I’m now free from my other activities – those who have been following my blog and my comments elsewhere can probably guess what I was doing – and can give a short follow-up.
Here’s a quick summary of what happened, from my perspective and based on what I was able to determine with information from publicly available sources.
At around 1230 today, a Virginia Tech police car came past my office running emergently, and clearly responding to something, not simply pulling someone over. A second officer did the same thing a few seconds later. I didn’t think anything in particular, because it’s not unheard of, but it caught my interest, so I opened up the local internet scanner to see what was up. There’s about a 10-15 second delay from the radio transmission to it being streamed onto the net, so I was in time to hear the location and the words “officer down.” There was traffic about a “suspect vehicle”, so while the thought of a shooting did enter my head I was also considering the possibility of a traffic accident involving an officer. I still don’t know if it was an officer who had arrived on scene, or a dispatcher relaying information from the caller, but what I heard shortly afterward chilled my blood.
The downed officer had stopped someone and was writing a ticket when another person just walked up and shot him. The shooter then took off running, and his location at the time was unknown.
Even worse was the initial description of the suspect: A white male in a maroon hoodie and grey sweatpants with a backpack.
Virginia Tech’s colours are maroon and orange, and grey sweatpants are very common. It was like issuing a BOL for a white male in a red and white striped shirt with a red and white bobble hat and black glasses at a Where’s Waldo convention.
Shortly afterwards, there was a second description of the suspect given that did not match the original, including a report that he had a rifle. This caused speculation about the possibility a second suspect. As I noted in my original post, very early on there were reports of the second person down at the parking lot known as “the cage”. That single radio report that I heard indicated that the person down matched the original description, and had a handgun but no rifle. What followed over the next two hours or so was confusing to follow, but at at least one point included reports of shots fired in various locations that were too far apart for them to all be real if there was only one person involved. Each of these reports was checked and the locations secured. None of them were accurate. There was early speculation that he had gotten into a vehicle and fled, and a description and license plate number were given. I don’t know specifically what happened with that except that it was fairly quickly determined that he was in fact on foot, but I suspect it may have been the description of the vehicle the murdered officer had originally stopped. Things eventually settled into what sounded like a practiced and orderly search of campus and the buildings.
At my office, I immediately locked the doors and notified my coworkers once I realized what was going on. I also adjusted my sidearm from it’s usual “deep concealment” to an easier to access but still concealed position. We settled in to monitoring the situation through the internet scanner, twitter, facebook, and the local news websites. All reports put the shooter moving away from my office, but some of the shots fired reports were uncomfortably close. At about 1430, the boss (who was out of the office at the time) made the decision to send everyone home. As I was the only one at the office carrying at the time, I made sure I was the last one out and stayed in the parking lot watching until everyone else was in their cars and in motion before getting into my car to leave.
From this point on, I was involved in activities that exposed me to some privileged information. At this point, I need to be able to look over the news reports to sort out what has been publicly released and what I learned through those activities that hasn’t been released, so I can’t really say much more. I will note that it was approximately 5-10 minutes, maybe as much as 15, from the time I became aware of the shooting to the time the campus alert sirens went off and the information appeared on the website. If you consider that the first officers needed to get there, find out that it’s a real report, find out from witnesses what happened and that the shooter was not there and still on the loose, relay that to dispatch, and for the dispatchers to do what they need to do to initiate the alert system, that 5-15 minutes is actually pretty reasonable (especially on the lower end).
I hate the “mainstream media”, with a passion. Especially once they reach the point of “we’ve told you everything that anyone knows for certain, now we’re just talking to fill airtime.” Wild speculation, blatantly stupid statements, misleading statements, blatantly wrong statements, idle chatter for hours on end, and repeating themselves for hours on end, just so they can avoid not talking about the killing for more than five seconds. They did the same thing on April 16, four years ago, and it infuriated me then, too.
It will take me a little while to get the rest of what I can and can’t say sorted out. To make things more complicated, I have a family funeral to go to tomorrow (not related, not unexpected, and a situation where it was probably a blessing for the deceased, but still a funeral for a loved one), and internet access at my parents’ house is spotty, so I’ll be mostly away from the ‘net until late Saturday.
It’s also going to take me a bit to get my head sorted out. I was here for April 16, and for the Morva manhunt. So… it’s just going to take a bit.
Stay safe, stay alert, and keep Virginia Tech in your thoughts and prayers.
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