Investigation Continues in Virginia Tech Shooting Deaths

Police probe link between gunman and slain officer

The man who shot and killed a Virginia Tech police officer and himself Thursday was from Spotsylvania County.

Virginia State Police identified the gunman as 22-year-old Ross Truett Ashley, of Partlow, Va. Ashley also had residence in the 1000 block of East Main Street in Radford, Va., where he attended Radford University part-time as a business management major.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with our colleagues and friends at Virginia Tech," Radford President Penny Kyle said. "We hold all those affected by this tragedy in our hearts at this very difficult time."

Virginia State Police said in a press conference Friday that the man suspected in the killing of a  Virginia Tech campus police officer acted alone and had no link to the university.

Virginia Tech administrator Larry Hincker called the shooting a "random, wanton act of violence."

Early Friday morning, Virginia State Police said ballistic testing confirmed the gun that killed Deriek Crouse, a 4-year veteran of the campus police force, was the same weapon that killed a second man found dead on Virginia Tech's campus on Thursday.

Crouse was killed during a routine traffic stop shortly after 12 p.m., when a gunman walked up to the side of his police cruiser and fired. Police said the man pulled over in the traffic stop, a Virginia Tech student, had no connection with the shooting.

Authorities have in-car video from Crouse's police vehicle that shows a man with a handgun at the officer's car at the time of the shooting. Crouse was not able to draw his weapon and return fire, according to investigators.  Virginia State Police said that clothing found inside a discovered backpack recovered by Blacksburg police in the greenhouses seemed to match that of the male subject in the officer's video.

State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said in the Friday press conference that investigators have yet to identify a relationship between Crouse and Ashley.

Geller said Ashley was spotted in a campus parking lot called the Cage by a sheriff's deputy during the investigation. The deputy lost sight of the man, and then shortly after, found him dead in the parking lot, killed by an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Radford police identified Ashley as the man who stole a car from a real estate office Wednesday. About 11:25 a.m., he entered the office with a handgun and demanded keys to an employee's vehicle. Ashley took off in a white 2011 Mercedes SUV, which was found by Blacksburg police Thursday on Smart Road at Virginia Tech.

According to multiple reports, Radford police were looking for a man they considered armed and dangerous after an armed robbery at a local real estate office.

Deriek W. Crouse was an Army veteran and a father of five.  The Associated Press reports he was also a trained instructor in firearms and defense with a specialty in crisis intervention.

Former friends and neighbors told the AP that Crouse was a jokester that enjoyed riding his motorcycle and rock music. 

"He was a stand-up guy," said Rusty Zarger, a former neighbor whose two young daughters used to play with Crouse's sons at the townhouse complex where they lived. "He was very mild-mannered, very confident. You could tell he was strong in believing in himself, but very comfortable."

The shootings triggered a campus-wide alert at Virginia Tech that had students sheltering in place while police scoured the campus. Final exams scheduled for the Friday have been canceled.

Class and exam schedules at Radford University are not changing, but faculty was asked to accommodate students that need to seek counseling or other support.

Meanwhile, a group of Virginia Tech students have organized a Hokies for Crouse web page to supply donations for Officer Crouse's family, which includes five children.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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