Family, friends, students, faculty members and government officials will gather today at 2 p.m. ET in Virginia Tech’s Cassell Coliseum to remember campus police officer Deriek Crouse.
The 39-year-old father of five was killed Thursday in what authorities believe was an attack by a lone gunman who later took his own life. The shooting prompted a lock-down that lasted several hours on a campus where the horrible memory of what happened on April 16, 2007 — when a student shot and killed 32 people before committing suicide — remains vivid.
The school plans to webcast today’s service.
Meanwhile, we’re learning more about the young man police have identified as the gunman. And, the family of 22-year-old Ross Truett Ashley has sent a short statement to The Associated Press, saying they “would like to offer their condolences to the family of Officer Crouse. Officer Crouse and his family are in their prayers.”
Ashley was a part-time student at Radford University, about 15 miles from Virginia Tech. According to The Roanoke Times, “Radford University senior Matt Dailey said he considered Ashley his best friend. … Dailey described Ashley as withdrawn and noted he ‘was definitely off in some ways,’ but not necessarily more than other people.”
Dailey also told the newspaper that he and Ashley had gone two or three times to the same shooting range near Blacksburg, Va., where the student who committed the 2007 massacre had once practiced.
“He didn’t keep [the gun] locked away, but all summer I don’t think he had any bullets for the gun,” Dailey told the Times. “He didn’t buy bullets that often because bullets are expensive.”
Roanoke’s WDBJ-TV reports that a “student who lived next door to Ashley, Thomas Walsh, says he was a quiet guy. ‘Its kind of weird to think about because he always kept to himself and seemed like a really nice guy. I guess you never know,’ said Walsh.”
The Associated Press writes that “the man authorities say killed a Virginia Tech police officer before committing suicide had broken up with his girlfriend over the summer and vaguely mentioned some family issues, but he was loyal and never hinted at plans for violence, friends and former classmates said Saturday.”
But for some still unknown reason, he stole a car at gunpoint on Wednesday and then apparently killed Crouse on Thursday.