|Appalachian School of Law Shootings|
Sat, 19 Jan 2002
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.”