Appalachian School of Law Shootings

You can see the part of each story below that mentions how Peter O. was captured here, while an index is here

Thu, 17 Jan 2002

The shootings at Appalachian School of Law

Today (7:00 AM ET) - NBC

KATIE COURIC, co-host:

On CLOSE UP this morning, the law school shooting. As we’ve been reporting, on Wednesday, a student opened fire at Virginia’s Appalachian School of Law, killing the dean, a professor and another student. Three others were wounded in the attack. In the crucial moments after the rampage, a few students moved quickly to try to apprehend the suspect and stop the shooting.

One of those students is Tracy Bridges.

Mr. Bridges, good morning.

Mr. TRACY BRIDGES (Helped to apprehend law school student): Good morning.

COURIC: I know the–the shooting broke out around 1:30, I guess, in the afternoon. Can you describe what you witnessed?

Mr. BRIDGES: Yes, ma’am. We were–we had a class at 1:30. We had arrived a little earlier, around 1:00. Shortly after we got to the classroom, we heard three shots fired. It kind of was muffled and we thought it was a gunshot. Just a few seconds later we heard three more shots and a scream. Myself and another student, Ted Besen, left the classroom. We ran into a professor and he said that Peter had a gun and that he was shooting. I ran back to the classroom and told the other classmates to get out, that we had a shooter in the building.

COURIC: When he…

Mr. BRIDGES: At that time…

COURIC: When he said, Tracy that ‘Peter has a gun,’ you knew exactly who he was talking about, didn’t you?

Mr. BRIDGES: Yes, ma’am.


Mr. BRIDGES: It is a relatively small school. That’s really the only Peter that I know. I know that he was a repeat student. I mean, that was the only Peter that I knew at the time.

COURIC: Did you know that this Peter was having trouble in school, or that there was–was any reason for him to be upset or agitated or angry?

Mr. BRIDGES: I knew he had some academic problems, that he was a restart student, which means that he didn’t do so well the first semester he was here. And the school allowed him to come back and try again. That’s all, you know, that’s all I knew at the time.

COURIC: What happened next, Tracy, after you heard a professor say that Peter had a gun?

Mr. BRIDGES: I went back to the classroom and told the students to get out, that there was a shooter in the building. We herded them out the–the back stairwell. At that time, me and Ted Besen went down the back stairwell, and my vehicle was parked in a parking spot between the shooter and the back stairwell. We seen the shooter, started to approach him, stopped at my vehicle, and got out my handgun, and started to approach Peter. At that time, Peter throwed up his hands and throwed his weapon down. Ted was first person to have contact with Peter, and Peter hit him one time in the face. So there was a little bit of a struggle there. After that, Ted pushed him back, me, Ted and another student, Todd Ross, took Peter to the ground and subdued him until we had some handcuffs to put him in.

COURIC: I should mention, Tracy, that you are a police officer, a trained police officer. You were one in–in North Carolina. And another student, I understand, who was able to help, Michael Gross, he handed you a pair of handcuffs so you could handcuff the suspect. Must have been incredibly fortuitous that you all had police training and a police background that you were able to–to act in such a–a quick and appropriate way.

Mr. BRIDGES: Yes, ma’am. It all kind of happened real fast. We, you know, just kind of done what we could at the time.

COURIC: Tell me a little bit about the dean who was killed as a result of this, Anthony Sutin. I understand that you and he had a very close relationship.

Mr. BRIDGES: Yes, ma’am. Me and Dean Sutin, I got to know him when I was a first year student here before he was dean. He was a professor. I had him in class and he was a very close friend and mentor. Usually during the day if I found a few minutes extra time, I went by and had discussions with Dean Sutin. He’s written me several job recommendations. Just an extraordinary guy.

COURIC: Along with Dean Sutin, Thomas Blackwell, a professor, and Angela Dales, a student, were both also killed. What is the reaction? I mean, this is such a shocking event, particularly for your community, which is a very quiet community normally?

Mr. BRIDGES: Yes, ma’am. It’s just real shocking right now. Our hearts go out to, of course, Professor Sutin, or Dean Sutin’s family, and Professor Blackwell’s family, and Angela’s family as well. Professor Blackwell, and also Dean Sutin, had children, and everybody is just real worried about that. And it just seems kind of surreal right now.

COURIC: Well, Tracy Bridges, we thank you so much for talking with us this morning. And thank you for your quick–quick and steady action. I’m sure you were a big help given the–the chaos of the situation. Tracy, thank you so much.

Mr. BRIDGES: Yes, ma’am.

COURIC: Now, here’s Matt.

MATT LAUER, co-host:

Katie, thank you.

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