Appalachian School of Law Shootings

This shows the part of each story that mentions how Peter O. was captured. The full text of these stories is here, while an index is here

Sun, 20 Jan 2002


Laurence Hammack, Kimberly O’Brien And Lindsey Nair
Roanoke Times & World News (Roanoke, VA)

Spring semester was one week old, and the Appalachian School of Law was returning to full academic life.

At a weekly coffee meeting for students and faculty, professor Thomas Blackwell chatted with first-year student Mikael Gross about practice exams.

Anthony Sutin, dean of the school, finished some research at the law library and headed back to his office.

Student Angela Dales talked with classmates during a break between classes.

Everyone at the school was busy and preoccupied with the work that lay ahead.

Everyone, that is, except Peter Odighizuwa.

Odighizuwa, described as a troubled loner unable to cope with his failure as a law student, had recently been told that he had flunked out of school. Yet Odighizuwa refused to leave, lurking around campus and complaining bitterly about how the school had treated him.

Wednesday afternoon, Odighizuwa returned to the school.

Instead of law books, he carried a .380-caliber semiautomatic handgun.

Professor Gail Kintzer was in her second-floor office about 1:15 p.m. talking with a student when she heard the first shot.

“I heard a pop, which made me stop, and a second pop, which I knew was a gunshot,” she said.

Someone - she’s not sure who - opened Kintzer’s door, and two secretaries rushed in. Melanie Lewis, Sutin’s secretary, and Donna Horn, a faculty secretary, were hysterical.

Lewis and Horn had just seen Peter Odighizuwa shoot Blackwell, two offices down the hall, Kintzer said.

Professor Wes Shinn, whose office is next to Blackwell’s, had opened his door long enough to see Lewis and Horn standing horrified in the hallway.

“He’s got a gun; he’s got a gun,” the women screamed.

Once the women got inside Kintzer’s office, they crawled under her desk.

Kintzer tried to call for help. All emergency numbers were busy, swamped by calls from others who had heard the shots.

As Horn and Lewis ran into Kintzer’s office, Shinn ducked back into his office and slammed the door. “My assumption was that he was going to go from office to office,” he said.

Shinn heard two more shots that seemed to come from farther down the hall.

He ventured out and found Blackwell still sitting behind his desk. He was slumped over in his chair and bleeding from the neck. Shinn checked for a pulse and found none.

Blackwell’s telephone was off the hook.

At the time he was shot, Blackwell was on the phone with Charlotte Varney, the secretary of his church. They were talking about an upcoming congregational meeting at Buchanan First Presbyterian Church.

Suddenly, Blackwell stopped talking.

Varney heard a sound as if someone had blown up a paper bag, then popped it. Then she heard the phone drop and what sounded like static. After that, she heard muffled voices and footsteps.

“I asked him what was going on, but he didn’t come back on the line,” she said.

After about two minutes, Varney thought she had been disconnected. So she hung up and went on an errand, figuring Blackwell would call her back if he needed to.

A half-hour passed before she learned the truth.

Meanwhile, Kintzer and Shinn had rushed down the hall to Sutin’s office. They were met by another professor who had found the dean lying face down on the floor of his office. Two powder burns - indicating that he had been shot at close range - could be seen on Sutin’s bloodstained white dress shirt. Sutin had also been shot a third time, in the side.

He was dead, too.

Downstairs, most people did not realize what had just happened.

Arun Rattan, a first-year student, had just returned from lunch at the Italian Village, a downtown eatery frequented by students. He was with Stacey Bean and her boyfriend, James Davis.

They walked into the Lions Lounge, a lobby area named for the two statues of crouched lions that stood near the entrance. About 20 students were in the lounge, sitting in sofas and chairs or passing through on the way to class.

Sensing movement behind him, Rattan glanced over his left shoulder and saw Odighizuwa standing next to him. It appeared he had just come down the stairs that led to Sutin’s office.

“I looked at him, and he just nodded his head at me,” Rattan said.

It was only after Odighizuwa walked past him that Rattan realized he had a gun. “I didn’t think it was a real gun at first,” he said.

Odighizuwa walked up to the couch where students Angela Dales, Rebecca Brown and Madeline Short were sitting.

Standing about five feet from the women, Odighizuwa opened fire, Rattan said.

“Run! Run!” panicked students yelled. Rattan fled out a side door and ran behind the library, next to the school’s main building.

Rose Hurley, director of career services, was in her first-floor office adjacent to the lounge talking to two students when they heard the shots.

One of the students, Peter Tsahiridis, got up, closed the office door and locked it. The trio huddled together, trying to figure out what to do. When the commotion in the lounge stopped, they ventured out.

In the doorway of the career services office lay Dales. Blood was pouring from her neck. Tsahiridis tried to help.

Short was lying nearby. The bullet had entered her back, ripping through her abdomen and liver.

Bean was also down, bleeding from the chest.

Brown, despite being shot in the abdomen, had been able to run to the library.

Outside, Mikael Gross was walking back from lunch with a group of friends when they heard a gunshot.

It seemed to have come from the second floor. The sound was as if something had hit tin, followed by a whizzing noise. Later, he would learn that it was the bullet that went through Sutin’s window.

But then, his focus was on the end of the building, where students were pouring out of the entrance to the Lions Lounge.

“Peter O’s got a gun! Run!” someone yelled.

Odighizuwa was known on campus simply as “Peter O” because most people could not pronounce his last name. The Nigerian immigrant spoke with a heavy accent that made him hard to understand - something that may have contributed to his sense of alienation on the campus. As students heard the news, many recalled the deep anger that Odighizuwa harbored.

“You never knew with him,” Rattan said.

Students were scattering. Third-year student Ted Besen crept along the side of the building toward Odighizuwa, who had just come outside from the lounge. Gross sprinted for his car, about 100 yards away, and retrieved a bulletproof vest and a 9 mm handgun. Back home in North Carolina, he’s an officer with the Grifton Police Department.

He ran back, gun in hand.

By then, Odighizuwa had placed his gun and a clip on a light fixture about four feet off the ground and put his hands in the air. He was yelling something unintelligible to the students, Besen said. Besen, a former Marine and Wilmington, N.C., police officer, told him to get onto the ground.

Besen had heard shots on the second floor while waiting for a class to start. He and fellow student Tracy Bridges, another former police officer, had ushered students down the back stairs to safety before Besen went to his car to get his own gun.

Now, outside the Lions Lounge, Besen was taking a punch on the jaw from Odighizuwa. As the two wrestled, third-year student Todd Ross ran up and tackled Odighizuwa in the legs, hard. All three went down.

More students had reached the scene, helping hold Odighizuwa. Bridges sat on him. Gross ran back to his car to get handcuffs.

Before he did so, he heard Odighizuwa muttering: “I had to do it. I didn’t know what else to do. I had nowhere else to go.”

Handcuffed, Odighizuwa lay outside the building while people rushed into the lounge to help the wounded. A Buchanan County sheriff’s deputy showed up and put the suspect into his car.

Ambulances were nowhere to be seen.

But inside the lounge, a rescue was unfolding.

Melissa McCall-Burton had just returned from the nearby Subway for her 1:30 p.m. class when she learned what happened. The former emergency room nurse took her medical bag from her car and ran into the lounge.

The first victim McCall-Burton saw was Dales, lying in the career services office doorway. Right after being shot, Dales had been talking, according to Besen. But as McCall-Burton worked on Dales, she went into cardiac arrest. McCall-Burton was performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation when Dr. Jack Briggs, nurse practitioner Susan Looney and registered nurse Carol Breeding arrived.

Briggs had been in his office, just a few miles down the road, when an announcement came over the speaker system: “Dr. Briggs, pick up the phone, stat!”

It was Hurley, still holed up in the career services office. She knew Briggs had a background in emergency medicine and wasn’t far away. And Briggs knew that a state police helicopter was waiting at Buchanan General Hospital to take one of his patients to Wellmont Holston Valley Medical Center in Kingsport, Tenn. He called for it to be held.

Then he rushed from his office, his nurses in tow.

In the lounge, Looney took over Dales’ care. The others checked Short and Bean.

Briggs figured that all four injured women needed blood. But he knew it would take too long for ambulances to arrive. Both Grundy ambulances were on other calls, and other units were 20 minutes away.

The women needed to go to the hospital - immediately. So some students volunteered their own vehicles.

Stephanie Mutter backed her Toyota 4-Runner to the lobby doors. Short was put inside on a table, which just hours earlier had held coffee and snacks at the student-faculty gathering. Now, the table was one of several makeshift gurneys; the leftover food was dumped onto the floor as the bleeding women were taken out, one by one.

Students Daniel Boyd and Rob Sievers, president of the student bar association, jumped into Mutter’s vehicle with Short and made sure she didn’t fall out the open back door. Others took Brown and Bean.

Every time Mutter hit a bump, Short cried out.

“We were just glad she was talking,” Mutter said.

Honking and screaming for help, Mutter pulled up to Buchanan General Hospital, a few miles from the law school. Emergency room nurses rushed to their aid.

Dales, meanwhile, was on her way to the hospital.

The Buchanan County Sheriff’s Office had called the Grundy Funeral Home, which used to run an ambulance service and still helps police during emergencies. Funeral director T.C. Mullins sent four men with a hearse. They weren’t sure whether they were going for a patient or a corpse.

Dales, still alive, was loaded into the hearse, but died shortly after reaching the hospital. Brown, Short and Bean were taken away in two state police helicopters.

“I wish we’d gotten Angela first,” Mutter thought when she heard the woman had died.

By then, Odighizuwa was locked up. By the next morning, he had been charged with three counts of capital murder and three counts of attempted capital murder. Prosecutors have said they will seek a death sentence.

Now, a man who once aspired to be a lawyer must rely on one to save his life.

Laurence Hammack can be reached at

981-3239 or

Kimberly O’Brien can be reached at

981-3334 or

Lindsey Nair can be reached at

981-3349 or

CORRECTION-DATE: January 31, 2002


The Jan. 21 story on the shooting at the Appalachian School of Law reversed the roles of two of the students involved in apprehending the suspect. The passage should read: Ted Besen had heard shots on the second floor while waiting for a class to start. He and fellow student Tracy Bridges, another former police officer, had ushered students down the back stairs to safety before Bridges went to his car to get his own gun. (library note: the story ran Jan. 20.)

/nd/tackle/gun | 054

Sat, 19 Jan 2002

Area officer helps wrestle law school gunman to ground

Jon Ostendorff
The Asheville Citizen-Times

Area officer helps wrestle law school gunman to ground

It wasn’t until Tracy Bridges saw his fellow students grieving at the tiny law school in Virginia that he stopped being a cop and became one of the victims.

“After all that had happened, we went outside and I saw the students in the lobby,” he said. “I knew their faces. It kind of kicked in that I’m just a student here as well.”

Bridges is a reserve Buncombe County sheriff’s deputy and a third-year law student at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va., where Peter Odighizuwa was accused of killing three people and wounding three others on Wednesday, just moments after he was dismissed from the school for failing grades.

The day started like any other for the 25-year-old Marshall native, including having lunch with friend Ted Besen of Wilmington. Both cops and North Carolina residents, the men quickly developed a close friendship during their time at the school.

They met for lunch that day then had to rush to make their 1:30 p.m. class. Bridges, anxious to be on time, parked his truck in a faculty spot in front of the building.

He had just opened his book in class when he heard three muffled pops. Several more pops echoed down the hall, closer this time. Then Bridges heard a scream.

Bridges and Besen ran into the hallway and saw a professor. “Peter’s in the building shooting,” the professor shouted.

Bridges ran back into the classroom. “Get out,” he ordered the students. The two men shepherded the students away from danger, down a back stairwell and out of the building.

Bridges and Besen then ran around to the front of the building. They saw Peter Odighizuwa, 43, clutching a handgun. Bridges instantly recognized his classmate, a troubled former student who had flunked out of the 230-student law school.

Bridges remembered the handgun in his truck, parked nearby.

He reached inside and grabbed his weapon. He pointed the handgun at Odighizuwa.

“We continued to approach Peter and he turned and faced us,” Bridges said. The Marshall native shouted at Odighizuwa to drop his gun. The man did as he was ordered.

“Ted was the first one to get to him,” Bridges said. “There was a short altercation. He hit Ted in the jaw and Ted backed up and pushed him off-balance.”

The men wrestled the suspect to the ground and handcuffed him.

Bridges, a Western Carolina University graduate, downplays his life-saving actions. He credits stopping the gunman to teamwork.

“It was me and Ted both,” he said. “We were trained under the North Carolina law enforcement institution and so we kind of have an unspoken communication between each other. And we were able to work together.”

/nd/tackle/gun/use | 063

Fri, 18 Jan 2002


Diane Suchetka
Charlotte Observer (North Carolina)

One of the four students who subdued a gunman at the Appalachian School of Law in Virginia on Wednesday is an N.C. native and former Charlottean.

Mikael Gross, 34, a first-year student at the small school in Grundy, Va., told The Observer he worked as a state alcohol law enforcement agent in Charlotte from 1996 until 1998 and earned a master’s degree in criminal justice at UNC Charlotte in 1997.

Two other men who helped bring the gunman under control also have worked as law enforcement officers in North Carolina - in Asheville and Wilmington, Gross said.

Gross was walking back to the law school from lunch just after 1 p.m. Wednesday with four classmates when he heard a gunshot. He yelled to the others to take cover and watched as students ran from a student lounge in the administration building.

“People were running everywhere,” Gross said. “They were jumping behind cars, running out in front of traffic, trying to get away.”

Gross ran to his car, parked about 100 yards away, without dropping the gunman from his sight, grabbed his bullet-proof vest from his trunk and a gun from under his front seat.

While the man pointed his gun at fellow students, Gross and two others ran toward him from different directions.

One of the others was Tracy Bridges, a Buncombe County sheriff’s deputy from Asheville, who also had his gun, Gross said.

When the gunman saw them, Gross said, he put his weapon down and his hands up.

The third man, Ted Besen, who has worked as a police officer in Wilmington, was not armed and ordered the gunman onto the ground. Instead, the gunman lunged at Besen, punching him in the face.

That’s when a fourth student ran up and tackled the gunman. Gross and Bridges jumped on the gunman, pulled his hands behind his back and held him as he tried to fight them off.

When the gunman was under control, Gross ran back to his car for his handcuffs. Police arrived a minute or so later, he said.

Afterward Gross and the others headed into the administration building to help those who had been shot.

“There was blood everywhere,” Gross said. “It looked like somebody had mopped the floor with blood.”

They put some of the injured onto folding tables turned into gurneys, loaded them into SUVs and drove them to the hospital.

“I let my instinct kick in and did what any good law enforcement officer would do, what any good person would do,” he said.

Gross, who graduated from Oak Ridge Military Academy in Oak Ridge in 1985 and East Carolina University in 1989, has also lived in Raleigh, Burlington and several other N.C. cities.

He worked as the director of police corps training at the N.C. Justice Academy in 1998 and 1999, he said, and the chief of police at Brevard College before heading to law school in August .

During breaks from law school, he works as a police officer in Grifton. His mother, Cecilia Wicker, lives in Charlotte.

/nd/tackle/gun/use | 095


Lee Mueller
Lexington Herald Leader (Kentucky)

GRUNDY, Va.—Throughout his star-crossed career as a law student, classmates said, Peter Odighizuwa had been asking people in this small coalfield town for help, and was receiving it.

Yesterday, the 43-year-old—accused of shooting to death the Appalachian School of Law’s dean, a professor and a former classmate—pleaded for another form of help.

During his arraignment in the Buchanan County Courthouse, Odighizuwa, with his legs shackled, told a judge he was sick and needed help.

“I was supposed to see my doctor,” Odighizuwa said, hiding his face behind an arrest warrant. “He was supposed to help me out … I don’t have my medication.”

Odighizuwa, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Nigeria, faces three counts of murder and other charges. He will remain in jail without bond pending a preliminary hearing on March 21, Judge Patrick Johnson ruled.

Prosecutor Sheila Tolliver said she will seek the death penalty.

Virginia State Police say Odighizuwa opened fire at the school, less than 15 miles from the Kentucky line, after he flunked out for a second time. Police declined to say yesterday where he obtained the .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol used in the shooting.

Police said Odighizuwa went to the law school’s second floor to discuss his suspension with Dale Rubin, a black professor with whom classmates said he felt comfortable. As he left Rubin’s office, Odighizuwa told the professor to pray for him. He then went into the separate offices of Dean L. Anthony Sutin and associate professor Thomas Blackwell and shot them to death, police say.

Afterward, he walked downstairs and opened fire in the student lounge, killing classmate Angela Denise Dales, 33, and wounding three other women, including Berea College graduate Stacey Beans, 22, of Paducah.

Medical officials said yesterday all three women are expected to make full recoveries and probably will be released from Tennessee hospitals next week.

Law student Mikael Gross, 34, of Charlotte, N.C., pointed out that there were men in the lounge, but that the only students Odighizuwa allegedly shot were women. One male student said the gunman “actually walked around” him in order to shoot Dales, Gross said.

Gross, a police officer in Grifton, N.C., was among at least two students with law-enforcement backgrounds who helped subdue Odighizuwa when he emerged, brandishing his pistol.

When one of the students yelled for him to put down his gun, Odighizuwa placed it, along with an extra magazine, on a lamp post, Gross said. Both were empty, he said.

The suspect was tackled and handcuffed by another student, Ted Besen, a deputy sheriff in North Carolina. Gross said both he and Besen were armed.

Gross and the other students who helped capture Odighizuwa were praised yesterday.

“To be honest, I feel I’m surrounded by heroes,” said Paulina Havelka, 27, of Charlotte, a first-year student, after hugging Gross.

Lonnie Ayers, 42, a first-year student from Cumberland in Harlan County, agreed.

“These guys, instead of running away from the situation, ran to the situation,” Ayers said.

Odighizuwa faces three counts of capital murder, three counts of attempted capital murder and six weapons charges, court records show.

A few minutes before his arraignment, Odighizuwa told reporters as he was led into the courtroom, “I was sick, I was sick. I need help.”

Police said Odighizuwa was evaluated and given medication in jail, but officers declined to identify the drug.

Before and after a memorial service yesterday at Grundy Baptist Church, students and faculty members embraced, and wondered about the classmate who, some said, was prone to vulgar outbursts.

“He never smiled,” said Misty Kennedy, 24, of Cumberland, a daughter of Harlan County school board chairman David Kennedy.

Kennedy said Odighizuwa often appeared frustrated when he spoke in class because other students, and sometimes instructors, had difficulty understanding him.

He spoke softly, with an accent, classmates said.

“The teachers would really try to help him,” Kennedy said. “They’d look at him closely and let him repeat himself, up to three times.”

Mostly, these episodes appeared to make him angry, classmates said.

Kenneth Brown, 28, said Odighizuwa “was kind of off-balance. When we met last year, he actually came up and shook my hand and asked my name. Then, like five minutes later he came back and said, ‘You know I’m not crazy, but people tick me off sometimes.’ Out of the blue.”

Court records show Odighizuwa, the father of four, was arrested Aug. 15 for allegedly assaulting his wife. The police report said he hit her in the face, bruising her right eye.

Yesterday, no one answered the door at the home near campus where Odighizuwa and his family lived.

Police said Odighizuwa, who worked a variety of jobs while in Grundy, including bagging groceries, repeatedly approached them with concerns about people breaking into his former residence. Odighizuwa told police last year that someone placed a bullet in a stairway at his home and complained again three months ago that someone had broken into his house.

Police said they checked both complaints and found nothing.

Despite Odighizuwa’s problems, the dean and others tried to help him through school. Last year, Sutin raised enough money to buy Odighizuwa a used car, clothes and food, according to students and staff.

Chris Clifton, the school’s financial aid officer, said Sutin also helped get Odighizuwa a $19,000 loan last fall.

“They did everything in the world to help him out,” said Sean Maynard, 27, a first-year student from Kenova, W.Va.

Dink Shackleford, a former classmate, recalled giving Odighizuwa $20 after he stood up in class and announced, “I’m having a rough time. I’ve got four kids and they cut my electricity off.”

“People in this community bent over backward to help him out,” Maynard said. “He was just a bad student.”

/nd/tackle/gun | 114


Rex Bowman
Richmond Times Dispatch (Virginia)

“I was sick, I was sick. I need help.”

That was the terse explanation Peter Odighizuwa offered yesterday when reporters outside the courthouse asked him why he shot and killed three people at the Appalachian School of Law on Wednesday. Three others were wounded.

Inside Buchanan County General District Court, Odighizuwa was less vocal. He hid his face and said nothing as a court clerk read the charges against him: three counts of capital murder, three counts of attempted capital murder and six counts of using a firearm in commission of a felony.

Odighizuwa, who was wrestled to the ground by fellow students, one of whom aimed his own revolver at Odighizuwa, could face the death penalty if convicted.

The shooting rampage, which claimed the life of the law school’s dean, has rocked the town of Grundy, which until Wednesday had been known mostly for its high school’s championship wrestling squad. Now, the entire town is grieving on national television over what everyone can describe only as an act of senseless violence.

“The Oklahoma City bombing, the World Trade Center, Columbine - at the time they seemed like worlds away,” the Rev. Stan Parris said yesterday during a memorial service for the three dead. “This time the tragedy has struck home, a remote, tiny town, a place protected by mountains and family values.”

“Those who were killed were some of our finest people,” Buchanan Supervisor Ed Bunn said. “It’s on everybody’s mind.”

The man accused of the killings, 43-year-old Odighizuwa, is being held without bail. Yesterday, General District Judge Patrick Johnson appointed Radford attorney James C. Turk Jr. to represent the Nigerian-born Odighizuwa.

Odighizuwa protested briefly, saying he wanted area lawyer James Carmody to represent him. Carmody had represented Odighizuwa in August when he was charged with assault and battery against his wife.

But Carmody is not on Virginia’s short list of lawyers qualified to represent capital defendants, so Johnson appointed Turk.

In his only courtroom outburst, Odighizuwa complained loudly that he is not getting proper medical attention.

“I was supposed to see my doctor,” he said, his voice rising. “He was supposed to help me out. I need my medication.”

Bailiffs then led Odighizuwa from the courtroom. He wore shackles on his feet and handcuffs on his wrists. He hid his face behind the green court documents that stated the crimes he is accused of committing.

Those killed in Wednesday’s shooting rampage were the school’s dean, L. Anthony Sutin, 42, of Grundy; associate professor Thomas F. Blackwell, 41, of Grundy; and student Angela Denise Dales, 33, of Vansant. The wounded are Rebecca Claire Brown, 38, of Roanoke; Martha Madeline Short, 37, of Grundy; and Stacey Beans, 22, of Berea, Ky.

State police and school authorities allege that Odighizuwa, upset about being dismissed from school for poor grades, shot and killed Sutin and Blackwell in their upstairs offices, using a Jennings .380 semiautomatic pistol he had concealed beneath his trench coat. He then allegedly went downstairs and fatally shot Dales and wounded the three other students.

Police said they do not know how many shots were fired, but by the time fellow students tackled Odighizuwa, the two magazine clips he had with him were empty. Each magazine could hold eight rounds.

One of the students who subdued Odighizuwa was Tracy Bridges, a 25-year-old sheriff’s deputy from Buncombe County, N.C., who is studying to become a lawyer.

“We went to get to class after 1 o’clock, and [student] Ted Besen and other students and I were in the classroom when we heard the first three shots,” Bridges said yesterday. “It sounded kind of muffled, and a few seconds later we heard the next round of shots, and a scream.

“Me and Ted and [student] Rob Sievers went out to look. A professor ran up the stairs and said, ‘Peter [Odighizuwa] has got a gun and he’s shooting.’ I ran back and told the class to get out. They went out the back way,” Bridges said.

“We went down, too, and Peter was in the front yard. I stopped at my vehicle and got a handgun, a revolver. Ted went toward Peter, and I aimed my gun at him, and Peter tossed his gun down.

“Ted approached Peter, and Peter hit Ted in the jaw. Ted pushed him back and we all jumped on,” Bridges said.

Yesterday, the day after the killings, authorities and students who knew Odighizuwa painted a picture of a man who had hit rock bottom.

In addition to being charged with abuse last year, Odighizuwa, a naturalized U.S. citizen, had flunked out of the law school last spring, a fact he kept hidden from his wife and four young sons. His wife, who worked as a nursing aide at an area hospital, left him three months ago and moved away, taking the children with her.

Odighizuwa and his wife and children had rented a small house just outside Grundy. Trying to make ends meet, Odighizuwa tutored students and also worked other part-time jobs.

David Branham, who works at his family’s real estate and insurance business in downtown Grundy, said Odighizuwa had an out-of-state real estate license and was looking for a job at the family business, but it did not have any openings.

“When I saw him after that, I would throw up my hand and wave at him, but we weren’t boozing buddies or anything,” Branham said.

Odighizuwa found a part-time job at the Vansant Food City working as a maintenance man, the manager said. The manager, who would not give his name, said Odighizuwa worked there a few months before quitting.

Odighizuwa then went to work at Issues and Answers, a market research firm above the Vansant Food City.

Branham said that at one point, a few people, including employees at Buchanan General Hospital, took up a collection for the Odighizuwa family at Christmas. Odighizuwa’s wife worked at the hospital.

The departure of his wife, the loss of his children and the failing grades sent Odighizuwa into a well of depression, said law student Kenneth Brown, of Rougemont, N.C. “The last time I really sat and talked to him was last semester, in November. We were at a dance and he came alone. He was really down. All he was saying were negative things.”

Other students said Odighizuwa was a loner with an abrasive personality and a chip on his shoulder, convinced that faculty members had it in for him.

Odighizuwa began attending the school again last fall after Sutin agreed to give him another chance, allowing him to re-enroll. Once again, though, according to financial aid director Chris Clifton, Odighizuwa’s grades were too poor.

Last week, he was informed that he was being academically dismissed, and he was told his financial aid was being suspended Wednesday.

According to state police, as he left professor Dale Rubin’s office, Odighizuwa said, “Pray for me.” Then the shooting began.

State Sen. Leslie L. Byrne, D-Fairfax, said the shootings in Grundy point to the need for more gun control.

“A man described as a ticking time bomb was able to get a semiautomatic weapon,” Byrne told Senate colleagues yesterday.

“We’ve heard a lot about homeland security and domestic defense, but the likelihood of being injured by a gun” is far greater than the likelihood of a plane flying into an office building, she said.

But Sen. William C. Wampler Jr., R-Bristol, said now is a time to mourn, not to cast blame.

Yesterday, the town of Grundy and the students and teachers at the law school tried to find solace.

“From a human standpoint, we see no sense in this tragedy,” said Parris, the clergyman who led the memorial service attended by about 250 people. “So we find ourselves asking, ‘Why? Why does God allow these senseless acts of violence?’*”

/nd/tackle/gun/use | 128

Thu, 17 Jan 2002

Students tackled gunman in law school shooting spree, held him down until police arrived

Chris Kahn
The Associated Press

Tracy Bridges didn’t have much time to think when he saw Peter Odighizuwa on the front lawn of the Appalachian School of Law moments after he allegedly went on a killing spree.

“I just reacted,” said Bridges, a student and sheriff’s deputy who tackled Odighizuwa with classmates Todd Ross and Ted Besen after the Wednesday shootings.

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 and killing Dean L. Anthony Sutin, Professor Thomas Blackwell and student Angela Dales.

As screaming students started climbing out of windows, Bridges and Besen said their police and military training took over.

“I’m a former Marine, former police officer,” said Besen, 37. “Who better to do that? I’m trained to do that. I’m not going to let him shoot anyone else if I could.”

Odighizuwa, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Nigeria, was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Grundy General District Court on capital murder charges.

Chris Clifton, the school’s financial officer, said he met with Odighizuwa on Tuesday afternoon along with other school officials to notify him that he was being permanently dismissed for poor grades. Odighizuwa had flunked out and then was readmitted a year before.

On 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,” said Bridges, 25.

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.”’

/nd/tackle/gun | 162

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.

/nd/tackle/gun | 222

3 Slain at Law School; Student Is Held

Francis X. Clines
The New York Times

A distressed student facing suspension stormed through the campus of the Appalachian School of Law today with a handgun, killing the dean, a professor and a student and wounding three others before he was tackled by fellow students, the state police reported.

“Come get me, come get me,” the gunman was heard saying as terrorized witnesses ran for their lives here in this coal mining town in a remote corner of mountainous Appalachia.

“He was a time bomb waiting to go off,” Dr. Jack Briggs, a county coroner, told news reporters about the alleged assailant, Peter Odighizuwa, 42, a student from Nigeria. The authorities said the school had told Mr. Odighizuwa on Tuesday that he would be suspended because of failing grades.

State officials said that Mr. Odighizuwa, who was charged with three counts of capital murder, had a history of mental instability and that school authorities had sought to help him.

In a running assault, the gunman confronted and fatally shot the law school dean, L. Anthony Sutin, 42, who was a senior Justice Department official in the Clinton administration. Mr. Sutin was shot in his second-floor office, as was Thomas F. Blackwell, 41, a member of the faculty.

The third person killed, Angela Denise Dales, 33, of Vansant, Va., was described as a former law school employee who was widely admired for achieving her dream of finally enrolling as a student. She was shot in the school lounge with a .380 semiautomatic pistol.

The gunfire stunned the campus and surrounding town of 1,100 residents as it delivered death to a school envisioned in the 1990’s as a pastoral outpost to answer the chronic problems of educational need in one of the more distant and impoverished parts of Appalachia. It opened five years ago in a renovated junior high school and now has 170 students and 15 faculty members.

Mr. Sutin was praised by faculty and students as a dedicated pioneer at the school, a cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School who had specialized in legislative affairs for former Attorney General Janet Reno before turning to the school as a fresh adventure. Professor Blackwell, a graduate of Duke University School of Law, was recruited to the faculty from his law practice in Dallas.

The three wounded students, hospitalized in fair to critical condition tonight, were identified as Rebecca Claire Brown, 38, of Roanoke, Va., who was shot in the abdomen; Martha Madeline Short, 37, of Grundy, who was shot in the throat; and Stacey Bean, 22, of Berea, Ky., who was shot in the chest.

“There were pools of blood all over,” Chase Goodman, a 27-year-old student, said in describing a scene punctuated with screams and gunfire.

“When I got there there were bodies laying everywhere,” said Dr. Briggs, who arrived at the first emergency alarm. Two victims suffered point-blank wounds “execution style,” one doctor at the scene said.

Mr. Odighizuwa was subdued by three law students who were experienced police officers, the authorities said.

“We’re trained to run into the situation instead away from it,” said one of the three, Mikael Gross, 34, of Charlotte, N.C., who ran to his car for his bulletproof vest and service pistol before tackling the suspect.

Mr. Gross said that when he returned to the building he saw the gunman strike Ted Besen, another former officer, in the head. Mr. Gross said that he and another former officer, Tracy Bridges, then tackled the man.

Students described Mr. Odighizuwa as a troubled, sometimes abrasive classmate who became particularly upset after receiving failing grades a year ago.

“The dean bent over backward to get him enrolled again,” Justin Marlowe, a first-year student from Richwood, W.Va., told The Associated Press. Students said that Mr. Odighizuwa had been separated from his wife and that they shared custody of their four children, an additional factor of stress after he failed his first-year classes.

“I knew he would destroy some property or take something from the school, but not kill people like he did,” said Zeke Jackson, 40, a student from Fort Worth , who is head of the Black Student Association.

Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a statement of condolence to Dean Sutin’s wife and their two children. “The entire Justice Department is mourning the loss of a dedicated public servant,” Mr. Ashcroft said.

Appalled witnesses emphasized the remoteness of the school as a presumed safety factor that failed here in this rustic outpost.

“You know, the World Trade Center is in New York, but Appalachian Law School is right here in a very small community in southwest Virginia,” Dr. Briggs told CNN. “This is about as close as you can get to a war zone.” The doctor said the shootings were “just a matter of him releasing his anger on the world, I guess.”

Gov. Mark R. Warner of Virginia, who was on the school’s board until he took office last week, commended the students who apprehended the suspect.

“My heart goes out to the school and the community,” Mr. Warner said. “I know that such a close-knit community will feel such a tragedy especially deeply.”

CORRECTION-DATE: January 21, 2002, Monday


An article on Thursday about a rampage shooting at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va., in which a student was charged, misstated the number of people shot to death in 1991 by a student at the University of Iowa. It was five, not four, besides himself.

/nd/tackle/gun | 226

Students charge gunman, held him down for police

Chris Kahn
The Associated Press State & Local Wire

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.”’

/nd/tackle/gun | 258