Sunday, April 22, 2007

Virginia Tech & Columbine?

Most news reports about last Mondays tragedy draw a comparison to the April 1999 shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado. There are way too many differences in the two incidents to go into here, about the only real comparison is that both incidents occurred in April, and there were many casualties in each. The similarities end there.

A much more recent, and more local, and more closely aligned incident would be that which occurred in January, 2002 on the campus of another Virginia college, Appalachian School of Law in Grundy.

At the Appalachian School of Law, Peter Odighizuwa had long been identified by fellow students and faculty as being a very disturbed individual. At Virginia Tech, the same can be said for Cho Sueng Hui. At both schools students had voiced concerns about their classmate. At both schools, the faculty and administration were handcuffed by bureaucratic rules and red tape. Until, at both schools the inevitable happened. An evilly crazed student decided to take fellow students and faculty out of the game.

The differences? There are at least two differences. In Grundy, Peter Odighizuwa, having a single .380 semi-automatic pistol and three full magazines, was not quite as heavily armed as Cho Sueng Hui. Difference number two, Tracy Bridges and Mikael Gross were not in Blacksburg. Who are Tracy Bridges and Mikael Gross, you ask? Bridges and Gross were students at the Appalachian School of law along with Peter Odighizuwa. Tracy Bridges and Mikael Gross were also armed. Though neither was carrying a weapon on the campus, they did have their weapons locked in their nearby vehicles.

Unlike Virginia Tech, Appalachian School of Law does not sprawl over a 2600 acre campus. Instead, the law school is housed in the four buildings that were formerly the Grundy Elementary school and and Grundy Intermediate School. (10 acres would be generous, my memory would put it closer to 8.) Upon hearing the shooting, and with the actions of one unknown to the other, Tracy Bridges and Mikael Gross each ran to their nearby vehicles to retrieve a weapon to stop Odighizuwa. Gross, now armed with a 9mm pistol, and Bridges, similarly equipped with a .357 revolver converged upon Odighizuwa and demanded that he throw down his weapon. When he did so and was approached by Gross, Odighizuwa threw one or two punches before being subdued by a third student, Ted Besen.

I would be surprised to find that the members of the House Militia, Police and Public Safety committee were aware of the circumstances that brought the Appalachian School of Law shootings under control. There were only four or five instances of the news media reporting Gross and Bridges' actions. Most accounts have Odighizuwa simply being wrestled to the ground after emptying his .380 pistol. In fact, police accounts show that the magazine in Odighizuwa's .380 still contained 3 rounds. I know this because I was living near Grundy at the time. You ( and the House Militia, Police and Public Safety committee) didn't know it because the media effectively embargoed these facts.

Yes Virginia, armed students prevented the first college shooting in Virginia from becoming even more of a tragedy. Our very own General Assembly made sure that will not happen again.

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