A GUNMAN opened fire in a dormitory and classroom at Virginia Tech overnight, killing 21 people and wounding another 21 before he was killed.
“Today the university was struck with a tragedy that we consider of monumental proportions,” said university president Charles Steger. “The university is shocked and indeed horrified.”
The state university reported shootings at opposite sides of the 1052-hectare campus, beginning at about 7.15am (9.15pm AEST yesterday) at West Ambler Johnston, a co-ed residence hall that houses 895 people, and continuing about two hours later at Norris Hall, an engineering building.
One student was killed in a dorm and the others were killed in the classroom, Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum.
After the shootings, all entrances to the campus were closed and classes cancelled.
Aimee Kanode, a freshman from Martinsville, said the shooting happened on the 4th floor of West Ambler Johnston dormitory, one floor above her room.
Ms Kanode’s resident assistant knocked on her door about 8am to notify students to stay put.
“They had us under lockdown,” she said. “They temporarily lifted the lockdown, the gunman shot again.”
“We’re all locked in our dorms surfing the internet trying to figure out what’s going on,” she said.
Madison Van Duyne, a student who was interviewed by telephone on CNN, said, “We are all in lockdown. Most of the students are sitting on the floors away from the windows just trying to be as safe as possible.”
It was second time in less than a year that the campus was closed because of a shooting.
In August 2006, the opening day of classes was cancelled and the campus closed when an escaped jail inmate allegedly killed a hospital guard off campus and fled to the Tech area.
A sheriff’s deputy involved in the manhunt was killed on a trail just off campus.
The accused gunman, William Morva, faces capital murder charges.
Virginia Tech, with 26,000 students, is located in the southwest corner of the state of Virginia, about 390km from Washington DC.