwa.
Odighizuwa kept saying, “I have nowhere to go. I have nowhere to go,” said student Todd Ross, 30, of Johnson City, Tenn., who helped subdue the alleged shooter.
Justin Marlowe, a first-year law student from Richwood, W.Va., said the suspect had been in all of his classes.
“He was a real quiet guy who kept to himself,” Marlowe said. “He didn’t talk to anybody, but he gave no indication that he was capable of something like this.”
“The dean bent over backwards to get him enrolled again” when Odighizuwa flunked out last spring, Marlowe said.
Other classmates, however, described the suspect as an “abrasive” person who would regularly have outbursts in class when he was challenged by classmates or the professor.
“I knew he’d do something like this,” said Zeke Jackson, 40, who tried to recruit him for the school’s Black Law Students’ Association.
The private law school has an enrollment of about 170 students. It opened five years ago in a renovated junior high school to help ease a shortage of lawyers in the region and foster renewal in Appalachia.
Sutin, a 1984 graduate of Harvard Law School, also was an associate professor at the school. He left the Justice Department to help found the school, and had worked for the Democratic National Committee and Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign, 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.
Blackwell moved to the area from Dallas about three years ago.
Constance C. Bausell, 52, of Grundy, served with Blackwell on a committee at her church searching for a new pastor. Even though Blackwell was somewhat new to the area, she said, “he fit in like a glove.”