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Armed students end rampage, prevent further injuries

Originally ran here as:
"Va. gunman tells judge he is sick"
by's Alex Johnson, and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
January 17, 2002

GRUNDY, VIRGINIA -- A former law student who is accused of killing his dean, a law professor and another student told a judge Thursday that he is sick and needs help.

PETER ODIGHIZUWA shuffled into Buchanan County General District Court in leg chains, surrounded by police officers.

Hiding his face behind his green arrest warrant, Odighizuwa told Judge Patrick Johnson, "I was supposed to see my doctor. He was supposed to help me out. ... I don't have my medication."

Odighizuwa, a 43-year-old naturalized U.S. citizen from Nigeria, went to the Appalachian School of Law on Wednesday to talk to his dean, L. Anthony Sutin, about Odighizuwa's dismissal for failing grades, officials said. He shot Sutin and professor Thomas Blackwell, who taught Odighizuwa's contracts classes, with a .380-caliber pistol, authorities and students said.

Also killed was student Angela Dales, 33, said State Police spokesman Mike Stater. Three other students were injured and were hospitalized in fair condition.

Prosecutors charged Odighizuwa with three counts of capital murder, three counts of attempted capital murder and six charges for use of a firearm in a felony.

A few minutes before his arraignment, Odighizuwa told reporters as he was led into the courtroom, "I was sick, I was sick. I need help."

When Johnson said he would appoint lawyer James C. Turk Jr. to represent him, Odighizuwa asked for another attorney. But Johnson appointed Turk and said, "Once you've talked with him, I'm sure you'll see he can help you."

Odighizuwa will remain held without bond pending a preliminary hearing March 21.


Students ended the rampage by confronting and then tackling the gunman, officials said.

"We saw the shooter, stopped at my vehicle and got out my handgun and started to approach Peter," Tracy Bridges, who helped subdue the shooter with other students, said Thursday on NBC's "Today" show. "At that time, Peter threw up his hands and threw his weapon down. Ted was the first person to have contact with Peter, and Peter hit him one time in the face, so there was a little bit of a struggle there."

The suspect, known on the rural campus as "Peter O.," had been struggling with his grades for more than a year and had been dismissed once before.

Chris Clifton, the school's financial aid officer, met with Odighizuwa on Tuesday. "He was angry. He thought he was being treated unfairly, and he wanted to see his transcript," said Clifton.

"I don't think Peter knew at this time that it (his dismissal) was going to be permanent and final," Clifton added.


The private law school has an enrollment of about 170 students. It opened five years ago in a renovated junior high school to help ease a shortage of lawyers in the region and foster renewal in Appalachia.

Sutin, a 1984 graduate of Harvard Law School, also was an associate professor at the school. He left the Justice Department to help found the school. Previously, he had worked for the Democratic National Committee and Bill Clinton's 1992 presidential campaign, according to the Web site of Jurist, the Legal Education Network.

Attorney General John Ashcroft issued a statement expressing his condolences to Sutin's wife and their two children

Former Attorney General Janet Reno called Sutin (pronounced Sutton) "not only a former colleague but a friend" and "an incredibly kind, exceptionally bright and intensely dedicated public servant who was committed to bettering the welfare of all Americans."

"It's real shocking right now," said Bridges. "Dean Sutin had children and everyone's worried about that. It seems kind of surreal right now.

Students tackle gunman in law school

Originally ran here as:
"Students tackle gunman in law school"
by Chris Kahn, Associated Press Writer
January 17, 2002

GRUNDY, VIRGINIA -- Tracy Bridges didn't have much time to think when he saw Peter Odighizuwa on the front lawn of the Appalachian School of Law moments after he allegedly went on a killing spree.

"I just reacted," said Bridges, a student and sheriff's deputy who tackled Odighizuwa with classmates Todd Ross and Ted Besen after the Wednesday shootings.

The three men pinned Odighizuwa to the ground, and Bridges handcuffed the man's arms behind his back.

Odighizuwa, 42, a former student who was dismissed on Tuesday for bad grades, is accused of shooting and killing Dean L. Anthony Sutin, Professor Thomas Blackwell and student Angela Dales.

As screaming students started climbing out of windows, Bridges and Besen said their police and military training took over.

"I'm a former Marine, former police officer," said Besen, 37. "Who better to do that? I'm trained to do that. I'm not going to let him shoot anyone else if I could."

Odighizuwa, a naturalized U.S. citizen from Nigeria, was scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Grundy General District Court on capital murder charges.

Chris Clifton, the school's financial officer, said he met with Odighizuwa on Tuesday afternoon along with other school officials to notify him that he was being permanently dismissed for poor grades. Odighizuwa had flunked out and then was readmitted a year before.

On Wednesday, Odighizuwa stopped in the office of professor Dale Rubin to talk about his grades and as he left reportedly asked Rubin to pray for him, police said. He then walked to Sutin's and Blackwell's offices and shot them with a .380-caliber pistol, State Police spokesman Mike Stater said. Blackwell had taught contract law to Odighizuwa.

"There were three quick shots, then we heard, I think, three more," said Bridges, 25.

Bridges and Besen, a former police officer from Wilmington, N.C., crept down a back stairwell to the parking lot, and Bridges got his gun out of the car.

Odighizuwa had walked outside and stood with a confused look on his face, Bridges said.

"I planned on blindsiding him from behind," Besen said. "He sat the weapon down and raised his hands up in the air. I didn't know if he was praying."

Besen said he ran toward Odighizuwa and told him to get on the ground.

"He kind of came at me. He swung and hit me in the jaw," Besen said.

Once pinned down, he kept shouting, "I have nowhere to go. I have nowhere to go."

Law school shooter nabbed by TWO armed students

Originally ran here as:
"Ex-Charlottean: I helped nab suspect"
by Diane Suchetka
The Charlotte Observer
January 18, 2002

Ex-Charlottean: I helped nab suspect

Scene `looked like somebody had mopped the floor with blood'

GRUNDY, VIRGINIA -- One of the four students who subdued a gunman at the Appalachian School of Law in Virginia on Wednesday is an N.C. native and former Charlottean.

Mikael Gross, 34, a first-year student at the small school in Grundy, Va., told The Observer he worked as a state alcohol law enforcement agent in Charlotte from 1996 until 1998 and earned a master's degree in criminal justice at UNC Charlotte in 1997.

Two other men who helped bring the gunman under control also have worked as law enforcement officers in North Carolina - in Asheville and Wilmington, Gross said.

Gross was walking back to the law school from lunch just after 1p.m. Wednesday with four classmates when he heard a gunshot. He yelled to the others to take cover and watched as students ran from a student lounge in the administration building.

"People were running everywhere," Gross said. "They were jumping behind cars, running out in front of traffic, trying to get away."

Gross ran to his car, parked about 100 yards away, without dropping the gunman from his sight, grabbed his bullet-proof vest from his trunk and a gun from under his front seat.

While the man pointed his gun at fellow students, Gross and two others ran toward him from different directions.

One of the others was Tracy Bridges, a Buncombe County sheriff's deputy from Asheville, who also had his gun, Gross said.

When the gunman saw them, Gross said, he put his weapon down and his hands up.

The third man, Ted Besen, who has worked as a police officer in Wilmington, was not armed and ordered the gunman onto the ground. Instead, the gunman lunged at Besen, punching him in the face.

That's when a fourth student ran up and tackled the gunman. Gross and Bridges jumped on the gunman, pulled his hands behind his back and held him as he tried to fight them off.

When the gunman was under control, Gross ran back to his car for his handcuffs. Police arrived a minute or so later, he said.

Afterward Gross and the others headed into the administration building to help those who had been shot.

"There was blood everywhere," Gross said. "It looked like somebody had mopped the floor with blood."

They put some of the injured onto folding tables turned into gurneys, loaded them into SUVs and drove them to the hospital.

"I let my instinct kick in and did what any good law enforcement officer would do, what any good person would do," he said.

Gross, who graduated from Oak Ridge Military Academy in Oak Ridge in 1985 and East Carolina University in 1989, has also lived in Raleigh, Burlington and several other N.C. cities.

He worked as the director of police corps training at the N.C. Justice Academy in 1998 and 1999, he said, and the chief of police at Brevard College before heading to law school in August .

During breaks from law school, he works as a police officer in Grifton. His mother, Cecilia Wicker, lives in Charlotte.

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