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Sketch of possible Virginia Tech gunman released

A lockdown remains in effect as police continue to search for a man who may have brought a weapon onto the Virginia Tech campus, where 33 people died in a mass shooting in 2007.

August 04, 2011|By Shane Goldmacher and Michael Muskal, Los Angeles Times
  • The Virginia Tech website warns students of a possible gunman.
The Virginia Tech website warns students of a possible gunman. (Reuters )

Reporting from Washington and Los Angeles — Virginia Tech remained on lockdown Thursday afternoon while authorities released a sketch of the man who may have brought a weapon onto the campus where 33 people died in a shooting spree in 2007.

The "campus alert remains in effect," officials of the Blacksburg, Va., school said in a posting on the school's website. "We recommend that students, employees, and others on campus remain secured indoors. Classes are canceled for remainder of the day. Students are asked not to come to campus."

Earlier, three people reported seeing the man carrying what may have been a gun covered with a cloth. No suspect has been found during the several hours of searching.

"The university understands that it has been several hours since this began," the university said in its latest posting. "Many officers from many police departments continue to search campus buildings. We have a very large campus and this will be a long process. There have been no further sightings or reports."

In releasing the sketch, the university identified the man as a white male, about 6 feet, with light brown hair. He was wearing a blue-and-white vertically striped shirt, gray shorts and brown sandals. The subject had no facial hair or glasses.

University officials said several thousand students were attending summer classes, though most of the 30,000 students were on vacation break. Also on campus were about 6,500 employees.

It was unclear when the lockdown would be lifted.

"That's the $64,000 question," said Larry Hincker, associate vice president for university relations. "You get this report of a sighting that someone might have had a weapon. Then you've got this one-square-mile campus, 150 major buildings with several million square feet of space to search."

In an alert posted on its website about 9:30 a.m. EDT, the university said a person with what may be a gun had been seen near Dietrick Hall in the middle of the campus.

"Stay inside. Secure doors," the alert urged the community.

"People on campus stay indoors until further notice," the university ordered.

Authorities rushed to the scene, but no gunman was found, according to university officials briefing reporters. The lockdown remained in effect as a precaution, Hincker said at a televised news conference.

Officers from at least five law enforcement agencies, including the Virginia State Police, were patrolling the campus, according to the university alert.

"We are assisting Virginia Tech with the search," said Lt. Steve Taylor, a spokesman for the Blacksburg Police Department. "At this point we have not been able to confirm that there is gun on campus."

According to the university, at about 9:09 a.m. three juveniles attending a camp on campus reported seeing a man holding what may have been a weapon covered by a cloth.

On April 16, 2007, the same campus was the scene of a mass shooting that galvanized the nation. It remains the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history.

Seung-Hui Cho, an English major at the school, killed 32 people and wounded 25 others before committing suicide.

President Obama was briefed on the situation, Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

"These kinds of situations are frightening, regardless. But happening as it is now at Virginia Tech, we're reminded of the horrible tragic event there in 2007," Carney said.

Goldmacher reported from Washington and Muskal from Los Angeles.

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