|Appalachian School of Law Shootings|
Thu, 17 Jan 2002
Tracy Bridges didn’t have much time to think when he saw suspected killer Peter Odighizuwa on the front lawn of the Appalachian School of Law.
Odighizuwa was holding a gun and so was Bridges, a student and sheriff’s deputy.
“I just reacted,” said Bridges, 25, who tackled Odighizuwa with classmates Todd Ross, 30, and Ted Besen, 37, moments after a shooting spree at the school Wednesday left three dead and three wounded.
The three men pinned Odighizuwa to the ground, and Bridges handcuffed the man’s arms behind his back.
Odighizuwa, 42, a former student who was dismissed on Tuesday for bad grades, is accused of shooting Dean L. Anthony Sutin and Professor Thomas Blackwell dead in their offices. Student Angela Dales later died of gunshot wounds.
As screaming students started climbing out of windows, Bridges and Besen said their police and military training took over.
“Hopefully if I’m ever on the other end of something like this, someone would try to help me,” Bridges said.
“I’m a former Marine, former police officer,” Besen said. “Who better to do that? I’m trained to do that. I’m not going to let him shoot anyone else if I could.”
Ross downplayed the notion that they were heroes.
“I didn’t do anything until I knew I was safe,” he said.
Odighizuwa, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Nigeria, is scheduled to be arraigned Thursday morning in Grundy General District Court on capital murder charges.
Chris Clifton, the school’s financial officer, said he met with Odighizuwa on Tuesday afternoon with other school officials to notify him that he was being permanently dismissed for poor grades. Odighizuwa, who had flunked out and then was readmitted a year before, would have to pay back $9,250 in federal school loans.
Wednesday, Odighizuwa stopped in the office of professor Dale Rubin to talk about his grades and as he left reportedly asked Rubin to pray for him, police said. He then walked to Sutin’s and Blackwell’s offices and shot them with a .380-caliber pistol, State Police spokesman Mike Stater said. Blackwell had taught contract law to Odighizuwa.
“There were three quick shots, then we heard I think three more,” Bridges said.
Bridges and Besen, a former police officer from Wilmington, N.C., crept down a back stairwell to the parking lot, and Bridges got his gun out of the car.
Odighizuwa had walked outside and stood with a confused look on his face, Bridges said.
“I planned on blindsiding him from behind,” Besen said. “He sat the weapon down and raised his hands up in the air. I didn’t know if he was praying.”
Besen said he ran toward Odighizuwa and told him to get on the ground.
“He kind of came at me. He swung and hit me in the jaw,” Besen said.
Once pinned down, he kept shouting, “I have nowhere to go. I have nowhere to go.”’