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THE SITUATION ROOM
VA Tech Shootings
Aired April 16, 2007 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, HOST: Happening now, breaking news coverage continuing of what officials are calling the deadliest shooting rampage ever in the history of the United States. Virginia state officials say at least 32 people are dead, including the gunman, in the massacre at Virginia Tech.
President Bush about to speak out on this tragedy and Virginia Tech holding a separate news conference later this hour. We'll carry both live.
We want to welcome our international viewers around the world joining us this hour.
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
This hour, authorities still are piecing together the horrific chain of events on the campus of Virginia Tech.
This is what we know right now. A gunman believed to be acting alone went on a shooting rampage early this morning. Virginia's congressman tells CNN 32 people were killed, including the gunman. It's unclear if the gunman was shot by police or took his own life or what his motive might have been. His name has not been released.
The massacre happened in southwestern Virginia, in the town of Blacksburg, on the campus of Virginia Tech. Police received a 911 emergency call at 7:15 a.m. Eastern from West Ambler Johnston Hall. It's a coed dorm that houses 895 people. At least one student was killed there.
Get this, though. About two hours later, police still were investigating the dorm shooting and the campus was on lockdown when authorities got word of gunfire at Norris Hall, a classroom building. That's on the other end of the 2,600-acre campus. Most of the bloodshed happened there.
Cell phone video captured the sounds of gunfire and the chaos.
Watch and listen to this.
(VIDEO CLIP OF SHOOTING)
BLITZER: This massacre already leaving an indelible mark not only on Virginia Tech, but all across this nation. Americans are watching very, very closely to see exactly what happened early this morning on this campus, more than 20,000 students, many of them, at least a couple thousand international students, students from all over the world. They come to Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia for an education, but they got this early this morning.
The president of the United States outraged, as are so many other people all over the country, trying to come up with answers. So many questions right now. We don't have the answers to these questions, but police are investigating.
The governor of Virginia, Tim Kaine, on his way back to Virginia right now, cutting short a visit to Japan and Asia, on his way back to Virginia to take charge of this investigation.
Authorities are on the scene.
Ed Henry is over at the White House for us -- Ed, we're standing by to hear from the president. His press secretary put out a statement earlier, but now the president is coming out.
Let's listen to the president.
GEORGE BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our nation is shocked and saddened by the news of the shootings at Virginia Tech today.
The exact toll has not yet been confirmed, but it appears that more than 30 people were killed and many more were wounded.
I've spoken with Governor Tim Kaine and the Virginia Tech president, Charles Steger. I told them that Laura and I and many across our nation are praying for the victims and their families and all the members of the university community we have been devastated by this terrible tragedy.
I told them that my administration would do everything possible to assist with the investigation and that I pledged that we would stand ready to help local law enforcement and the local community in any way we can during this time of sorrow.
Schools should be places of safety and sanctuary and learning. When that scanty is violated, the impact is felt in every American classroom and every American community. Today our nation grieves with those who have lost loved ones at Virginia Tech. We hold the victims in our hearts. We lift them up in our prayers. And we ask a loving god to comfort those who are suffering today.
BLITZER: The president of the United States saying what so many totally understand right now in the shock after this horrific event on the campus of Virginia Tech earlier in the morning.
He said today our nation grieves. Let's bring in Brian Todd.
He's our correspondent -- Brian, let's piece together what we know, as of this very, very early moment in the investigation.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this is now being called the worst school shooting in U.S. history. It took place at at least two locations on that sprawling 2,600-acre campus of Virginia Tech.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
(VIDEO CLIP OF SHOOTING, COURTESY JAMAL ALBARGHOUTI, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT)
TODD (voice-over): Among the first images we saw captured outside the Norris Hall classroom building on the Virginia Tech campus.
(VIDEO CLIP OF SHOOTING, COURTESY JAMAL ALBARGHOUTI, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT)
TODD: Multiple gunshots recorded by student I-Reporter Jamal Albarghouti.
JAMAL ALBARGHOUTI, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: Well, the first thing I saw is when the police started taking their guns out. And then I knew that this was serious.
TODD: This was the second campus building attacked. The first occurred at least two hours earlier in a dormitory.
CHARLES STEGER, VIRGINIA TECH PRESIDENT: At about 7:15 this morning, a 911 call came to the university police department concerning an event in West Amber Johnson Hall. There were multiple shooting victims.
TODD: School officials say while police investigated that incident, they got reports of more shooting going on at Norris Hall. The campus quickly became a war zone, law enforcement officers wearing armor and wielding automatic weapons taking cover themselves.
Hours later, as it became clear that many were dead, the police chief held a news conference.
WENDELL FLINCHUM, VIRGINIA TECH POLICE CHIEF: At this time, we believe it is only one gunman, yes. He is deceased.
TODD: Some of the wounded seen being helped out of campus buildings. Others described scenes of chaos.
MATT WALDRON, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: These two kids, I guess, had panicked and jumped out of the top story window and the one kid had broke his ankle and the other girl was not in good shape. They were laying on the ground. And it was just mayhem. TODD: Officials tell CNN the wounded, mostly gunshot victims, are being treated at several area hospitals. Later, students tried to come to grips with what happened at their school.
KERRI FRANK, V.T. FRESHMAN: This is something that no one will ever get over. I mean the people who died, yes, they're -- they've finished their pain. But the pain for everybody else will just go on forever.
BRENDAN PORTER, V.T. FRESHMAN: It's just insane. That's just -- that's such a big number. Like we were -- we were already saying this is just like a college Columbine. This is just really sad.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: Right now, we're trying to find out more about the suspect. Police are saying very little at the moment, other than it was likely one gunman. We are told by federal officials that agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco & Firearms are being deployed to Blacksburg, Virginia to conduct ballistics tests -- Wolf.
BLITZER: At least 30 people are dead. We know a lot of people are injured, as well, Brian.
What are we hearing from the hospitals?
TODD: Well, I spoke to officials at least three of those hospitals where they are treating the wounded. One of them seems to have taken most of the wounded, that is Montgomery Regional Hospital in Blacksburg. At least 17 victims are being treated there, mostly with gunshots. But an official there told me that there are some there with other injuries.
Three other hospitals in the area are treating victims and, you know, we're just waiting on more numbers right now -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, thank you for that.
We're going to get back to you as we get more information.
Jamal Albarghouti is a student at Virginia Tech University. He was on the campus early this morning and he started to hear shots. He began to roll his camera.
What I'm going to do for you now is play what he saw and what he sent in on our CNN I-Report.
You're going to hear and see 27 -- yes, 27 shots. Count along and listen to this eerie, eerie video.
(VIDEO CLIP OF SHOOTING, COURTESY JAMAL ALBARGHOUTI, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT)
BLITZER: Horrific. Horrific, indeed.
Jamal Albarghouti, just a student at Virginia Tech. He rolled on his camera and that's what we heard.
Let's get some more on what's going on.
Joining us now, Virginia's attorney general, Bob McDonnell.
He's in Richmond.
Attorney general, this is horrific. It's the -- by our estimate and what we're hearing -- the worst mass shooting in American history right now, not just at a school or a campus, but ever.
What can you tell us -- what do we know about the shooter?
BOB MCDONNELL, VIRGINIA ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, Wolf, you're correct, this is a very dark day in Virginia history. We've got great schools here. Virginia Tech is a very tight and close-knit community and this senseless tragedy has just hurt us to our very soul here in Virginia.
Now, the investigation continues. I've been in touch with the president of the university, with the superintendent of state police. They are also on the scene, putting all the local resources into it and starting ballistics tests.
But there's more questions than answers right now.
BLITZER: Is it our belief -- is it your belief that as -- that it was one shooter acting alone or is there any indication there was more than one person involved?
MCDONNELL: The best information we've got on the shooting at Norris Hall was that it was one person. But we're so early in the investigation, there's so much, obviously, bloodshed and tragedy and people being evacuated and calls being made to families and so forth, we just don't have all the information and it may be hours or more, Wolf, before we have any of that information.
But the local and state police are on the scene with all the resources that we've got to complete the investigation and make all the appropriate disclosures at the right time.
BLITZER: I know it's a very sensitive issue and I know there's a limit to what you can say, but do you -- have you identified the shooter?
MCDONNELL: That is going to be disclosed at the appropriate time by the state police. They're still doing that investigation. I've spoken with them. There were some issues of identity and what the shooter had available that might have identified him. So there's still some information that they've got to -- they've got to find before they can make any positive identification.
But at the appropriate time, I'm sure that the authorities will disclose that.
BLITZER: There's one report, attorney general, that's suggesting the shooter was walking around with a flak jacket.
Is that true, based on what you know?
MCDONNELL: I don't have any information to confirm that at this point, Wolf. I think that so much of the information initially that came in was -- was not completely accurate because of the chaos that surrounded this circumstance and so much of the resources went into evacuating the wounded and taking care of those that needed -- needed help right away.
So we don't have any -- I don't have any independent confirmation that that happened.
BLITZER: Do you know if the shooter killed himself or was shot by someone else?
MCDONNELL: I think that's still part of the ongoing investigation. I don't believe the authorities have -- have pinpointed that yet. As you might imagine, with so much bloodshed in one classroom, there's a lot of evidence to sort through before any of those questions can be fully answered.
But I know that the local and state police working together will probably have a good estimation of what happened in due course.
BLITZER: The number of dead right now, we're saying at least 30. That's what the president of the United States said. Some suggesting 31. Then the shooter would make 32.
Is that the information you have?
And I know these numbers are subject to change.
MCDONNELL: That's the best information, Wolf, that I've got from the law enforcement officers who are on the scene. There obviously are some students that are still in -- in critical condition at the hospital. They're being treated and obviously we're certainly praying for their recovery and that the death toll stays where it is now.
But that's the best number that I've got at this point.
BLITZER: Do you know what kind of weapon was used?
MCDONNELL: It's not something I can discuss at this point because it's part of the investigation. There are some ballistics tests going on to make affirmative matches with what's been found at the scene with what's been seen or recovered in the bodies of victims.
And so I believe the local authorities will discuss that when the investigation is further along.
BLITZER: Well, can we assume, though, it was some sort of semi- automatic weapon?
MCDONNELL: Well, it appears, from just the tape that you played earlier with the -- the rapidity of which the shells were discharged, that some sort of automatic or semi-automatic weapon might have been used. Typically when you have that much carnage in short order, you would suspect a semi-automatic or automatic weapon. And, again, the state police and local authorities, in their investigation, will have those announcements in due course.
BLITZER: Any indication what the motive might have been?
MCDONNELL: That's the big question, Wolf, that I and the governor and all the law enforcement officers are asking at this point, the relationship of the gunman to the students, whether it was random. I think these are questions that everybody wants to know and unfortunately we just -- we just don't have those -- those answers at this time.
And as soon as a reasonable theory or motive -- if there even is one to explain such a senseless and tragic loss of life -- I think those will be announced. And what we're trying to do now is provide as much legal and medical and law enforcement support to the community.
I'm flying down there tomorrow with the governor for the memorial service. Again, I've talked to the president of the university to offer every bit of state resources that we can. The governor is flying back from Asia as we speak to be there tomorrow. And we're going to get all these questions answered in as quickly a period of time as possible, so that the community and the parents can have the answers they deserve.
BLITZER: We've spoken there are a lot of the students -- several of the students on the campus here on CNN during the course of the day, and many of them are already expressing outrage that the first shooting at the dorm occurred at around 7:15 a.m. the much more disastrous shooting occurred a couple of hours later. And we're assuming, as I believe you are, as well, that the same shooter was involved.
Are you looking into this delay, this lag?
What happened during those two hours?
MCDONNELL: Well, we are. We have a very competent police force, campus police force at Virginia Tech and with the city of Blacksburg police force, all indications are that they made the appropriate reactions to the scene.
It's, again, early in the investigation. I got a call from the president's office about -- about 9:15, 9:30, to advise me of the -- of the first shooting. And, of course, right after that is when we were advised by other authorities about the other shooting.
The links between the two aren't yet fully known. That's a subject of the investigation, Wolf, at this point. I have a nephew who's in the engineering program at Virginia Tech and obviously I was extremely concerned and we made contact with him right away to try to assure his safety. But all these questions about the links between the two, what the reaction of law enforcement was, all those will be -- will be fully fleshed out in the course of the investigation.
BLITZER: I know you've got to run.
One final question, attorney general.
There was a bomb scare or two in recent days on the campus of Virginia Tech.
Is there any indication that those bomb scares were at all connected to the horrific events of today?
MCDONNELL: I don't have any information to confirm that link, Wolf.
I can say that this has been a tough year for Virginia Tech. On the very first day of classes this year, they had an incident where an individual shot two police officers adjacent to the campus and classes were canceled for a day and now they've got this event. It has been extraordinarily difficult for these young men and women at Virginia Tech trying to pursue their goals and dreams and to have such senseless violence.
But, again, with the bomb threat -- we don't have any evidence of any link between that and the actions of the shooter today.
BLITZER: Attorney General Bob McDonnell. I know you're busy, but thanks for joining us.
MCDONNELL: Thank you.
BLITZER: And we'll continue this conversation.
Needless to say, our hearts and prayers go out to all of those individuals, the families involved, to everyone at the campus of Virginia Tech.
Attorney general, thanks very much.
MCDONNELL: Well, thank you.
We've received a great outpouring of support from across the nation and we'd ask the people of America to continue to pray.
BLITZER: We're all praying with you.
Thank you very much.
MCDONNELL: Thank you.
BLITZER: Let's check in with Jack Cafferty.
He's watching all of this as well -- Jack, this is about as bad as it gets.
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Prior to today's shootings, several bomb threats were made on the campus over the last two weeks. Students told CNN that two of those threats were aimed specifically at the science and engineering schools.
No link to the shootings, however, has been made at this time.
But it's not the first incident on the campus this school year. The first day of classes last fall was canceled when the school shut down while law enforcement searched for an armed escaped convict suspected of killing a hospital guard and a sheriff's deputy. That suspect was eventually captured on an off campus trail.
But these kinds of things tend to have a cumulative effect and studs on campus today who were around last fall may have second thoughts about whether they want to continue attending Virginia Tech.
Here's the question then -- what impact will the Virginia Tech shootings have, do you think, on future enrollment at that school?
It's one of the best engineering schools in the country.
E-mail your thoughts to email@example.com or go to cnn.com/caffertyfile -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Jack, when you heard about it -- when you heard about it earlier today, what was the first thing that went through your mind?
CAFFERTY: Two things. When these things happen in this country, they tend to happen at schools. If you look back at the history of these mass killings from, how is it, the University of Texas back in Austin years ago, to Columbine, they happen on school campuses.
And the other thing that occurred to me is that we seem in this country to have a copyright on this kind of violence. I don't recall being able to spin back through my mind quickly and come up with a half a dozen mass shootings in other countries in the last 25, 30 years. They seem to happen in the United States and they seem to happen on school property. And I don't understand why either of those things is the case, but that seems to be the history of these.
BLITZER: Jack, we're going to get back to you soon.
Let's check in with Abbi Tatton -- Abbi, we're getting pictures coming in from the campus of Virginia Tech through CNN's I-Report -- what else are you seeing?
ABBI TATTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're seeing so many pictures, dozens of them, Wolf, coming in through I-Report. And through them, we're seeing just what the Virginia Tech students were seeing as they looked out of their windows of their dorm rooms and their classrooms.
We've been getting them in since late morning. Look at this one here. This is a video from Alex Miller, a freshman, age 18. He could hear a police shouting, "Get down!" He looked out of his window, saw a policeman on top of a man. This man not a suspect. He was patted down and quickly released. As he was at the window police were shouting for the students to stay away from the windows.
Moving on to another one, police activity right outside the dorm room of Patrick Rougex. He said he heard a campus alert system, the sirens going, he looks out and this is what he saw. He was worried. He said that he thought that the shooter was still around. This, again, late morning at Miles Hall.
Jason Joseph's photos -- he sent in many of them to CNN's I- Report -- shows Lee Hall, all of them taken from his room or the room of friends in Lee Hall. He recorded swarms of police around.
And no police activity on this one. This one from Nancy Love, who was in Durham Hall, her fourth floor office. But she recorded what she counted as 13 ambulances lined up outside this section of Virginia Tech.
And, as I said, we've been getting these in. They're still coming in, video and images, a lot of them displayed on cnn.com.
And cnn.com/ireport is where you can still submit these images -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And the images are gruesome, indeed.
Abbi, thank you for that.
We'll continue to check back with you.
Remember, we're standing by for a news conference from the campus of Virginia Tech. We expect to get some new information, some new details on this, the worst mass shooting in American history.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta is our chief medical correspondent.
He's joining us on the phone now -- Sanjay, we know there are a lot of dead people, including a lot of dead students, right now, but there are a lot of injured, as well, from -- from a gunshot.
Talk a little bit about what's going on in the hospitals in the Virginia Tech area.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's a very methodical process when taking care of these sorts of penetrating injuries. We've talked a lot about different sorts of injuries with that crash, for example, not that long ago. Those were more blunt sort of injuries.
Here, you have to make some assessments very quickly.
Does someone have a significant injury to the point where they are bleeding and have to be taken straight to the operating room?
This can be determined by taking blood pressure, heart rate, but also getting some of these fast C.T. scanners. You've seen these, Wolf, perhaps, where they can actually get an -- get an indication of the degree and severity of the injuries in someone's abdomen, someone's chest very, very quickly. And that's what needs to be done.
And then within -- and this all takes place within several minutes. You can start to make a decision about triage -- does someone need to go to the operating room? Do they need to be in the intensive care unit? Do they need to stay in the emergency room or are they stable enough to go to a hospital that doesn't have as -- services that take care of such severely injured patients.
But this all happens very fast, Wolf.
BLITZER: I know all of the hospitals in the area of Virginia Tech, they've been receiving patients, badly wounded students and others, who were shot.
How much time, in a gunshot incident along these lines, there's a critical, what, half hour, hour, that emergency surgery, emergency procedures that can mean life or death have to take place?
GUPTA: You know, it -- it's interesting, people talk about the golden hour of trauma and that's really more of a guideline than an absolute standard.
I'll give you a couple of examples. If someone has an injury to the abdomen where their spleen has been hit, for example, and they are bleeding profusely, they need to go to the operating room very, very quickly -- within half an hour to an hour, for sure.
If they have a brain injury, obviously that's going to be more quickly, as well.
If it's a limb injury, sometimes things can go a little bit more slowly.
But it's most dependent sort of on the degree of bleeding that's taking place. Even in a limb injury, sometimes one of the big arteries can be injured and the patient needs to have an operation quickly. You can either put the vessel back together or to stop the bleeding in some way.
But, you know, these determinations -- it's such a -- it's such a difficult thing to sort of assess from afar. These things sort of take place at the scene, sometimes out to the hospital, then certainly at the hospital itself, as the surgeons and the trauma doctors evaluate.
BLITZER: I've seen at least four or five hospitals in the Virginia Tech area that have been mentioned that have been receiving emergency patients as a result of this horrific shooting earlier today.
I assume that the emergency rooms in all of these hospitals are prepared for this kind of -- this kind of contingency.
GUPTA: Well, it's interesting, Wolf. You know, when we talked about this with the bus accident not that long ago, as well, there were 13 patients at that point brought to one hospital and a few patients taken to another hospital in Atlanta. You do typically have trauma rooms standing by. So you have trauma bays in the emergency room ready to go, blood ready to go, the surgeons standing by.
But, still, when you have that many patients all at once, you do need to start dispersing among different hospitals. They can have more resources available that way. Surgeons are fresh, ready to go at each of these hospitals.
This is -- this is a lot of patients. No matter what the scenario, I don't think any hospital sort of -- probably in the country -- has the kind of resolve necessary to take care of 17 possibly critically ill patients all at the very same time, especially if they all need operations.
BLITZER: Are you making your way toward the scene, Sanjay?
GUPTA: I am going to be, later on. I'm right now making my way toward the CNN Center. We're going to collect some more data and I'll probably go on to the scene later on.
BLITZER: Sanjay, we're going to stay on top of this story, together with you.
Thank you very much.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta is our senior medical correspondent.
Remember, we're standing by for the news conference momentarily. We're going to be hearing all the latest information that authorities on the campus of Virginia Tech are able to release at this point.
We're trying to get some information on the nature of the shooter, the potential motive, what else we know about the victims in this horrific, horrific event.
Let's bring in Aaron Cohen from Los Angeles.
He's a SWAT team trainer for the U.S. government.
Aaron, thanks very much for helping us better understand what's going on.
What's your initial take on what has happened?
AARON COHEN, U.S. GOVERNMENT SWAT TRAINER: Well, my initial take on this -- on this scenario is that, you know, it really reinforces what me and my company have been doing for the last few years, which is trying to take the operations away from SWAT and give these patrol guys more tools, advanced tactics, to be able to go to what we call direct threat. What we've got here is what's called an active shooter. This is a gunman whose basic goal was to -- was to -- was to kill as many people as possible in the shortest period of time. And these patrol guys need to be operating at a tactical response level to be able to get into that school, not wait for any SWAT teams or anyone else, and put these guys down.
That's how we save lives and reduce risk. And that's what I was watching -- as I'm watching this B roll, you know, I'm seeing some guys standing around outside, searching people, looking for weapons.
That's not the way we do it. We've got to get inside the building and we've got to do it quickly.
BLITZER: But many of these guys are not necessarily trained to deal with a shooter who's on a rampage like this.
COHEN: Yes, no, they're -- most of these SWAT teams, aren't actually trained. Believe it or not, 99 percent of the SWAT teams in this country are what we call part-time teams. They're -- they're officers who work patrol and other operations from day to day. And when they have an event like this, they actually come together and have their gear in the car.
They train maybe a week out of the year and they maybe come together for about eight hours of training a month. So I mean really what they were looking at here was almost like battle. And -- and it's -- it's too bad and it's unfortunate because as this trend of "active shooters" is beginning to grow, you know, the tactics need to be able to organically blossom with their -- with the threat.
BLITZER: There already is, and there's going to be a lot more second-guessing, why it took so long and if the first round of shooting at a dorm occurred at 7:15 a.m. and then two hours later, the shooter is still at large and goes into a classroom across the campus, all the way on the other side, and just starts shooting -- COHEN: Yes.
BLITZER: ... students, faculty members, others.
People are going to say what happened to the Virginia Tech campus police, the local police, other authorities that might have been able to come in and find this shooter.
COHEN: Yes. You know, campus security, Wolf, on a day to day level, is trained to handle very basic security operations. But I think the fact is that we're going to start to see a very dramatic increase in security.
The tricky thing about this operation, as I was watching this B roll, is that with responses that involve campus attacks, you've got thousands -- hundreds, if not thousands of people running out in what we call a funnel to go with their instincts, which is to get out of the actual area of incidence.
And you've got patrol or campus security, which is, you know, fairly inadequately trained and absolutely has no, you know, operational response capabilities for this type of response, having to physically go into this threat. And that's where a SWAT is usually called in.
So you can imagine what the stress and duress must have been like for this campus security.
But the fact is, I mean these guys have got to get inside. For every -- I mean this is what we teach. For every second you waste, another innocent person is being killed. And that's the, you know, the real deal with these types of responses. You've got to get inside. You've got to neutralize the threat.
When SWAT gets there, you allow them to start doing a methodical sweep of the area, looking for potentially downed innocent people, if not other gunmen hiding in little corners and holes inside the campus. But it's an enormous procedure, Wolf.
BLITZER: I want to queue up -- I want to get that videotape from our I-Reporter, who actually managed to roll tape on 27 shots that were fired. And I want to replay that.
And I want you to listen, Aaron, very closely, because you are an expert on ballistics. And you can give us a better sense, just hearing the pop, pop, pop, pop of those sounds. I want you to be able -- I want to pick your brain.
And, obviously, we don't have the full investigation, by any means. But maybe you can discern a little bit, the nature of weapon and what was going on.
All right. We're going to play that right now, Aaron. So, listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, Jamal Albarghouti, a student at Virginia Tech, shot that video for us.
We're standing by, once again, for this news conference. We expect to get more information, more details.
But, Aaron, as you heard that pop, pop, pop sound, 27 shots we counted in that video, what -- what is your initial assessment?
COHEN: My initial take was, I'm trying to figure out whether that was the police deploying .223- or .556-caliber assault rifle, or what's designated as an M-16, which they typically keep in their cars, in the direction of the threat, or whether or not that was the actual gunman firing at the police. I couldn't tell. When I was watching the actual footage, I saw a lot of officers. And it was hard to designate whether they were special weapons and tactics or actual patrol or campus police responding.
But I heard some yelling and I heard some screaming. I heard some, "Get down on the ground." It almost sounds like it might have been suppressive fire or reactionary fire that was being returned in the direction of the threat. It was hard to tell whether it was -- that was .9-millimeter or .556.
But, clearly, there was a lot of ammunition or enough ammunition to give these guys a run for their money, whether it was the police firing at the actual threat or vice versa. But, clearly, what we have got here is, we have got shooting at the campus. It's the real deal.
And we have got police officers standing around. Now, my gut on this one was, why are these guys standing around? Get your asses inside the building and begin to get this job done. Don't worry about pulling guys out. Let's get directly to the threat. That's what I would be worrying, and that's what I would be doing at the tactical command position while coordinating these operations.
Get inside. Get to that gunman. The sooner he can't shoot at you, the sooner he's no longer a threat. That's the first thing that comes to my mind.
BLITZER: What about -- why do you conclude -- and correct me if I'm wrong, Aaron, that you have concluded -- that those 27 shots are not the very eerie, awful sounds of this shooter killing students and others?
COHEN: Because I think it's a technical thing with the audio. The problem is, I'm not there and I can't see it. It's hard to designate exactly what type of ammunition is being used by the blowback or by the actual sound of the fire from the weapon.
It's hard to tell whether or not that is the police engaging from outside the building into the threats or into the -- or into building, or whether that shooting is coming from inside the building actively being sprayed.
Now, one thing I do note is that it's not automatic weapons fire. The shots are being placed very selectively. Again, I can't differentiate whether it's the police or whether it's the gunman shooting.
But, at this point, from what I'm seeing, it's irrelevant. I see police officers outside. I hear some screaming and some yelling. We need to have these guys inside the building. They need to be finding that threat. That's what needs to happen here.
Now, it's not an easy thing to do, Wolf. You are talking about working under great duress. You're talking about physically going against what law enforcement training has been giving them for the last 10 years, which is, you know, liability, public relations. It's a very tough environment cops are working in these days. And I see it more and more as I train these great guys. The problem is, is that society has really put a clamp on their ability to be aggressive and to do what's needed to be able to put these guys down.
And that's -- that's the code red in a situation like that.
BLITZER: Aaron, I'm going to have you stand by. We're going to be going to this news conference, once it begins, in Blacksburg, Virginia, at Virginia Tech, on the campus. We're expecting to get some more information on what's going on right now -- the president of the United States, just a little while ago, saying, "Today, our nation grieves."
The nation grieves, indeed -- the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.
We want to give you some background right now on Virginia Polytechnic Institute and the State University, also known as Virginia Tech. It opened its doors back in 1872. It's currently located in Blacksburg, Virginia. It's about 40 miles from Roanoke.
There are just over 26,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students on the campus, about 13 percent of them minorities. And the school claims a host of well-known individuals from agriculture, architecture, sports, business, the military, several other industries, as alumni.
Let's go to the campus of Virginia Tech right now.
Our Brianna Keilar has just arrived on the scene. Brianna is joining us on the phone.
Brianna, give us a sense of what you are seeing and hearing, speaking to students and others.
BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this news conference is taking place at what is called the Inn at Virginia Tech. It's a conference center and also a hotel here on campus, Wolf.
And this is where university officials have told parents they can meet up with their kids. Now, there aren't that many parents yet, but there are a number of students here, students who haven't heard from friends and are looking to get some word, hopefully from this news conference.
In fact, I spoke with some grad students from the engineering school. Of course, Norris Hall was an engineering building. And they are hoping to find out about some classmates they haven't heard from. They have been on their cell phones, making call after call, trying to locate these friends, who could have and maybe should have been in Norris Hall, friends, of course, they haven't heard from since the shooting -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And the students, are they walking around now? Are they in a daze? You have had a chance to get some initial impressions.
KEILAR: They seem to be in a daze. Some of them, understandably, don't want to talk.
Others seem very alarmed. You can tell they are afraid that perhaps it's one of their friends who is one of the victims. Others think, perhaps -- you know, for example, cell service has been very sporadic here. That makes it very difficult to get through to their friends. They are thinking maybe their friends have just sort of scattered -- so, a wide range of responses here -- Wolf.
BLITZER: The campus -- the students, I take it they have shut the doors, at least not going to be any activities, any classes at least in the next few days. What are they saying?
KEILAR: That's right. There aren't going to be any classes, obviously, today, no classes tomorrow. I haven't really had a chance to ask students about what their plans are for the day. But a lot of them are just hoping, as we are, to get some more information out of this news conference.
BLITZER: Do you know who is going to be speaking at the news conference, Brianna?
KEILAR: We understand that some university officials, including president Charles Steger, will be speaking. The chief of the Virginia Tech police will be speaking. We also understand the Blacksburg mayor is here, although we don't know if he will be speaking.
But something interesting, Wolf. I spoke with one university employee. And she said White House officials have been in touch with school president Charles Steger's office.
BLITZER: And the White House making it clear earlier, Brianna, that any federal assistance, whether from the FBI, the ATF, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, or any other federal agency, whatever they need, they are going to get from Washington.
I assume federal authorities are on the way there right now to help state and local authorities. The main investigators, though, the main people looking into all of this will be the local and state law enforcement authorities right now.
Has anyone suggested to you, any credible information on a possible motive of this shooter, Brianna?
KEILAR: No, we haven't heard any of that information.
I did speak with a member of the media relations office here. She just told me to stay tuned to this press conference. And she didn't know if there was going to be any of that information.
BLITZER: And, tomorrow, they are going to have, I think around 2:00 p.m. local time, a commemoration, an initial service in the big student auditorium, or stadium, if you will, where they play basketball at Virginia Tech. That's going to be an emotional -- an emotional moment. We spoke earlier with the attorney general of the Commonwealth of Virginia. They -- they are waiting for the governor, Tim Kaine, to come back from his trip to Japan, so that he can be on hand for this service as well. It will be something that will be oh so sad.
KEILAR: No, that's exactly right. It's being called a convocation. That is the word that is being used here by president Steger.
But my understanding is that this is very much going to be the first vigil, a chance for people to come together and pay tribute to those people who are victims.
BLITZER: As you go on the -- are you at the news conference right now, Brianna, or are you elsewhere on the campus?
KEILAR: No, I am in the other room from the news conference. Unfortunately, I can't be speaking on the phone and also be there at the same time.
BLITZER: And they are supposed to beginning momentarily; is that right?
KEILAR: My understanding was, it was supposed to start taking place at 4:30. So, they are running a little late at this point, if they haven't begun.
BLITZER: I assume they are collecting all the information, and they want to be as precise as possible, and make sure they have the accurate information. Reporters there will be asking serious questions about what went on -- the national media coming into Blacksburg, Virginia, from all over the country to be on hand.
This is a story that clearly has shocked the nation, truly shocked the nation, the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, not just on a school campus or a college campus, but ever.
Brianna, stand by. We are going to get back to you very shortly.
The university community has been going online throughout the day to update the world on these unfortunate events unfolding in Blacksburg, Virginia.
Let's go back to our Internet reporter, Jacki Schechner.
What have you been seeing from students, Jacki, on the -- on the ground?
JACKI SCHECHNER, CNN INTERNET REPORTER: Well, Wolf, a lot of them just speculating at this point, trying to get their news out to each other, most importantly right now, that they are OK.
I think it's that social network of trying to find out how people are doing. This is the most popular social networking for kids on college campuses, Facebook. There's a strong Virginia Tech group online, about 39,000 students. Today, they started an "I'm OK at V.T." message board. We saw people join this by the hundreds, just letting each other know that they are all right.
We're also seeing a lot of conversation online. We're hearing stories. There's one poster who says he has a friend who saw a man go into her building early this morning.
So, of course, there's no factual information coming out at this point, but a lot of people sharing stories and trying to get a better grasp on what's going on.
Another thing that is being used are sports message boards. The Virginia Tech sports board is very popular. It's so popular, in fact, that has been overwhelmed. And University of Virginia, which is a huge rival of Virginia Tech, has actually offered up their message board, so that people can continue to offer conversation online and assurances that they are in fact all right.
The collegiate newspaper actually shut down, so much traffic.
BLITZER: Hold -- hold on. I want to go to the -- Blacksburg, to the campus.
The news conference has just started. Let's listen in.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: After that, all the individuals with me will be available for comment.
President Steger will identify them in his opening comments. We will stay here as long as you need. We will stay here as long as you need for us to stay here. And, then, afterwards, I will be available for comment.
Obviously, there's an awful lot of you, and there's one of me. So, I would recommend that we try to get as much as we can accomplished in this press briefing today.
BLITZER: All right. We just lost our satellite coverage. But I think we're getting it back.
So, let's go to president Steger of Virginia Tech.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)
CHARLES STEGER, PRESIDENT, VIRGINIA TECH: And he convoyed his concern and condolences from everyone in Washington and offered all the help that they could possibly provide.
I have also spoken on two occasions today with Governor Kaine, who is coming back from Tokyo to be at the convocation tomorrow. And he has declared a state of emergency, which enables us to access significant other assets that may be required in dealing with this tragedy. With me today is the secretary of public service for the Commonwealth of Virginia, John Marshall, and the superintendent of the Virginia State Police, Colonel Steven Flaherty. Also present is the mayor of Blacksburg, Ron Rordam, the chief of the Blacksburg Police Department, Kim Crannis, and the chief of the Virginia Tech police, Wendell Flinchum.
I want to repeat my horror and disbelief and profound sorrow at the events of today. People from around the world have experienced their shock and their sorrow and endless sadness that has transpired. I am really at a loss for words to explain or to understand the carnage that has visited our campus.
I know no other way to speak about this, than to tell you what we know. And let me do that now.
It is now confirmed that we have 31 deaths from the Norris Hall, including the gunman. Fifteen other victims are being treated at local hospitals in the Roanoke and New River valleys. There are two confirmed deaths from the shooting in Ambler Johnston dormitory, in addition to the 31 at Norris Hall.
We have not confirmed the identity of the gunman, because he carried no identification on his person. And we are in the process of attempting that identification.
Norris Hall is a tragic and a sorrowful crime scene. And we are in the process of identifying victims and in the process of notifying next of kin. This may take some time. We will not release any names until we are positive of this notification.
We anticipate being able to release a list some time tomorrow. We are asking our students to contact their parents and let them know their status. Our investigation continues into whether there is a connection between the first and second incidents. And that has not been decided.
We know that parents will want to embrace their children. We are not suggesting that you come to campus. However, if parents feel that they must come to campus, we are locating counselors at the Inn at Virginia Tech, which is this building you are in now, to be available.
As you can imagine, security, investigation, operational and counseling resources are very taxed at this moment. However, we are getting assistance from the state police, the FBI, the ATF, local jurisdictions, and the Red Cross.
And we understand the desire, indeed, the compelling need, to get information on the part of families, students and loved ones. But, unfortunately, this is all the information that we can verify at this point in time.
We are posting information on our Web site as we learn it. Our communications systems are taxed. Also, we are also posting information on the Web site for the state police, which is VSP.Virginia.gov. I think we are ready to take questions.
QUESTION: President Steger?
STEGER: Yes, ma'am.
QUESTION: Why not shut down campus after the first shooting, whether they are connected or not? Couldn't some of those deaths been prevented if classrooms had been shut down earlier?
STEGER: I will let chief Flinchum respond to that.
WENDELL FLINCHUM, VIRGINIA TECH POLICE CHIEF: The information we had on the first incident led us to make the decision that it was an isolated event to that building. And the decision was made not to cancel classes at that time.
QUESTION: Why were the students...
QUESTION: Can you (AUDIO GAP) louder?
QUESTION: We can't hear that.
QUESTION: Can you say why the students weren't notified for two hours that there had been a shooting on campus?
STEGER: They were notified that there was a shooting. You have to remember that, of the about 26,000 students that we have here, only 9,000 are on campus.
And, when classes start at 8:00 p.m., thousands of people are already in transit. So, the question is, where do you keep them where it is most safe? And we concluded first that the incident in the Ambler Johnston was domestic in nature. In fact, we had some reason to think the shooter had left the campus, in fact, may have been leaving the state. And this other event occurred two hours later. So...
QUESTION: Well, the first blast e-mail didn't arrive to the students until 9:26.
STEGER: Well, that's when we were able to confirm the call came in to the 911 center at 7:15. I don't know when the police got there. It was about five or 10 minutes later. Then we interviewed witnesses to try to find out what was going on, and then decide what the best course of action was to do.
QUESTION: What led you to believe the shooter had, in fact, left the campus and possibly the state?
FLINCHUM: We had information from witnesses and the evidence at the scene that led us to believe the shooter was no longer in the building and more than likely off campus.
QUESTION: More than likely? Why?
FLINCHUM: I am not going to release that at this time.
QUESTION: Can you tell us if you believe that the shooter was, in fact, a student here?
FLINCHUM: From the first incident? We do not know at this point.
QUESTION: From either incident.
FLINCHUM: We do not know at this point.
QUESTION: Were there two shooters?
FLINCHUM: We have one person that is deceased in Norris Hall that was a shooter. We do not know if the two incidents are connected. That's part of the investigation that we're looking into. And we're trying to determine whether they are or are not related.
QUESTION: Are you looking for someone?
FLINCHUM: At this time, we are not looking for someone. We are continuing to investigate, talk to witnesses, and going from there.
QUESTION: What (INAUDIBLE) have you recovered?
FLINCHUM: I'm not prepared to release that at this time.
QUESTION: President Steger, I'm representing (INAUDIBLE) University (AUDIO GAP)
Our campus is 15 minutes down the road, and we felt the shock. And our condolences for you guys.
QUESTION: How can campuses across the nation better prepare for this situation? I understand it wasn't a level of security in the classroom, even in the building. You know, how -- 15 down -- 15 minutes down the road, how are we supposed to head off this kind of trouble in the future?
STEGER: Well, it's very difficult, because we are an open society and an open campus. And we have over 26,000 people here in hundreds of buildings.
And I think the best thing we can do is, we ask people to report anything they saw that was suspicious, but we obviously can't have an armed guard in front of every classroom every day of the year. So...
QUESTION: Will you have meetings in the future? Or I'm sure you will have meetings following this.
STEGER: We will do -- after every incident, we do a complete review of how it was handled, how we can make improvements, as we did with the Morva situation in the fall. But it's one of those things that no one anticipated. And you have to remember that you can only make the decision based on the information you know at that moment in time. And you don't have hours to reflect on it. You have to take immediate action.
QUESTION: Do we have any reason to believe that the bomb threats, including the one on Friday, are connected to this at all?
STEGER: We are...
STEGER: Go ahead.
FLINCHUM: I'm sorry.
We're looking into that to see if they are or are not connected. It's certainly a possibility that we're exploring.
QUESTION: Can you give us any details?
FLINCHUM: The gunman took his own life.
QUESTION: Can you give us details about what happened first in the dorm and later in Norris Hall? Because I think rumors are rampant about what actually transpired.
FLINCHUM: Officers responded to the dormitory, West Ambler Johnston. They found two people had been shot. We started our investigation from that point, interviewing witnesses. We were on scene at that time when the second incident happened.
QUESTION: Were they found dead at the scene?
FLINCHUM: Both people were transported to the hospital from the scene.
QUESTION: Were they shot in the room, a student's room, an R.A.'s room?
FLINCHUM: They were shot in a dormitory room.
QUESTION: You said it was domestic in nature. Can you elaborate on that?
FLINCHUM: I didn't say it was domestic in nature. Initial information we were getting led us to believe that it could have been. And that's one of the possibilities we are -- we were exploring at that time.
QUESTION: ... girlfriend?
FLINCHUM: I'm sorry. I... QUESTION: Is one of the deceased from that first shooting the shooter's girlfriend?
FLINCHUM: I do not think so.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how many of the dead are students and how many might be faculty or other staff?
FLINCHUM: We do not have those numbers yet.
QUESTION: ... between the shootings on campus and another shooting off campus at an apartment? ABC News was reporting an apartment shooting prior to the first shooting at West A.J.
FLINCHUM: I'm not aware of any shootings off campus.
QUESTION: Was there a shoot-out involving officers and the gunman? And were you in a situation where you had to decide when to send officers into the building?
FLINCHUM: There was not a shoot-out between the officers and the gunman. Officers went in immediately upon arriving at the building.
QUESTION: Did you at any point tell the suspect to get on the ground?
FLINCHUM: I do not know.
QUESTION: How would you characterize the shooting? Was he running through hallways (INAUDIBLE) pulling the trigger, or did he have a...
QUESTION: ... he executed?
FLINCHUM: We are still preliminary into the investigation. And I'm not prepared to release that at this time.
QUESTION: How many weapons did he have?
QUESTION: Were they specific?
FLINCHUM: I'm sorry. Let me go to this gentleman. And I will be right back.
QUESTION: How many weapons did he have?
FLINCHUM: I'm not prepared to release that at this time either.
FLINCHUM: The lady in the back.
STEGER: Let me get back to your question about closing the campus. When the shooting occurred at Ambler Johnston, that building was closed immediately. And we thought we would be able -- if someone were leaving or whatever. So, that's a point I didn't make.
QUESTION: So, you thought the situation was under control and...
STEGER: Right, as best we could.
QUESTION: Excuse me...
FLINCHUM: She was next.
There were reports that the shooter had locked himself in the building at Norris Hall. Is that accurate? And (AUDIO GAP) that he was not or she was not allowing officers to come in? Is that accurate, or no?
FLINCHUM: We're still interviewing the witnesses to determine exactly what happened.
QUESTION: Were the doors chained when you arrived?
QUESTION: Where did the shooter shoot himself? Where -- where -- what location did the shooter die?
FLINCHUM: Inside Norris Hall.
QUESTION: Is there any indication why he was shooting at Norris Hall, at that particular place?
FLINCHUM: Not yet.
QUESTION: Were all of the victims, were all of the bodies found in one room in Norris Hall, or were they found throughout that building?
FLINCHUM: Different locations.
QUESTION: Were the doors to Norris Hall chained when you arrived, that you could not get in and people could not get out?
FLINCHUM: From preliminary reports -- and I have been able to confirm, yes, some of the doors were chained.
QUESTION: Was the shooter a young man or was he old?
FLINCHUM: We do not know who he is yet. So...
QUESTION: And you don't (INAUDIBLE) what age did he appear?
FLINCHUM: I do not know.
QUESTION: Do you have different locations that you're -- I mean, how many murder scenes are you dealing with here? How many locations? Were they shot in different parts of the building?
FLINCHUM: I don't have an answer to that. To me, it's all one tragic location.
QUESTION: Were all of the shootings in Norris on the second floor?
FLINCHUM: I do not have the answer for that either.
QUESTION: Are all of the victims still inside Norris or still inside A.J.?
QUESTION: The deceased victims, are they still inside the location at the crime scene?
FLINCHUM: Some of them are still at Norris Hall, yes.
QUESTION: And, also, if one is deceased, and you aren't looking for anyone at this time, is there anyone in custody right now that you believe could have been a secondary shooter?
FLINCHUM: There is no one in custody at this time.
QUESTION: Was anybody arrested after the first shooting? Did you have any arrests?
FLINCHUM: No one was arrested after the first shooting.
QUESTION: Or after the second? Did you have any other -- any arrests?
FLINCHUM: No, ma'am.
QUESTION: Can we go back to the first scene of the shooting and what the thinking was at that time, and some of the process you thought, in terms of your decision-making at that point?
FLINCHUM: We knew we had two people shot. We were acting on the information we had at the time. We secured the building. We secured the crime scene.
We had information that led us to believe that the building was secure and that the person had left the building.
QUESTION: Well, at that point, then, when the person left the building, what -- what was the process going on with your force then?
FLINCHUM: Our force, in conjunction with Blacksburg and Montgomery County State Police, were following up leads, and we were looking for a person of interest at that time.
QUESTION: And who was the lead investigative agency? Is it your agency, then, that was calling the shots?
FLINCHUM: That's correct.
QUESTION: If you don't believe that you can automatically link the two shootings, then are you actively looking for a suspect in the first shooting?
FLINCHUM: We are actively working the investigation to determine whether the two are or are not related.
QUESTION: You were or you are?
FLINCHUM: We are.
QUESTION: Was there any opposition by the police, the students to the shooter? It seems to me like, if I was in the room and somebody was shooting, I would tackle the person. You know, if I was going to die, I might as well do it fighting. Was there anything like that that went on?
FLINCHUM: Again, we're still interviewing witnesses to try to determine exactly what happened.
QUESTION: Chief, dealing with the doors that were chained, were they chained from the inside or the outside?
QUESTION: Was the shooter surrounded by officers when he took his life?
FLINCHUM: I do not know exactly that answer.
QUESTION: Does the university ever chain doors on buildings, or is that unusual?
FLINCHUM: No, that is unusual.
QUESTION: Were the chains already on the doors or is it something that the shooter brought in?
FLINCHUM: I do not know.
QUESTION: In between the time of the two shootings, there was a space of about two hours. Did you hear any reports of anything -- anything suspicious happening?
QUESTION: So, it went from point A to point B?
FLINCHUM: That's correct.
QUESTION: And what was your reaction when you heard about the second series of shootings?
I mean, this is a tragic, tragic event. I can't express how much sorrow I feel for the families and everyone involved in this incident. But we're doing everything we can to bring this investigation to a successful conclusion, find out all the facts, and go from there.
QUESTION: Do you feel like a lockdown would have been helpful after the first one, or do you feel like it would have been too hard to get a lockdown going on and everyone alerted?
FLINCHUM: You know, you can second-guess all day. We acted on the best information we had at the time.
QUESTION: In the first shooting with your two victims, we heard that one of the victims was a resident, an R.A. Can you confirm that?
FLINCHUM: I really don't know if the family has been notified, so, I would rather not comment on that.
QUESTION: At what point were other jurisdictions contacted, as far as the investigation goes?
QUESTION: What kind of weapons were used?
QUESTION: President Steve...
QUESTION: ... could you talk about the very difficult process of notifying these families, what that process is, and how it (OFF-MIKE) done? STEGER: Well, as Chief Flinchum said, we are in the process now of still identifying the victims.
As we do that, the police will be in touch with the families. And we will also provide some counseling. We have counseling centers open in A.J. now, at 5:00, and then also in the McComas (ph) center.
We have counselors here at the end to be available to meet with some of the families that are coming here, waiting for this news. And there will be other gatherings and support staff available to help anyone.
This is a -- shock is a mild understatement. And we're trying to do everything we can for these families.
QUESTION: Is there a phone number for families...
STEGER: Yes, there is.
STEGER: Yes. There's a number.
Larry (ph), do you know what it is? You can...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 231-3787. That's the dean of students office.
QUESTION: Can you characterize how many witnesses there are that you are interviewing?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 231-3787.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Area code?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Area code 5...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 540.
QUESTION: Chief, can you outline your lockdown policy for the university?
FLINCHUM: Larry, do you want to talk about that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (OFF-MIKE)
FLINCHUM: The lockdown policy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean, are you saying that -- do we have a policy to lock down the campus?
QUESTION: Yes. Like, when, under what circumstances do you do it? What is your time frame on...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't -- it's not in my communications plan.
STEGER: I will -- I will talk about it.
I mean, obviously every situation you face is -- is different. And we do have 9,000 students on campus and about 14,000 students off campus coming in. And, then, what we try to determine is, are they most kept out of harm's way by staying in the dorms or staying in the academic buildings? And the latter was the decision this morning.
And, so, we send out communications by e-mail. We have an emergency alert system -- I-messaging and everything else, to get the word to them as quickly as we can.
But with 11,000 people driving into campus, it's extremely difficult, if not almost impossible, to get the word out instantaneously.
QUESTION: Don't you think this has rendered the lockdown system altogether ineffective because...
STEGER: No. I think the lockdown system, both last fall and this time, worked very well. The students were extremely cooperative. There were very few people out about on campus.
QUESTION: But didn't you lock it down after the first shooting and then 30 kids are dead now because of it?
STEGER: Well, no, no, no. We locked down the building where we thought it occurred and when we thought the incident was contained.
QUESTION: Did you ever get a (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
STEGER: We had...
QUESTION: I'm sorry.
STEGER: We had no reason to suspect any other incident was going to occur.
QUESTION: You tried...
STEGER: Let me get Dennifer (ph).
QUESTION: What sort of changes did you make in the security after the Morva incident on the first day of school in the fall?
STEGER: Well, one thing we did was to provide all of our people with their own secure communication channel. We found that people were picking up communications by scanner, putting out all kinds of rumors which were creating a sense of fear and uncertainty on the campus. So that was one of the things.
But we also, as soon as we learned of what was going on in Norris Hall, with all of the police collaborating, we began a sweep from one side of the campus to the other. In fact, we continued throughout the day and have gone through every building on the campus to verify that there are no other individuals hiding there.
QUESTION: But in terms of security, what did you do differently?
Did you add cameras, doors, security at all since the Morva incident?
STEGER: Well, we have -- in the dormitories -- electronic access keys and whatever else, so only residents can get in and out of those things at that point in time.
The classroom buildings are open pretty much all the time because we have people, particularly our graduate students, who work on projects, you know, through the middle of the night and whatever else.
The main administrative buildings are locked at the end of the day, but, of course, hundreds of people have keys to get into them so...
QUESTION: President Steger, how does Virginia Tech cope forward? How do classes resume here?
There is obviously going to be a new normal here at Virginia Tech.
STEGER: Well, I think we have to think very carefully about the process of healing and bringing this community back together. We're going to be -- we have dozens of meetings with students. We have a convocation tomorrow. Governor Kaine is flying back from Tokyo to be present there. And it's going to be a long, difficult road for people to feel the same way about going in, particularly in the buildings where the shootings occurred where they've been in the past.
QUESTION: Do you have any idea...
QUESTION: President Steger...
QUESTION: ... what the campus will...
QUESTION: ... did you speak to President Bush earlier?
QUESTION: And, if so, can you tell us a little bit about the conversation?
STEGER: Yes. No, I spoke to President Bush and he certainly expressed his concern about the great tragedy and the fact that he and Mrs. Bush sent their condolences. And he said that any additional support or resources that we needed, he would make available.
I also got a call from Attorney General Gonzales shortly after that.
QUESTION: Was the gunman wearing a vest?
STEGER: The gunman?
QUESTION: Was the gunman wearing a bullet-proof vest?
STEGER: I do not know.
QUESTION: Could you tell us whether or not it was a deliberate shooting or was it a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) shooting (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
CHIEF WENDELL FLINCHUM, VIRGINIA TECH POLICE: Again, we're still investigating. Those facts will come out later. I'm not prepared to discuss that yet.
QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) said you interviewed some witnesses. Can you give us a sense of (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
FLINCHUM: I personally have not done the interviews. We have teams of people that are interviewing the witnesses and we'll put all that together as we go -- move forward in this.
QUESTION: Gentlemen, the gunman does not have identification.
Can you give us an approximate age and description?
And, also, as the president mentioned, only residents can get into those dorms with their I.D. cards.
Does that mean you'll find that he could be a Virginia Tech student and living on campus?
FLINCHUM: Well, you're jumping to the conclusion that the person in Norris is the one at West A.J. And we're looking in...
QUESTION: But you say you're not looking for anyone and there's no other (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
FLINCHUM: Yes. But we need to make sure that is or is not the case. As far as the description of him, all I can tell you is he's a male.
QUESTION: Did you say the sweep of campus began after the first shooting?
FLINCHUM: I'm sorry? QUESTION: Did the sweep of campus begin after the first shooting? And, if so, (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
FLINCHUM: No. We secured the dormitory in which the first incident happened. And, again, we acted on the best information that we had at the time. A lockdown policy was mentioned. We get with the senior administration at the university, who provide the best information and we make the best decision we can at the time.
Based on that information, we thought that this incident was isolated to this dormitory.
QUESTION: Was there a lockdown in place...
QUESTION: If there is a suspect -- I guess if there is a suspect at large and you believe that he has left the campus but it's really only your best belief, a lot of people are -- are going to be very critical that action wasn't taken immediately after this initial shooting, that you all jumped to the conclusion that it was an isolated incident.
And yet a suspect is at large...
STEGER: But you had to remember that classes start at 8:00. The call came into the 911 center at about 7:15. We've got 14,000 people en route.
So the question is where do you lock them down?
The students are already -- it takes 20 minutes to walk from some parts of campus to the classrooms. So people are already in transit.
So the decision was...
QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) over the radio telling people not to come to class?
STEGER: Well, they're not listening to their radios as they're walking across campus. But...
QUESTION: ... some kind of communication?
STEGER: Well, we did. We had the sirens going off. We sent out I-messages. We sent out e-mails and we utilized a telephone tree. And we concluded that it was best, once they got in the classroom, is that was where to lock them down. So...
QUESTION: That was happening at 9:30, though, not 7:30, correct?
(CROSSTALK) QUESTION: ... the e-mail didn't go out -- the e-mail (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
QUESTION: That's true.
QUESTION: ... 9:00 a.m. There's an absence of about two hours.
STEGER: Well, the other incident didn't occur.
QUESTION: Right. But the initial incident occurred at 7:15 a.m.
STEGER: But we -- when we closed the initial...
STEGER: ... dorm, we thought that was...
QUESTION: I mean I understand that you think there was an isolated incident. But there are other dormitories right around West Amber Johnson...
QUESTION: And no students were notified until 9:29. There is a possibility that (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
STEGER: Well, we had security guards around the building almost immediately. So...
QUESTION: Excuse me.
You spoke about grief counseling.
QUESTION: The university faces substantial grief. It would seem to me that resources, really, to meet that grief are going to have to be substantial. I know you probably have some front line stuff.
What kinds of steps are being taken to add to your grief counseling capability (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
STEGER: Well, we are today utilizing the rather capable staff that we already have. And as we go forward and develop -- get a better sense of what specifically needs to be done, we'll make available the resources that are necessary, whatever it takes.
QUESTION: Has there been an emergency plan in place for an instance with an armed gunman on campus or in a building?
STEGER: Yes. Yes, we do simulations of these things on a regular basis. Of course, they're never quite like the textbook, but we do have drills looking at how we would handle these types of things. QUESTION: What would you call for in a case where there was a gunman in a -- in a -- in a classroom building taking out students?
STEGER: Well, we -- we follow just that. We had people dispatched to the building immediately, armed and closing down the building and surrounding it. And they got there as quickly as they could. This is literally within minutes.
QUESTION: In that situation, doesn't a lockdown then expose everyone who's in that building to what the gunman does?
STEGER: Well, they were already in the building, so how are you going to -- you can't -- how are you going to get them out?
STEGER: You know, this is a matter -- this all happens within a few minutes, you know?
You can't just -- and the building is large.
QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE), right?
STEGER: That's all right, go ahead.
QUESTION: Chief, you say it's presumptuous to assume that the two are connected, yet you tell us (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that there is no one in custody. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) that are watching right now saying OK, well, if the two aren't linked and you've only got one gunman dead, why aren't you looking for anyone? Why isn't anyone in custody? What do you say to those parents? What do you say to us here?
FLINCHUM: What I said was we're still actively investigating that first incident. I didn't say we weren't looking for anyone. We're actively investigating. You can take that to say that we are looking for someone. We are working very, very hard to make sure this case -- these -- both incidents are related or are not related. And that's the focus right now, is to determine that.
But we are actively investigating that case.
QUESTION: Do you have anyone in mind?
QUESTION: Has Virginia Tech, and, more specifically, (UNINTELLIGIBLE), are they not safe anymore?
Thirty people is a lot of dead people.
STEGER: Yes, it's a -- it's a real tragedy.
QUESTION: What will you do to change security measures once the campus reopens?
STEGER: Well, I think we first have to find out all the facts about what happened, and we don't know those at this point in time. And...
QUESTION: Are classes expected to resume on Wednesday?
FLINCHUM: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) if you're still considering whether or not to open (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
STEGER: Yes, we are -- we are still thinking about that. We'll see.
QUESTION: Can you give (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
QUESTION: What are the words of reassurance that you still have for the students that this isn't going to repeat in the future?
STEGER: Well, I should say that we have done everything possible to deal with this problem, as tragic as it is. There will be significant security on the campus throughout the evening. The campus has been blocked off. There's no traffic going in and out. And we'll look at additional procedures that we need to employ in the future.
But at this point in time, we are focusing on dealing with the tremendous grief that these families are facing. That's where we're putting our energy.
We will look at how we can improve after the immediate crisis is over.
QUESTION: Now, in hindsight, you know, you talk a lot about on hindsight.
QUESTION: On hindsight, what could have been done differently and what could have been avoided if it had been done differently? Some scenarios -- what could have been some different scenarios to avoid the second shooting?
FLINCHUM: You know, until we know all of the facts of both incidents, it's going to take some time to figure out exactly what happened, what could have prevented it, if anything. And that's what we'll do, once we have all the investigations completed. We will certainly look at that and make determinations from there.
QUESTION: Can you (UNINTELLIGIBLE) security in the both buildings, the academic building and the dorm building?
How does one get into those buildings?
FLINCHUM: I didn't hear the first part. QUESTION: When you describe the security in those buildings, do you mean like a swipe card to get (UNINTELLIGIBLE) in the dorm building and what kind -- how does that work, basically, in both buildings, the academic and dorm?
FLINCHUM: The academic buildings are open access.
QUESTION: It's what?
FLINCHUM: Open access.
QUESTION: Open access all the time?
FLINCHUM: Yes. Well...
QUESTION: How about the dorm.
FLINCHUM: ... they're locked at a certain hour at night. But during the day, it's open access.
QUESTION: So the dorms are locked -- during the day, you can only get a key card in there?
FLINCHUM: I'm not sure if that's during the day or not. It's (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
QUESTION: It's an important thing to know.
QUESTION: Does anyone here know?
STEGER: It's not...
QUESTION: How many grief counselors do you have?
STEGER: Let me answer his question first.
The swipe cards in the dormitories start in the evenings and then they're -- they go off in the mornings.
QUESTION: What time?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At 7:00.
STEGER: Around 7:00.
QUESTION: They go off -- they go off around 7:00 a.m.?
STEGER: We are -- as soon as we get the positive notifications. We are in the process of notifying and I think some will be notified very shortly. QUESTION: How many families have you contacted?
QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) are notified, how can we help those families (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
STEGER: Well, once we have the list complete, we will notify the public. But we're waiting until we have all the names.
QUESTION: Chief Flinchum, what time was the Norris Hall shooting? What time frame did that start? When did you get your first 911 calls from that incident?
FLINCHUM: Approximately 9:40 a.m.
QUESTION: You found the shooting victim in there by themselves when you got there a little after 7:15 (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
FLINCHUM: There were two victims in the dormitory room.
QUESTION: So there were two...
QUESTION: ... and you found two dead in the dorm (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
FLINCHUM: No, ma'am.
We found two victims in the dormitory room.
QUESTION: Do you know if they...
FLINCHUM: Both victims from West Amber Johnson Hall are deceased.
QUESTION: ... the shooter have?
FLINCHUM: I'm not prepared to release that at this time.
QUESTION: How many shooters...
QUESTION: ... at 9:40? (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
FLINCHUM: I don't have the answer to that.
STEGER: Yes, there was -- the first e-mail which went out was in relation to the first shooting.
QUESTION: Why did that take so long then? STEGER: Well, the -- one, again, the call came into 911 at 7:15. You've got to have time for the police to get there. Then you've got to -- they were interviewing witnesses. We were talking to figure out what we knew about what happened. And then you had to make the decision about canceling classes and all of that.
So by the time you go through all of that, it takes a little time. We sent out, you know, 36,000 e-mails at once.
STEGER: Based on, you know, we have to make the decision based on what we know at the time and I think we did it as well as we could.
QUESTION: How many (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
FLINCHUM: I don't have the exact number. We're still investigating that. And at future press conferences, I'll be able to release more information.
FLINCHUM: There is one female victim and one male victim.
QUESTION: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) Norris Hall detective? What kind of classes are held there and...
FLINCHUM: To my knowledge, it's general classes.
QUESTION: General -- it's not just engineering? We have a lot of engineering offices are in that building.
FLINCHUM: There are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) engineering offices, but I believe the classrooms are general classrooms.
QUESTION: Do u have (UNINTELLIGIBLE)...
QUESTION: We understand a lot of the injuries were from students leaping from windows. I believe this was and the second floor and that there were a lot of broken bones and whatnot.
Is that what you found, you gentleman up here, as well?
FLINCHUM: There were, that I'm aware of, a couple of people who did jump out of the window, out of that building.
QUESTION: And any faculty (UNINTELLIGIBLE)? Can you say whether any faculty?
FLINCHUM: I don't know at this point. I believe there was, but I'm not positive on that.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how many faculty are among the dead?
FLINCHUM: I don't have the answer for that.
QUESTION: I mean when you talked to witnesses what was it -- what was their general feeling about this? Did they talk -- did they you sort of a -- a general sort of tick tock (ph) about how this happened and what their notions were? What was it like for them?
FLINCHUM: Again, I personally have not spoken to witnesses. We have the investigative teams doing that.
QUESTION: You mentioned 17 victims being treated now.
Does that include people that jumped out of those buildings or is that people that have been shot in the shootings?
QUESTION: A total of 15, including people that jumped and people that were shot?
FLINCHUM: That's correct.
QUESTION: ... require more assurances for this region...
QUESTION: ... for the medical examiner in Roanoke? Have you had to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) operations to give these identities. That's going to be important to the families.
FLINCHUM: I missed the first part of your question.
QUESTION: Have you had to expand the morgue operation in Roanoke, where the medical examiner resides? Or is there -- are there some resources there that are moving this process along, because this is extremely unusual?
FLINCHUM: The medical examiner's office is on scene with us. I'm not sure what they are or are not planning to do.
QUESTION: Gentlemen, have you talked about any anecdotal positive stories of students helping others, staff helping others get out of the building, deal with this?
And we're focus on details, obviously, because it's just happening. But we're also looking for the human stories (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
STEGER: Today, we have been totally consumed with dealing with the immediate problems and have not had any opportunity. I'm sure there are wonderful stories of students helping each other. But we've been focusing on the core issues here.
QUESTION: ... help are you asking for?
STEGER: We feel -- we have significant help on the ground since the very beginning. But the governor just wanted to be sure if anything in addition was required, that we would have easy access to it.
QUESTION: Some people in the community are (UNINTELLIGIBLE) were actually notified of the first shooting (UNINTELLIGIBLE). They were notified at 8:30 a.m. (UNINTELLIGIBLE).
Why is it that students were not notified until another hour (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
STEGER: Well, I think that this was...
QUESTION: There are a number of students -- I mean I understand that when you say there are a lot of students that live off campus and they're already in transit. But there are also 9,000 students that do live on campus that were not notified until 9:29.
STEGER: Well, we started several ways of notification. One was the e-mail that gives you the time on it. The other was the phone bank with the R.A.s that are there. We had people going out and trying -- in fact, they were going around knocking on doors as rapidly as they possibly could, to get the word out where we thought there was the most immediate danger.
So all of those things were happening at once. The e-mail didn't hit the thing until after 9:00, but that -- it takes a little while to crank that up.
QUESTION: What time did the phone bank start?
STEGER: Well, I think we started almost immediately with that.
FLINCHUM: I'm not sure.
QUESTION: Does the phone bank include students' dorm rooms?
STEGER: It includes the -- we were calling the resident advisers, because, you know, you have 900 students in the building. So we were trying to get the word to the resident advisers first, and then they could go out in the halls and alert people as to what was going on.
QUESTION: Chief, there's enough -- right now, 33 dead and that includes the (UNINTELLIGIBLE), right?
QUESTION: Chief, this is obviously not standard fare for campus police. At what point do you turn this over to another agency and how much help are you getting from other agencies now?
FLINCHUM: I don't think it's standard fare for any police department to -- for this type of incident. We are getting all kinds of help and resources. You can see the people behind me -- the sheriff's department, the state police, Blacksburg police.
We have a lot of resources and we are using them. The state police have dedicated a lot of resources to us and things are progressing.
QUESTION: President Steger, how do you feel that this incident will affect prospective students' decision to come to Virginia Tech?
STEGER: Well, I think that remains to be seen. Certainly, I can understand concerns that students would have. We're going to do everything we can, first of all, to find out exactly what happened; and, secondly, to take steps appropriate to address those things we could possibly address; and, third, we want to reassure them that we're doing everything we can to make it a safe campus.
QUESTION: ... by accident...
QUESTION: Chief Flinchum?
QUESTION: Can you tell us, sir, how long (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
FLINCHUM: I don't have the exact time. I'll try to have that information for you at the next press conference.
QUESTION: Can you help (UNINTELLIGIBLE)?
FLINCHUM: I do not know.
QUESTION: What about students who were taking...
STEGER: Obviously, you can see that everybody is asking questions about the investigation. That's the reason why we're here. That's the reason why we're trying to get you the answers. I think the best thing for us to do at this point is to say that we're going to have another briefing again tonight. We need to get them back on the scene so I can get answers to the questions that you all are positing.
And I would suggest that we do this again at 7:30. And I'll do my very best to get you as much as I can about the information. The most important thing for us right now is next of kin notification. That's what our student affairs people are going to be acting on immediately.
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