For the second time in four years, Virginia Tech has fallen victim to an unspeakable act of violence, as two men — one being Deriek W. Crouse of the Virginia Tech Police Department — were shot and killed Thursday afternoon.
“Today, tragedy again struck Virginia Tech in a wanton act of violence where a police officer was murdered during a routine traffic stop,” said Virginia Tech President Charles Steger. “Our hearts are broken again for the family of our police officer, and we extend our deepest sympathy and condolences.”
Crouse, 39, had been an officer of the VTPD since 2007 and is survived by his wife and five children and step-children, as well as his mother and brother.
The events began at approximately 12:15 p.m., when the police officer responded to a routine traffic stop in the Cassell Coliseum parking lot.
During that stop, a suspect — who was described as being a white male with “gray sweat pants, gray hat with neon green brim, maroon hoodie and a backpack” — allegedly shot and killed Crouse, and then fled toward McComas Hall.
The shooter is not thought to be involved with the traffic violation, and was instead a third party.
Following the report of gunshots, the VTPD arrived on the scene of the crime at 12:30 p.m., when it promptly reached out to local, state and federal law enforcement to help in the manhunt.
The request for additional help came with a campus-wide alert at 12:36 p.m. to all Tech students, notifying them with what had happened and telling them to stay indoors.
About a half hour later, an officer saw a man in the I lot of Duck Pond Drive, commonly referred to as “the Cage,” acting suspiciously, and upon return, found the man dead from a bullet wound.
The officer did not shoot the second individual, and it is still unknown whether the man took his own life.
While police are still not willing to definitively say that the second victim was the shooter in the initial crime, new evidence has provided a potential link, as video footage from the Crouse’s in-car camera appears to show the second victim at the time and place of the first shooting.
“With that evaluation, we have been able to determine that the male subject found at the other scene deceased, that he has been captured on that in-car video at the scene with the weapon we believe was used,” said Maj. Rick Jenkins of the Virginia State Police.
The evidence is being analyzed, while police are still collecting mounds of other information from witness statements and articles. Police hope to have more conclusive information by the morning.
Those were the only two incidences that are confirmed to have occurred, even though there were rumors of the shooter being in many places including Torgersen Hall, Squires Student Center and the Performing Arts Building. All of these reports were investigated and found to be not credible.
Much of what exactly happened at the second crime scene is still unknown, as those details will need to be substantiated by an investigation that could take weeks.
“I apologize for not being able to fill in some of the blanks, but you realize this is still in the early stages of the investigation, and we’re trying to provide you with as much information as possible,” said Sgt. Bob Carpentieri of the Virginia State Police during a press conference.
“I know it’s frustrating for you, but when other information becomes available regarding the victims, we will pass it along.”
Gene Deisinger, Tech's deputy chief of police, also commented on the number of reports that came in after the initial VT Alert notifying people of alleged gunshots.
“In an incident like this, it’s not at all unusual when you ask the community to report suspicious behaviors or any concerns they have, for police departments to be inundated, or at least receive numerous calls,” he said.
“Since the time of the second incident, there have been no other founded reports of any threats to the campus. We have responded to and investigated numerous calls of suspicious activity, community members reporting persons who matched the description that was provided to the community of the reported gunman, and none of those resulted in credible findings.”
An additional rumor connected the incidences at Tech to a rest stop on I-81 northbound being closed near Radford, but no such link has been found to this point.
“We had some reports of some suspicious activity at that location,” Carpentieri said. “We sent some troopers and agents to that location, and they’re currently processing that scene. I cannot tell you if it is related to this incident or not.”
Several hours later, when all leads from the community were proven to be unfounded, Tech released its final alert at 4:29 p.m., when it announced that there was no longer an active threat and to resume normal activities.
“I want to thank our university community — and in particular, our student body — for staying indoors,” said Larry Hinker, a university spokesman. “We asked them to stay in doors and stay secure when we sent out the VT Alerts throughout the day. That’s how it’s supposed to work.”
A candle light vigil for the police officer is going to be held tonight at 6:30 on the Drillfield, and Cook Counseling’s office in East Eggleston will be open today for students who would like counseling.