BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) -- Virginia Tech was locked down Thursday when three children attending a summer camp said they saw a man holding what looked like a gun, an unsettling report on the campus where a 2007 massacre left 33 people dead.
The university issued an alert on its website at 9:37 a.m. Thursday telling students and employees to stay inside and secure doors.
The children said they saw the man walking fast toward the volleyball courts, carrying what might have been a handgun covered by some type of cloth. Police swarmed the area but said they could not find a gunman matching their description.
An alert on the school's website said the gunman was reported near Dietrick Hall, a three-story dining facility steps away from the dorm where the first shootings took place in the 2007 rampage.
Federal authorities fined the school in March after ruling that administrators violated campus safety law by waiting too long to notify staff and students about a potential threat after two students were shot to death April 16, 2007, in West Ambler Johnston Hall, a dorm near the dining facility.
An email alert went out more than two hours later that day, about the time student Seung-Hui Cho was chaining shut the doors to a classroom building where he killed 30 more students and faculty and himself. It was the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
On Thursday, officials said they were looking for a 6-foot-tall white man with light brown hair. Officials said the person was wearing a blue and white striped shirt, gray shorts and brown sandals. He was described as clean shaven, according to the university's website.
Police from Virginia Tech, Blacksburg and Christiansburg searched for the man along with Montgomery County sheriff's deputies.
Virginia Tech police have released a composite sketch of the man alleged to have had a gun on the campus this morning.
Click here to view the sketch (via Collegiate Times)
Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell issued a statement on his Facebook page:
Governor McDonnell is in constant contact with law enforcement officials. All state resources have been made available to assist Virginia Tech Police department and local law enforcement in the search for this man who was allegedly sighted on campus with a firearm. Of course, this report is a frightening reminder of the events that took place four years ago on the Tech campus. Virginia Tech has correctly taken all precautions to ensure the safety of students, faculty, staff and the Blacksburg community while law enforcement, Virginia Tech officials and the administration work diligently to ensure that this incident is investigated thoroughly.
University Official Larry Hincker told the press that a summer camp for kids, entitled "Higher Achievement" was underway on campus.
The Three juveniles who reported the gun sighting were attending that camp. He estimates their ages at between 13-14 years old.
|@ TauhidChappell : So far there are students walking around campus, closer to the drillfield and academic buildings. The resident side of campus is silent|
Hincker added: "It’s really simply the world we live in today. People expect and want to know what’s happening, and you really have to communicate first and investigate later, and that’s what we’re doing."
Larry Hincker, the Associate VP Of University Relations at Virginia Tech, told the press:
"Regardless of what your intuition and your experience as a public safety officer tells you, you’re really forced to issue a report."
Both Hincker and the Virginia Tech police chief spoke about responding with "an abundance of caution," to the developing situation.
Chief Wendell Flinchum told the press confernence: "People were stopped and questioned but they have been ruled out."
Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum who is addressing the press reports that there have been no further sightings of the individual who was reported with a gun.
The alert on the campus remains in effect. Police are urging people on campus to remain indoors for the time being.
|@ JesseRodriguez : AP: FBI agents are on their way to assist.|
The Washington Post has a live feed from the Virgina Tech press conference.
|@ roanoketimes : Virginia Tech will provide a press briefing in front of Burruss Hall at 11 a.m. today. #vt #hokies|
|@ travisaacs : Last VT Alert said "See VT homepage or email for further info on possible person w/weapon. Ppl on campus stay indoors until further notice"|
Virgina Tech has issued an alert following a reported sighting of a man with a gun on the campus.
Aug. 4, 2011 – 10:08 a.m. Update to VT Alerts
At 9:09 a.m. three juveniles attending a camp at the university reported seeing a white male, 6 feet tall, with light brown hair outside of New Residence Hall East holding what may have been a handgun. They say the weapon was covered by a cloth or covering of some sort. He was walking fast in the direction of the volleyball courts. He was wearing a blue and white striped shirt (stripes were vertical), gray shorts and brown sandals. The subject had no facial hair or glasses.
Officers responded immediately to the area but found no one matching the description. Police have encountered no other witnesses reporting this individual or anything suspicious. Law enforcement officers from VTPD, Blacksburg PD, Christiansburg, PD, and Montgomery County Sheriff's Office are patrolling the campus, continuing to look for the subject.
If anyone sees anything suspicious contact the VT Police Department at 231-6411 or 911.