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Popular teacher among the first victims

MASSACRE AT VIRGINIA TECH: SECURITY UNDER SCRUTINY;
A PROFESSOR DIES

German professor Christopher James Bishop is called a gentle man. His wife taught in the same department.

April 17, 2007|Greg Miller and Richard Fausset | Times Staff Writers

BLACKSBURG, VA. — Monday's session of the class in introductory German was nearly an hour old when the shooter entered the classroom in Norris Hall and fired dozens of rounds.

One of the first was aimed at the head of the teacher, Christopher James Bishop, who wore his hair long, rode his bike to campus and worked with his wife in the foreign languages department at Virginia Tech.

Authorities had not publicly identified any victims as of late Monday, but colleagues confirmed that Bishop, 35, was among the dead.

Bishop's friends said they were struggling to comprehend the violent death of an instructor who was known for his gentle manner and generosity toward students.

"I don't think he was the type of person who had an enemy," said Troy Paddock, a close friend whose wife also teaches in the German program. "He was a very friendly person. He did weekly gatherings for students out of class to practice German where they could talk about anything. He was a nice and helpful person."

On the websites where he posted samples of the art he created with his digital camera, Bishop, who was known as Jamie, described himself as "mild-mannered" and "bespectacled." He was an avid hiker and movie fan, a Georgia native who paid close attention to the wins and losses of the Atlanta Braves baseball team.

Bishop wrote online that after earning bachelor's and master's degrees in German at the University of Georgia, he spent four years in Germany, "where he spent most of his time learning the language, teaching English, drinking large quantities of wheat beer, and wooing a certain \o7fraulein\f7."

Colleagues said the \o7fraulein\f7\o7 \f7was Stefanie Hofer, the woman who became his wife.

The two were the only tenure-track professors in the German program, said Richard Shryock, chairman of the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures.

Shryock said he had received an e-mail from Hofer early Monday afternoon, asking whether anyone had seen her husband and "letting me know he had been teaching in that building at that time" -- a reference to Norris Hall, where most of the fatalities occurred.

Shryock said he was with Hofer later that afternoon at an inn on campus when authorities told her that her husband was dead.

"She was as composed as I think a person could possibly be," said Shryock, who described his reaction as "just shock. Utter shock. Disbelief. Incomprehension."

Bishop joined the faculty two years ago, Shryock said, and was very popular among students.

"He was very outgoing, a very personable individual," he said. "He was someone who took teaching very seriously and was a good colleague to be with."

Students who were in Bishop's classroom described a horrific scene.

Trey Perkins, 20, told the Washington Post that a gunman barged into the room about 9:50 a.m. and opened fire for about a minute and a half, getting off about 30 shots.

The gunman first shot Bishop in the head, then fired on the students with a "very serious but very calm look on his face," Perkins said.

By late Monday, a cluster of cars were outside Bishop's tidy, one-story brick house on Cranwell Circle, a short distance from campus. Grieving guests milled about in a lighted front room as wind whipped through trees outside.

*

greg.miller@latimes.com

richard.fausset@latimes.com

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