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Friends: Virginia Tech Gunman Never Hinted At Violence

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Update 9/10, 9:00 p.m.: Ross Ashley, 22, the man police say killed a Virginia Tech police officer before committing suicide, had broken up with his girlfriend over the summer and mentioned some family issues, reports the Associated Press. Friends and former classmates say Ashley was loyal and never hinted at plans for violence.

According to police, Ashley stole a car at gunpoint Wednesday from his landlord's office. On Thursday, authorities say he killed the police officer, and then shot himself in the parking lot on the Virginia Tech campus.

Nic Robinson, a 21-year-old history major at Radford University, where Ashley attended, tells AP, "Ross wasn't that kind of person. He was friendly, nice."

Robinson says Ashley never talked about guns or weapons, and he didn't use drugs or drink heavily, reports AP. Former classmates in his hometown of Spotsylvania, Va., described him as a hard-nosed football player who had a deep knowledge of the Bible.

According to AP, most residents in Spotsylvania didn't know the family, and people were "just kind of sad."

Ashley was a part-time student at Radford.

Update 12/9, 6:00 p.m.: Police have released the identity of the gunman in what is now being classified a murder-suicide on Virginia Tech's Blacksburg, Va. campus Thursday. Investigators have confirmed that Ross Ashley, 22, of Spotsylvania County fatally shot Virginia Tech Police Officer Derieck Crouse, before turning the gun on himself.

State police are still trying to establish a motive for the murder. They maintain that the shooter and the victim did not know one another.

Ashley, who was enrolled part-time at Radford University in Radford City, was identified in the theft of a Mercedes SUV in Radford on Dec. 7. He reportedly entered a real estate business wielding a handgun, and stole the keys from an employee.

Blacksburg Police notified the Radsford Police when they identified the vehicle abandoned near the Virginia Tech campus.

Update 12/9, 10:30 a.m.: At this time, there has not been any connection identified between Virginia Tech police officer Derieck Crouse and the shooter that appears to have killed Crouse and then himself Thursday, according to university spokesperson Corrine Geller.

During a press conference at Virginia Tech this morning, Geller added that it did not appear that the shooter had any other targets on the Virginia Tech campus, and said that the authorities believe the shooter had acted alone. Ballistics experts from the Virginia State Police have linked shell casings found near the bodies of the police officer and the suspect.

Local and state police are aiding with the investigation "to give our officers -- and Derieck's friends -- time to grieve," said Geller. Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum, in a press conference this morning, said that the department is in mourning over the loss of Officer Crouse. 

"Words can't express the loss we've experienced in our own department," Flinchum said. "Derieck ... was a friend to many in our department. Derieck was a husband, a father, a son."

Update 12/9, 9:51 a.m.: The suspected shooter that killed a Virginia Tech police officer on campus there yesterday was not a student at the university, school officials say.. University and campus police officials are withholding the identity of the supposed shooter -- who was found dead on campus shortly after the police officer was shot -- until a medical examiner makes a positive identification and his next of kin can be notified, according to university spokeswoman Corrine Geller.

Police have still not identified the motive in the killing of the police officer on campus Thursday, says Geller.

Original story: The Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg, Va. was the scene of violence Thursday afternoon as two men, including a campus police officer, were found shot dead, according to the university. Police believe the second man was the shooter, and that the "active threat" is over. Neither the victim nor the gunman have been identified.

Officials with the university say that the victim, a 4-year veteran of the campus police force, made a routine traffic stop in the parking lot of the Cassell Coliseum. A man approached the officer on foot, shooting and killing him in what Virginia Tech President Dr. Charles Steger called a "wanton act of violence."

The gunman -- described as a white male in grey sweatpants and a maroon hooded sweatshirt wearing a hat with a neon green brim -- fled the scene of the crime. He was later identified in another parking lot near Duck Pond a quarter-mile away, where he was found dead of a gunshot wound. It is unclear whether the wound was self-inflicted or received in an exchange with police.

A weapon was found near the body.

"In light of the turmoil and the trauma and the tragedy suffered by this campus by guns, I can only say that words don’t describe our feelings and they’re most elusive at this time," says Virginia Tech President Dr. Charles Steger. "Our hearts are broken again, for the family of a police officer, and we extend our deepest sympathy and condolences."

The Collegiate Times, a campus newspaper, reports that a candlelight vigil for the dead officer is planned for 6 p.m. Friday.

The university was the site of a tragic shooting in April 2007, when a student at the university killed 32 others before turning a gun on himself. Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum was in D.C. Thursday to appeal a $55,000 fine levied on the university for that incident, after the school waited more than two hours to send an email warning the campus community of the danger.

The response by campus authorities was prompt on Thursday, campus authorities sent emails and text messages to students and faculty every 30 minutes directing them to stay put. The campus was on lockdown for about four hours before students and faculty were urged to resume their normal activities.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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