by Mo Ibrahim
(Reuters) A shooting spree at two buildings on the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University campus has taken the lives of at least 32 people. This was the largest number of deaths reported after a campus shooting in US history. In addition to the deaths officials have reported at least 21 injuries during the shootings.
The shooter, whose identity is unknown at press time, was among those found dead at the site, according to officials. Though several of the victims were students, Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum was unable to confirm whether the killer was a student at the university.
Authorities were first notified of a shooting at the West Ambler Johnston dormitory at approximately 7 AM according to Virginia Tech president Charles Steger. Moments later police officers found several victims of the shooting. Steger also said that two hours later university police were notified of shootings at a classroom in Norris hall. Students and faculty members received e-mails and voicemails telling them to stay indoors and away from windows in order to avoid the gunman.
"Today the university was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions," Steger said.
Frantic messages were sent back and forth across the campus via e-mail and cell phone. One student captured video footage - acquired by CNN - in which some of the gunshots can be heard.
In August of '06 the campus was also shut down because a gunman was on the Virginia Tech campus. Captured later on campus, the gunman was an inmate who escaped prison after being accused of slaying a sherrif's deputy and a security guard.
Though the police did mention receiving bomb threats on campus over the past two weeks, they have yet to link the threats to the shootings.
Students have been told to evacuate and the campus will be closed until 8 AM tomorrow according to the university website.