RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — Virginia Tech said a police officer was shot Thursday and a possible second victim was reported at a parking lot near the campus, where 33 people died in 2007 in the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
A campus-wide alert told students and faculty to stay inside and lock doors. Authorities were seeking a suspect. University and law enforcement officials declined any comment on the officer's condition.
A law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case, said initial reports indicated that the shooting occurred following a traffic stop.
The suspect was described as a white male wearing gray sweat pants, a gray hat with neon green brim, a maroon hoodie and backpack. A message left with the university wasn't immediately returned. Campus police referred all questions to the university.
"It's crazy that someone would go and do something like that with all the stuff that happened in 2007," said Corey Smith, a 19-year-old sophomore from Mechanicsville, Va., who was headed to a dining hall near the site of one of the shootings, but stayed inside after seeing the alerts from the school. "It's just weird to think about why someone would do something like this when the school's had so many problems."
Darik Anderson, assistant ticket manager for the athletics department, said his office in Lane Stadium is next door to the coliseum but he could not see anything from his vantage point.
"We're in lockdown," he said. "All the news we're getting is what's on the school's website."
The shooting came the same day as Virginia Tech, which has an enrollment of about 30,000, was appealing a $55,000 fine by the U.S. Education Department in connection with the university's response to the 2007 rampage, when a student gunman killed 32 students and faculty and then shot himself.
A report of a possible gunman at Virginia Tech on Aug. 4 set off the longest, most extensive lockdown and search on campus since the 2007 bloodbath led the university to overhaul its emergency procedures. No gunman was found, and the school gave the all-clear about five hours after sirens began wailing and students and staff members started receiving warnings by phone, email and text message to lock themselves indoors. Alerts were also posted on the university's website and Twitter accounts.
That incident marked the first time the entire campus was locked down since the 2007 shooting, and the second major test of Virginia Tech's improved emergency alert system. The system was revamped to add the use of text messages and other means besides email of warning students.
The system was also put to the test in 2008, when an exploding nail gun cartridge was mistaken for gunfire. But only one dorm was locked down during that emergency, and it reopened two hours later.