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Gunman Kills at Least 21 on Virginia Tech Campus

Aired April 16, 2007 - 13:59   ET


DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now by telephone is Jason Piatt.
Jason, you're a student there. What are you -- you're a junior, correct?

JASON PIATT, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: Junior in mechanical engineering.

LEMON: So -- engineering, which is one of the shootings happened.

Were you in that particular building when it happened?

PIATT: Actually, that was the ESM building where it happened. I was in McBride Hall, which is right next to that.

LEMON: OK. Tell us where you were, what you heard, and what you saw. And what they told you to do.

PIATT: We actually got out -- got out of class at 9:55 in McBride, and we were going up the stairs to leave, and about that time -- I think at 9:26 was when they sent out the first e-mail saying that they were investigating the shooting. So, we were like, all right, you know, that's kind of weird.

We were standing there waiting to get out, and it just -- you know, we walked slowly (INAUDIBLE). We saw a guy, an older guy that looked like maybe a professor come out of one of the halls with blood running down his arm. Somebody put him in a Ford Explorer and drove off with him.

LEMON: So you saw a professor come out bloodied, correct? Is that what you told me?

PIATT: Yes. Actually, I think he's on TV right now. They showed him with blood on his arm.

LEMON: Yes, walking out, or the guy on the stretcher? Because I see someone walking out.

PIATT: It's the guy right there. I think that was at a different point. I think that was after they got him back to the rescue squad.

But when we saw him, there was -- like a light blue Ford Explorer pulled up and went in that lot, and then a guy jumped out of the driver's seat with a bulletproof vest on and ran over to the door. It looked like he went to Randolph Hall, but it's possible that he went to Norris. You know, he got that guy, blood on his arm, out of the building and threw him in the truck, and they drove off really fast.

LEMON: OK. So tell me, you were in the building next to Norris Hall, correct?

PIATT: Right.

LEMON: OK. And what time was it?

PIATT: We got out of the class at 9:55.

LEMON: At 9:55. So during all this, while your class is going on and your instructor is doing his thing, you're doing your thing, you didn't hear any shootings, any sirens, nothing?

PIATT: No, the video that you guys are showing by that guy named Jamal was on the other side of Norris. Kind of like maybe the shots were on that sort of the building, and McBride is on the opposite side of that.

LEMON: OK. So you're in the middle of our class, you're about -- or almost towards the end of your class, you're about to leave, and you get this e-mail. You don't hear anything on the P.A. system, do you?

PIATT: We didn't hear anything immediately. The first thing we knew was this guy had a PDA in his hand and he got this e-mail, and then we were standing there at the steps. That's when all the cops started showing up will all the guns, and they started making -- started making calls over the megaphone and whatnot outside.

It was really windy outside. It was rally hard to hear much of anything going on out there.

LEMON: So, did you go back into the building, or did you head for your car and try to get away from this?

PIATT: We figured out that the building was on lockdown. They weren't -- weren't letting anybody out. So all of us were just standing in McBride there.

LEMON: So you're standing in. How long before they let you out?

PIATT: Well, I don't know if there was an official time when we could have gotten out. It seemed like a lot of people left the building while we were standing there. Eventually, it was probably 11:15, 11:30.

We were in a classroom just watching the news, and a bunch of cops came upstairs. We were on the second floor. They came up with all rifles and everything, and they told us at that point that there actually had been a bomb threat on some building. They didn't say which building. LEMON: Now, if you're in the building right next to Norris, and you're in engineering, did you know any of these people who were involved in the shooting? Anyone hurt?

PIATT: I don't -- I don't know of anyone that I know that was hurt. I have a professor in ESM. I've I tried to e-mail him to see if he's OK, and he hasn't gotten back. But I don't -- I don't know anything about anything.

LEMON: And nothing about the gunman, I would presume?

PIATT: Nothing about the gunman.

LEMON: Yes. Were you there -- tell us about last week. I think late last week, they said that there were some sort of bomb threats and what have you on the campus.

PIATT: Yes, I was trying to go in Torgeson Hall last week at some point, and they had -- there was a bomb threat on Torgeson. And then apparently -- I guess that must have been Tuesday or Wednesday or so. And then on Friday, apparently there was another bomb threat on Torgeson, Durham, and some other hall, maybe McBride, all three of those together.

So then they sent out an e-mail, and there's a $5,000 reward for anybody that could provide any information on that.

LEMON: OK. So tell me this, Jason, you are on campus. I imagine that whatever happenings, you know, things that are going on, on campus, you get them by e-mail now on campus. Do you hear much about bomb threats, or may be looking for someone that may have assaulted someone or someone who's been robbing? This is how you get the information usually, by e-mail?

PIATT: Yes, pretty much. If it's something that they canceled classes for, then they send out an e-mail and say class is canceled, this is why.

LEMON: So it's not normal for you to get bomb threat e-mail, correct?

PIATT: No, I wouldn't consider it normal.

LEMON: OK. All right.

So you get this on Friday, and then you have this today. Take us back to the first day of classes in August. You have a shooting on your campus again.

PIATT: This is ridiculous. I mean, this doesn't happen, you know. And here -- I'm in disbelief. They say this is the biggest -- the biggest university shooting ever to happen in the history of the United States, and it's kind of hard to take in, you know.

I was 20 yards away from this building when it happened, sitting in class, learning about heat transfer. And then I walk out, and there's been the hugest (ph) university shooting in United States history. You know, it's still kind of sinking in.

LEMON: Yes, I imagine it's kind of surreal for you. People may say you're laughing, but when people -- when folks are nervous or they can't believe things, that's a normal reaction.

PIATT: No, it's not funny at all.

LEMON: Before you go, any changes in security, any procedures on campus since that thing happened in August, between August and now, Jason?

PIATT: That was kind of a fluke thing. I mean, that guy escaped from jail. And at the time, I remember everybody was freaking out.

I was actually working at Papa John's. I was delivering pizzas that day. And everybody was -- I'd go -- people would order a pizza, and I would go knock on the door and they would answer the door like scared rabbits, like they thought I was coming to shoot them.

But I don't think that guy was -- he wasn't looking to hurt anybody. He was just trying to get away. You know?

And he shot -- he shot police officers, which was really a big mistake on his part, but he was just trying to be free. He wasn't -- he wasn't like a mad man on the loose gunning people down.

LEMON: Yes. Well, you can imagine...

PIATT: What happened today, this was ridiculous. And I don't know what happened and what was going through this guy's mind, but I'm pretty -- I'm pretty outraged. And I'll say on the record, I'm pretty outraged that someone died in a shooting in a dorm at 7:00 in the morning. And the first e-mail about it, no mention of locking down campus, no mention of canceled classes. They just mentioned that they're investigating a shooting two hours later at 9:26.


PIATT: And that's pretty ridiculous. And meanwhile, while they sent out that e-mail, 21 people got killed.

LEMON: Well, Jason Piatt, a junior who was in the building right next to the one where the shooting happened.

Thank you so much.

And at this point we're trying to figure out exactly what did happen. We don't know what the notification procedures were. That will all be figured out as the days and the minutes tick on here.

But again, 22 people that we know of...

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: Dead. At least 22.

LEMON: At least 22. And you heard Jason Piatt say it is the worst campus shooting in U.S. history happening this morning on the Virginia Tech campus.

NGUYEN: And some 29 people injured at this hour. Of course those numbers can change as more information is coming in to CNN.

But we do want to take you back to the moment when the shots range out on the campus of Virginia Tech. This is some of the best video that we have into CNN to get you to the scene of the crime when it was occurring.

I want you to take a listen and just watch this video play out. It is from our I-Reporter Jamal Albarghouti.





NGUYEN: Whoa is right. And, you know, it's still shocking. As many times as we've seen this video, Don, just to hear those shots ring out so many times.

Now, Tony Harris and Heidi Collins a little bit earlier today spoke with Jamal Albarghouti by phone. Let's take a listen to what he saw and heard.


JAMAL ALBARGHOUTI, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: Well, the first thing I saw is when the policemen started taking their guns out. And then I knew that this was serious. I really didn't hear anything about the shootings that happened in A.J., but when I saw the guns, I knew that this is not another bomb threat.

Then I started hearing some gunshots far away. It was then -- it seemed to me that they were not as tall (ph), the buildings you were -- where the cops were just near right now.

And then all the cops were trying to get into (INAUDIBLE). And they used, like, a bomb or something to open one of the doors, or probably they dropped a tear bomb in the building. There was a person in the building trying -- on the second floor at Norris trying to tell the cops that he's in there, and probably trying to guide them in.

HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Now, Jamal, were you able to hear that person?

And again, just to be clear for our viewers, this is apparently Norris Hall, the site of the second shooting that took place at Virginia Tech this morning.

Jamal, you were able to hear some type of conversation between somebody on the second floor and the police officers outside?

ALBARGHOUTI: Well, I wasn't. But I saw his hand from the window.


ALBARGHOUTI: He was trying to reach outside the window to talk to the cops. So this is what I saw. I didn't actually hear him talking to them, but he was -- well, he was -- he was talking to them. I did not hear what he said. I was a little bit far away from there.

COLLINS: All right. Now, after we see the picture here that you were able to capture with your cell phone, we see that you actually moved quite a bit closer as the police went on down, I assume, inside the building.

What happened after all that?

ALBARGHOUTI: Well, I wasn't able to see anything, because the cop came from behind me and asked me to leave the area.

COLLINS: Right. I imagine so, for your safety, obviously.

Where are you now, Jamal? What can you tell us what you know to be happening on campus at this point?

ALBARGHOUTI: Well, after that, I had to leave. I left campus all over, and right now I'm at my house away from campus.

COLLINS: OK. Yes. And you had mentioned -- just to be clear for everybody, you had mentioned that you thought initially -- you were not aware that there was actually sort of an event going on, if you will, and that there had been a shooting at a different building earlier in the morning.

You had thought this was another bomb threat. You're about the third or fourth person from now that the campus had been dealing with some bomb threats.

ALBARGHOUTI: Yes, this is the case. I actually didn't even check my e-mails in the morning.

I had to go to talk to my adviser, Dr. Sanga (ph), in Patton Hall. And I was trying to get into Patton Hall while I was around 300 feet -- Patton Hall, just for you to know, is not that far from Norris Hall, where the shooting was happening.

And when I was around 200 feet away or 300 feet away from Patton Hall, a guy with -- probably a professor or someone in Patton Hall, he was shouting to everybody walking outside Patton Hall, telling them, "Leave the grounds."

Now, I didn't understand, how can I leave the grounds?


ALBARGHOUTI: But he was...

COLLINS: Take cover, in other words, right. Also just to -- go ahead.

ALBARGHOUTI: I just turned around and left. After a minute, when I reached the area where I took the video from, I saw the cops with guns, and they were asking everyone to lay down or to leave really quickly, so I knew that this wasn't another bomb threat. I knew that it was something way more serious than that, so I started taking the video.


NGUYEN: And that was Jamal Albarghouti speaking with CNN's Heidi Collins a little bit earlier today.

Now, that video that you were seeing right there was taken right near Norris Hall, the site of the second shooting, where we were under the understanding that most of the victims were shot in that hall.

And we want to bring in now Mike Brooks, CNN's security analyst, to really break this down and understand what we saw and heard there, Mike, because what I understand from you is, listening to those shots ring out, it appears that there were two types of guns ringing out there.

MIKE BROOKS, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: You know, Betty, that's just total speculation on my part, you know, having done a lot of work with weapons over -- over my law enforcement career. But, you know, we heard -- it sounds to me -- it sounds to be a semiautomatic.

You know, there is a pretty decent space between the shots, but to me what this says, Betty, this someone -- this shooter is someone who knew that building. They knew how to move through that building with relative ease. And, you know, hitting his victims as they went along.

And, you know, it's just tragic, but the question has been asked, how could 22 people get killed without law enforcement getting to him sooner? You know, as you heard and you saw on that video that the gentleman had, the I-reporter had, it was just a steady stream of shots. And, you know, it's hard to say, too -- when I said it sounded like two separate weapons, you know, again it also could have been law enforcement shooting back at him, and that's why it would have sounded like a separate weapon.


NGUYEN: Well, that's what I was thinking when I heard you say that. I thought that it was two different, because you heard one from the shooter, the other from the law enforcement on the ground. But I want to stop you for a minute.


NGUYEN: And I want to -- to really look at what you've said, and maybe we can throw up a map as well to understand this a little bit better. But from the Amber Johnston building there to Norris Hall, there is quite a ways. There's Drill Field in between. And when you look at the timeline of the first 911 call coming in at 7:15 a.m., and then it's not until some two hours later that more shootings were reported in Norris Hall, there's a lot of time in between.

So, as, you know, a security analyst, what does that tell you about what was happening there on campus when it comes to campus police?

BROOKS: Well, I can tell you that it's a very, very large campus. I've been -- I've been there myself. And it's -- you know, with the confusion like that, Betty, you've got students running around, you have someone crossing Drill Field, and you have officers that are trying to deal with the wounded, and people who were shot, as well as other officers coming in to try to deal with the gunman, trying to locate the gunman, trying to find out where that person is, who that person is, and, you know, it can be a very, very -- very, very confusing scene.

And, you know, when you have the Blacksburg -- you have the Virginia Tech Police Department, they're a very well-respected campus police department. They work very closely with the local sheriff's office, as well as the Blacksburg police and the state police. And we've seen them all on the scene there today.

You know, I can tell you, when you come up on the scene of something like that, it's very confusing, but when you have an active shooter like that, I know that police down there have been trained to deal with an active shooter situation such as this. But then you've also got the fire and emergency medical service coming in to deal with the wounded.

But again, just a very confusing scene. And that probably is what led to, you know, the gap in the timeline, if you will, from the time of the first shootings to the time that the person was -- the gun person -- I don't want to say gunman, we don't know who was doing the shooting yet, but that the shooter was taken out.

Again, very confusing scene down there, Betty.

NGUYEN: Well, what does it tell you when you look again at the distance that this person had to travel from the site of the first shooting to the site of the second shooting, where most of the victims were shot? Does that tell you this person was intent on shooting certain people specifically?

BROOKS: Well, it's hard to say. You know, it's -- it is a large area. I would say, though, that this person knows that area extremely well.

And, you know, we've heard some of the students talk about bomb threats that they've had recently. In fact, one of the them in the building -- one of the buildings where the shootings took place.

You know, they're going to go back and take a look to see if these bomb threats may have been kind of a dry run, if you will, to see what kind of response that the police, fire and EMS would have during a bomb threat, and then maybe go ahead and make a plan. Because this -- a shooting like this isn't something that you just do on a spur of the moment, not with this many rounds being shot, not with this many victims. And, you know, this person had to have reloaded this weapon numerous times to have killed so many and wounded so many students there.

NGUYEN: Well, there was a lot of time in between the first shooting and the second one, according to the information that we're getting. At least two hours, like I said, between that first 911 call and the fact that more shootings were reported nearby in Norris Hall.

BROOKS: And one of the things, too, Betty, that they're going to take a look at, because there was such a timeline, try to pinpoint exactly now that they know who the shooter is, is take a look at the security cameras there on campus, and take a look to see what the movement of this person was. And, you know, that will be able to tell them a little bit better whether or not there were certain people, certain areas that were being targeted by this person.

And, you know, did -- and during that time, did this person go back and maybe hide out in one of the dorms, hide out someplace? And again, that goes back to me saying this person knew where they were going and exactly what they wanted to do, and they knew that campus extremely well.

NGUYEN: And very quickly, with all your sources there within law enforcement throughout the country, let me ask you this. Since the incident in August, when you have the prisoner that essentially shut down the first day of class there because a manhunt was under way for that guy...

BROOKS: Right.

NGUYEN: ... was law enforcement beefed up on the campus since then? Did they change their plan in which they used to protect that school?

BROOKS: No. They have -- you know, each campus -- and I can tell you by talking to chiefs of police at different universities, they have a plan, they have an emergency plan, and they'll go ahead and get that thing rolling when something like this happens. But I think they did a fairly good job back in August.

I remember when I was covering it for CNN also, talking about what was going on there. And no, I think that they did a decent job.

And, you know, it was someone who came from outside the campus on to the campus. Again, it's an open campus, it's very, very difficult to protect. But again, we can't become complacent. Students also have to be aware of their surroundings. But this is just a tragic event down in Blacksburg today.

NGUYEN: Absolutely. Mike Brooks, CNN's security analyst.

We appreciate your time, Mike.

BROOKS: Thank you, Betty. LEMON: And Betty and Mike, I imagine a lot of schools, campuses, universities will be taking a look at their security...

NGUYEN: Oh, absolutely.

LEMON: ... and their responses in place.

NGUYEN: How could you not? Yes.

LEMON: Just so you know, we've been talking about the students. Mike Brooks mentioned the students. The students have been calling in here.

Some of those I-reports that we have gotten in here to CNN, if you log on to, 300,000 hits so far, people looking at this amazing video. That one you're looking at there is from Jamal Albarghouti, who was an I-Reporter.

Listen -- just listen to some of this.

LEMON: And you can't hear some of the gunshots there through the wind, but I mean...

NGUYEN: But there are plenty.

LEMON: There are plenty of it.

NGUYEN: More than I could even keep count because some of them were happening so fast. There they go.

LEMON: And there's one student that wrote in and said that he heard 30 to 40 shots, and he jumped from a second-story window and then ran to safety. I imagine folks were doing anything they could to get to safety.

NGUYEN: In fact, one person was injured in trying to get out of the way and jumping from a second story window.

LEMON: Betty, let's listen to some of the students who were there and sort of witnessed some of this going on from the Virginia Tech campus.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't understand why they would do something like this, it seems really senseless. And it's really hard to just think about it, why, you know, all these people have to die for no reason.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's insane, thinking back to Columbine, stuff like that, the shooting at the Amish school in Pennsylvania, it's just utter shock how anybody could do this to anybody else. And it's just -- it's -- I don't know, it's crazy to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's something that no one will ever get over. The people who died, yes, they've finished their pain, but the pain for everybody else will go on forever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's just insane. It's such a big number. We were already saying this is like a college Columbine. It's just really sad.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's hard to think there's 22 fellow students that died today, knowing that I could have been in one of those classrooms. It's shocking.


LEMON: Can you imagine?


LEMON: And I'm sure parents, it's sad that it happened to the parents, students, but I imagine parents ...

NGUYEN: Well, they want to know where their child is. How they can get their child safely. A lot of them probably want to spend time with their students. We're getting information into CNN.

When it comes to those who are injured, so far the number that we have is 29.

LEMON: Yes. This information, in case you're in that area or want to know about the people who are in that area, maybe you have gone to the hospital, one of our producers said she got off the phone with Suzanne Barnett, a spokesman for Montgomery Regional Hospital, in Blacksburg, Virginia, where many of those people were taken. She says they have 17 patients from the Virginia Tech shooting there, but they don't have a report of all their conditions yet. So they said that they are concerned about giving out the wrong information, which they should be, in case it changes later. But many of those people were taken to the Montgomery Regional Hospital.

You know, the president spoke out about this a short while ago --

NGUYEN: I think he was horrified.

LEMON: Yes. Through his spokesperson, Dana Perino (ph) there. Now let's take you to the Senate floor where Senator's Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell led a prayer for these folks who were involved in this and also a moment of silence.


SEN. HARRY REID, (D) MAJORITY LEADER: We all pray for the students and faculty members and families of Virginia Tech community. And do hope for a speedy recovery of the wounded. And we pray that America can find the strength, which we will find, to overcome our grief and outrage, as we face yet another tragedy. I think it would be appropriate, Madam President, if the distinguished Republican leader wishes to say something about this tragedy, and after he does that, I would ask for a moment of silence for the faculty, the students, administration and everyone in Virginia Tech, and our country really, a moment of silence. Senator, did you wish to speak on this?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL, (R) MINORITY LEADER: Madam President, on behalf of this side of the aisle, offer my condolences for this unspeakable tragedy to which the majority leader has been referring, and join him in calling for a moment of silence.


LEMON: That was Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, then the Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid there. Both leading prayer and then a moment of silence for the horrific act that took place on the Virginia Tech campus.


NGUYEN: Word is traveling fast on this story, and everyone all the way to the top has heard of what has happened, at least if they've been watching CNN, and the word that many are using is just horrified.

President Bush's reaction to the Virginia Tech shooting rampage is exactly that. Horrified is the word that he used. So let's go straight to the White House and CNN's Suzanne Malveaux is joining us now with more insight to how the White House is dealing with this.

Hi Suzanne.

SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi Betty, and I'm actually getting the latest on my blackberry here from the White House official who is giving the latest saying FBI agents based out of Roanoake are on the scene, as well, the evidence response support team from the Richmond FBI office as well as ATF on the scene. The president was notified about this, fairly early, about 12:30 from his Deputy Press Secretary Dana Perino, when the numbers of fatalities were relatively low. She gave us a sense of the readout, the president reacting in a very emotional way. Let's take a listen.


DANA PERINO, DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: The president was made aware of the Virginia Tech shootings. He was horrified, and his immediate reaction was one of deep concern for the families of the victims, the victims themselves, the students, the professors and all the people at Virginia who have dealt with this shocking incident. His thoughts and prayers are with them, and we are monitoring the situation, and whereas state and local authorities are in the lead right now. I think that will remain the case, but federal assets are available, should they be needed if Virginia were to request them.


MALVEAUX: And so far, the White House saying they have not gotten those requests, but of course they're standing by. The president watching this unfold as we are. We don't know yet whether he'll come out and actually speak, but the story that has just become worse minute by minute, hour by hour. Our Justice Department Producer Terry Friedan also giving us some detailed information, saying ATF has send ten agents to assist with weapons tracing and ballistics. The FBI has offered their assistance, it's not yet been requested, but agents have been dispatched.


NGUYEN: So again, state and local officials are the lead agencies here, but the White House has made federal assets available should they be needed, Suzanne?

MALVEAUX: Absolutely right. They're waiting to see if there are additional requests coming from state and local officials. There are people who have been dispatched to the area, those FBI agents as well as ATF, so we'll see how this unfolds. Obviously here, the president getting the latest information, as we are.

NGUYEN: CNN's Suzanne Malveaux joining us from the White House, as we continue our rolling coverage, of this breaking news story. The worst campus shooting in U.S. history.

LEMON: How do you say that?

NGUYEN: That pretty much sums it up, there.

LEMON: We've been talking about this and other school shootings, and the tragedies like this in American history and the carnage at Virginia Tech is the deadliest campus shooting, as we've been saying, the deadliest campus rampage in U.S. history. The worst such incident, up until today, took place more than 40 years ago at the University of Texas in Austin. In august of 1966, Charles Whitman (ph) brought an arsenal of weapons to the observation deck of the school's 27-story tower and opened fire on the people below. That rampage, Betty, went on for more than 90 minutes. When it was over, 16 people were killed, 31 were wounded. Police officers finally reached the observation deck and shot and killed Whitman.

NGUYEN: Don, I want to bring in Suzanne Malveaux once more, because I understand you have additional information from the White House.

MALVEAUX: We just got this information. We understand the president is going to be making an on-camera statement, 4:15 at the White House in the reception room, to offer his condolences and his assistance. Again, just about two hours from now, the president will weigh in on this in a very personal and emotional way.


NGUYEN: Alright, CNN's Suzanne Malveaux.

We want to reiterate that the president said earlier today the president said he was horrified by the entire event that has played out at Virginia Tech. And we just learned that at 4:15, a little less than two hours from now, we'll hear from the president on an on-camera statement as he sends his condolences to those involved in the tragedy today at Virginia Tech. LEMON: To remind our viewers, 2:27 Eastern, here in the U.S. We also have CNN International dialed up here. We want to welcome our international viewers who are watching us from around the country. And if you're just tuning in, a horrific incident happened here in the U.S. this morning at about 7:15. There were calls to Virginia Tech campus that there was a shooting in one of their buildings. A couple hours later, another shooting. What we know now, 22 people at least dead from this incident, and at least 29 people injured. We're following developing news. You're watching the CNN NEWSROOM, I'm Don Lemon along with Betty Nguyen.

NGUYEN: And just a little while ago, I spoke with a Tech student Alex Semonide (ph) and got his version of this mornings event. Take a listen.


ALEX SEMONIDE, STUDENT: I heard somebody say there was a shot fired, so I immediately tried to get out of that area. And all of the cops immediately spread away from that area, towards Burruss (ph), which is near Norris. And so I started walking towards my dorm, which is near Burruss, too. Along the way when I was on the other side of the drill field, I heard shots fired and saw everyone running across the drill field, so I then immediately ran into my dorm so I could get into a safe environment.

NGUYEN: If we can put up a map for our viewers. You were there near Ambler Johnston Hall where the first shooting took place, and you can see in the middle you can see that circular area, that is the drill field, that's where you were headed toward. And you could hear and see all the commotion that was going on. Did you have any idea, between the two places that there was one shooting occurring at one place, and then something taking place at another, or only focused on what was happening at Ambler Johnston?

SEMONIDE: Well, I had initially heard there was a shooting in West Ambler Johnston and after hearing that, I thought it would be a good idea to head back to my dormitory. I saw all the cops head towards the drill field. On my way walking back, I heard the gunshots across from the drill field at Norris and decided I needed to get out of there. So I ran to my dorm, which is to the northwest of Burruss (ph).

BETTY NGUYEN, CNN ANCHOR: And as you were running to your dorm, what else was happening on campus? Obviously others must have been hearing this at the time. You being unaware of what was going on, except for just the grave nature of gunshots being fired.

SEMONITE: Exactly. There's a lot of construction on campus, so we thought initially that it was just the construction or something of that nature. But after the gunshots, we saw everyone start running. I immediately told everyone around me that we should start running to. And we tried to get out of that area as fast as possible.

(END VIDEO CLIP) NGUYEN: And that was Virginia Tech student Alex Semonite with details on a terrifying morning on campus, which the numbers continue to grow, we're sad to say today. We were telling you that at least 22 people were killed. Well, according to the Associated Press, at this hour, we are learning that at least 31 people have been killed in this shooting, some 29 people injured. Again, this just goes to show that this, indeed, is the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: I'm sorry. I didn't hear. The producers were talking to me.

So now we've gone from 22 people dead to 31. And I'm hearing, Betty, I'm sorry I missed what you were saying, the producers were talking to me, telling me that a student is on the phone. Laura Spaventa, spoke with her a little bit earlier. Laura is a sophomore.

Correct, Laura?


LEMON: Correct. At the university. You were there and you were told to lock down, stay in place, and then eventually they let you go. Tell us again, talk to us about the horror of that moment once you heard -- you said you got an e-mail, I believe you said, and then all of a sudden you heard a couple of shots after that.

SPAVENTA: Yes. We got an e-mail saying that there was a gunman on campus. But it wasn't too alarming. So we didn't really think anything of it because there was a bomb threat last week. So we just thought it was something like that. But then a few minutes later we got another e-mail saying that -- to stay in place where we were because the gunman was on the loose. And so like a little bit after that we heard like five gunshots. Like they weren't very loud, because we're a little bit further away from the building, but we did hear them. And at that point my teacher shut the blinds and turned the lights off and had us move away from the windows. And we all sat on the floor and sat under desks.

LEMON: Yes. Laura, hang on one second because I have some new information I just want to give. This is from the Virginia Tech web site, Betty. So, Laura, I'm going to talk to you in a second, but I just want to say that families wishing to reunite with students, we're being told, are suggested to meet at the inn at Virginia Tech. The university is planning a convocation tomorrow at 2:00 p.m.

NGUYEN: All right, that's been changed because earlier it was at noon. So now they've moved it back to 2:00 .m.

LEMON: What is that, Cassell (ph) Coliseum, right, the university community. So we're hearing they're trying to accommodate the governor of Virginia, who is returns from Asia, so they moved that back a little bit.

Do you have any more information on that, Betty?

NGUYEN: Counseling is available in the Boman (ph) Room in the Maryman (ph) Center, which is part of the athletic complex for employees who are seeing assistance. All faculty and staff have been released to go home immediately, but the university will open at 8:00 a.m. tomorrow, but that doesn't mean classes are open. In fact, they are canceled both today and tomorrow.

LEMON: OK. So let's get back to Laura.

Laura, are you still there?

SPAVENTA: Yes, I am.

LEMON: So I imagine after you hear all of this, you're hearing about tomorrow, there's going to be a convocation and all of this stuff, what's going through your mind now? And I'm sure you've spoken to other students. What are you guys saying to each other?

SPAVENTA: We're all very stunned and we've very shaken up right now. I'm from outside of Philadelphia, as is my roommate, my best friend. And the two of us just like really want to go home right now and be with our families. Like we can't believe it happened here. And it's just very unnerving to be this far away from home and not have that support, even though we do have the support of all of our students and the faculty. But at times like this, you just really want to be with your family.

LEMON: Yes, I would imagine you guys really, just honestly, just don't want to be there right now. I imagine you want to be there for your friends, and if you have family members on campus, you want to be there for them emotionally.

SPAVENTA: Absolutely.

LEMON: But probably the last place that you want to be right now.

Explain that to us. I mean, I'm sure it's tough for you guys, and like I said, you want to be there emotionally, but you really just want to get out of there, right?

SPAVENTA: Correct. It's really hard. Like when I got out of the building finally, it was really hard to see the number of cop cars and ambulances and the cops with their vests on and the dogs and the guns. It was just very, very hard to see all of that after hearing everything. And now that I'm finally in front of the TV and I'm seeing some footage that students have taken, it's just really upsetting and really unnerving. And right now like I really just don't want to be here. I just really want to be with my family.

LEMON: You know, I didn't get to ask you this earlier, but we spoke about the incident in August, which was the first day of classes. But I wonder if you notice, since you're a sophomore, you were there last year, so did you notice any changes in security or any changes in campus police or what have you since the incident in August until now?

SPAVENTA: Not really. Like we have a very good police station and Virginia Tech police they -- I believe they're ranked like top in the country. So I've always felt very safe here because I do see them a lot. They're always present on campus. You always see them around. And even on weekends, Blacksburg Police are always present. I feel that they do a really good job here. I just -- I have never really noticed any security differences, though, other than that.

LEMON: Yes. And the incident, Laura, in August, by everyone's account, was viewed as sort of a fluke event because of an inmate who had escaped and then killed a hospital guard and what have you off campus and then somehow, you know, wound up during (ph) the campus there was a manhunt and what have you. So everyone thought that was sort of an isolated incident. And then you have this. You're in class. What time this morning did you hear this, about 9:15 or so?

SPAVENTA: Around like 9:30-ish, I believe.

LEMON: You're in class at 9:30. So you know about what happened in August and then all of a sudden this happens. What runs through your head?

SPAVENTA: I was definitely unnerved. And I just kept thinking, why is this happening again? Why is it happening here? Because this really just looks so bad at the school and I absolutely adore this school, even now that this is happening. I don't want to transfer at all. I couldn't imagine going somewhere else. But it's just very hard to have this -- have our name tarnished by an incident like this because I know a lot of students here have the same school spirt and sense of pride that I do and it's just really, really difficult to see this happening to our school. It's just not fair.

LEMON: Laura, what do you say to your students, your fellow students who may be listening, their parents may be listening, they're involved in this, may have suffered an injury or what have you? What do you say to them as a student of Virginia Tech?

SPAVENTA: I think we just all really need to ban together and be there for each other. I think that's the only way we're going to get through such a horrible situation like this. We've always been known to -- like even in football, like we're tough fans, we're tough people. I think if we come together as one, we'll be able to get through this and we'll rebuild and we'll be OK. And we're going to show the world how strong our community really is.

LEMON: Well, Laura Spaventa, we certainly stand behind you, the entire country and the world watching you, and how you guys are going to react to this and we certainly wish you the very best. Again, we want to say the deadliest shooting on a school campus in U.S. history, according to the Associated Press now, Betty, 31 people.

NGUYEN: Well, let me add something to that because now that the number is 31, Don, we have learned, according to the Associated Press and their government sources, that this is not only the deadliest shooting on a school campus, it is indeed the deadliest shooting incident in the history of the United States. Again, this is not only on a school campus, but yet the deadliest shooting incident in the U.S. So that gives you a scope of what we've been dealing with today. Thirty-one people dead, some 29 injured at this hour. Those numbers could change. We hope they don't, but they could.

And I want to take you back to what has been happening on campus. And I want to bring you some picture of what we've been seeing, what we've been hearing, and they can really describe what these students were able to see and here, unfortunately, earlier this morning. But before I do that, I'm being told that we do have a report from the ground from our affiliate WDBJ and it is with reporter Rachel DePompa. So let's take a listen to that first before we show you those pictures.


RACHEL DEPOMPA, WDBJ: Understanding is this happened in a dorm room. A specific room at West Ambler Johnston. I've been hearing from several students who live in that dorm have come through and I can tell you they've all told me, it's been over and over again, different groups of people, that it happened in one room. It was a man and a woman. And in this Ambler Johnston room, they say.

And then the rest of the shootings took place at Norris Hall, which is a classroom and there's offices, and the dean is out of that building, too. So, you know, we're hearing that is where the majority of the shootings happened. And that was two hours after this original incident. And it's actually quite across campus.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's some distance for this individual, the gunman to have traveled. And one also wonders how he managed to elude police, escaped detection in those two hours between the shooting incidents.

DEPOMPA: It's questions that they are trying to answer right now. This, you know, this investigation is underway right now. But, you know, the latest I'm hearing from a lot of people showing up here is that the original shooting happened in a room at Ambler Johnston, and then went -- kind of blew up from there and went across campus to Norris. And Norris, from what I'm hearing from officers on the scene and some of the people I know in the area, that scene is devastating.


LEMON: And that was reporter Rachel DePompa, from our affiliate WDBJ.

And as we just reported, 31, according to the Associated Press. That would make this the deadliest shooting incident in U.S. history. And I want to talk to someone about that who was there when this deadliest incident happened. Madison van Duyne.

Madison, you're a student there. I understand that you were locked in a classroom from 9:00 a.m. to 1:15. Is that correct?


LEMON: Tell us your experience there on campus.

VAN DUYNE: It's been a tragic day. We -- I had not known about the shooting early this morning. The university did inform us through e-mail. However, I had not checked mine. So during the middle of class we had our communication head person come in and just kind of tell us that there's been a situation on campus and that we need to be careful and that they were going to lock the doors.

We really didn't know what was going on at the time, and we -- I was actually stuck in a media classroom, so luckily we had all of the computers and that kind of source at our fingertips. So we were able to check our e-mail and kind of see what was going on. And as it escalated, we were asked to move away from all the windows. We had the lights turned off and all of the students were asked to sit under the desks. So we were in a pretty intense situation.

LEMON: Not something that happens every day.


LEMON: So when all of this was going on, what are you doing? What are you thinking? What are the other students doing?

VAN DUYNE: Well, our class was actually -- we were in a media writing class. So kind of took it upon ourselves to start contacting students though -- that we had known and that might have been in West AJ and that sort of thing, and writing a report up for Planet Blacksburg, which is our communications network for our college. We posted that so that other students and other faculty members could see what was going on.

LEMON: OK. So you're writing this, you're gathering information for your school's newspaper and for your writing class. What are students telling you? What kind of information are they giving you as you're reporting this as it's going on in real time?

VAN DUYNE: It was just (INAUDIBLE). I think a lot, you know, as things escalated, rumors start coming, so we were trying to find as many facts as possible. At the time we were hearing that 20 students had been pronounced dead and that there were 28 injuries. Obviously we have heard more reports now that that is increasing, unfortunately. So we were just trying to hear the students' aspects that might have been inside the building, and everybody is terrified on campus. And it's just been an awful day.

LEMON: So, Madison, I know, you know, you're on television, you're on national television, and you want to be composed and what have you, but tell us, if you will, how you're doing today?

VAN DUYNE: I'm doing OK. It's just -- it's just so much to try to even handle or try to think about. I was sitting in the classroom and at first it was just like the initial shock and we were all talking about it. And then as more reports came in, I was looking around and noticing that all of us were just sitting there in silence, you know, just -- we were praying for the families of those that had lost their students and faculty members. And it's just such a horrible thing to happen here at our university.

LEMON: Do you know any of the people involved?

VAN DUYNE: I have not heard yet anything about the people involved, so I think my friends and I are all kind of sitting around waiting to know who the 32, I believe now, or 31 students that passed away. We're kind of all waiting to hear who that might be.

LEMON: Yes. So, Madison van Duyne, thank you so much. I know this is a really horrible time for you and for students. It's really a horrible time for the country and the world. Again, this is the worst shooting incident ever in U.S. history. Again, according to the Associated Press, we have reports now, 31 people dead in all of this. And CNN is reporting at least 29 others injured. Let's hope those numbers don't change or go up.

NGUYEN: Absolutely.

LEMON: But that's 31 again according to the Associated Press.

NGUYEN: And you talk about a horrible time for the country, and that is true. We are expecting to hear from the president in an on- camera statement at 4:15 today Eastern Time. So that is about an hour and a half from now. And so when that occurs, of course, we will bring that to you right here on CNN.

But I want to get back to those pictures that I was telling you about just a little bit earlier. They take us to the scene of what happened today and show us what was going on there at Virginia Tech when shots were ringing out.

This first photo is from Andrew Robb (ph). He took these pictures from Cochran Hall (ph). And you're looking at West Ambler Johnston. And as you know, West Ambler Johnston, by now, as we've been reporting over and over again, is the site of the first shooting. You can see police officers are checking people going in and out of that dorm. And he says police made everyone remove their backpacks and bags before entering the dorm, for good reason, because at that time they really didn't know what they were dealing with or where the shooter was.

Want to show you some more pictures now. Here are some from another Virginia Tech student. This showing police, I believe, this one with a vehicle there on campus, no guns drawn here, but we do have another one where you do see police with their guns drawn. Now look at the number of officers on the ground. There you have an ambulance. There is plenty of personnel ready and waiting for what was plays out.

The question was, how do you find the shooter and how do you know exactly what's going on, where. It's such a large campus. Some 26,000 acres and some 25,000 students. So they're trying to figure out exactly what was going on and how do they get to the scene of the crime here.

And that scene of the crime being two different places that are very far apart. We're just looking at the map and taking in how large this campus is. One at the Ambler Johnston Hall, which is a dormitory where the first shooting occurred, and then where the majority of those injured and killed occurred, that second shooting in Norris Hall.

And as we've learned, and, you know, keep track of the numbers here, as the information keeps coming in, some 31 people, according to the Associated Press, are dead at this hour as a result of the shooting, including the shooter. We're hoping to learn much more about this person and what sparked all of this. The deadliest shooting incident in U.S. history.

And at the same time, there are those still fighting their injuries, still fighting to stay alive, and that being at least 29 others who are at local hospitals and seeking treatment at this hour. So as soon as we get more information on that, of course, we'll bring it straight to you.


LEMON: And, Betty, we're just getting new information in that Virginia Tech will hold another press conference at 4:30 Eastern. That's about an hour and a half our time. What is it, 2:47 Eastern Time here. 4:30, Virginia Tech, another press conference. Again, the president will speak at 4:15 Eastern Time about this deadly incident. And junior Jason Piatt is a student there. He was in a building just yards away from the main shooting scene and here's what he had to tell me just a short time ago.


JASON PIATT, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: We actually got out of class at 9:55 in McBride (ph) and we were going up the stairs to leave and about that time, I think at 9:26 is when they sent out the first e- mail saying that they were investigating the shooting. So we were like, all right, you know, that's kind of weird. Standing there waiting to get out and it just, you know, we just -- we (INAUDIBLE) we saw an guy, an older guy, looked like maybe a professor, coming out of one of the hall with blood running down his arm. Somebody put him in a Ford Explorer and drove off with him.

LEMON: So you saw a professor come out bloody, correct?

PIATT: Yes. Actually I think he's on TV right now, they showed him with blood on his arm.

LEMON: Yes, walking out or the guy on the stretcher? Because I see someone walking out . . .

PIATT: It's the guy right there. I think that was at a different point. I think that was after they got him back to the rescue squad. But when we saw him, there was like a light blue Ford Explorer pulled up and it went in that lot and then a guy jumped out of the driver's seat with a bulletproof vest on and ran over to the door. It looked like he went to Randolph Hall, but it was possible that he went to Norris. You know, he got that guy with blood on his arm out of that building and threw him in the truck and they drove off really fast.

LEMON: OK. So, tell me, you were in the building next to Norris Hall, correct?

PIATT: Right.

LEMON: OK. And what time was it?

PIATT: We got out of class at 9:55.

LEMON: At 9:55. So during all this, while your classes is going on, you instructor is doing his thing, you're doing your thing, you didn't hear any shooting, any sirens, nothing?

PIATT: No. The video that you guys are showing by a guy named Jamal (ph) was on the other side of the Norris. Like maybe the shots were on that side of the building and McBride is on the opposite side from that.

LEMON: OK. So you're in the middle of your class, you're about -- or almost towards the end of your class. You're about to leave and you get this e-mail. You don't hear anything on the PA system, do you?

PIATT: We didn't hear anything immediately. The first thing we knew was this guy had a PDA in his hand and he got this e-mail. And then we were standing there at the steps. That's when all the cops started showing up with all the guns and then they started making calls over the megaphones or whatnot outside. It was really windy outside. It was really hard to hear much of anything going on out there.

LEMON: So did you go back into the building or did you head for your car and try to get away from this?

PIATT: We figured out that the building was on lock-down. They weren't letting anybody out. So all of us were just standing in McBride there.

LEMON: So you're standing in. How long before they let you out?

PIATT: Well, I don't know if there was an official time when we could have gotten out. It seemed like a lot of people left the building while we were standing there. Eventually it was probably 11:15, 11:30 we were in a classroom just watching the news and a bunch of cops came upstairs -- we were on the second floor -- they came up with assault rifles and everything and they told us at that point that there had actually been a bomb threat on some building. They didn't say which building.


LEMON: That was a mechanical engineering student, he's a junior there, Jason Piatt, talking to CNN just moments ago.

NGUYEN: Also want to show you some video that is just coming in to CNN. This being on the House floor today. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for a moment of silence. Let's take a listen.


REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D) HOUSE SPEAKER: It is with great sadness that I arise to acknowledge that today our country has been struck by a terrible, terrible tragedy. The death toll at Virginia Tech now is over 30. This is reported to be over 30. This is the worst campus shooting in the history of our country.

As the Virginia Tech community struggles with the mourning and questioning that is certainly to follow, the continued prayers of this Congress are with the students, their families, the faculty and the staff at Virginia Tech. Leader Baynard (ph) joins me in extending our condolences to all concerned and we ask for a moment of silence to be observed in this body. Would we all please rise to observe the moment of silence.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The members will rise to observe a moment of silence.


NGUYEN: And that's the moment of silence on the House floor. Do want to let you know that a little bit earlier there was also a moment the silence on the Senate floor.

And as we've been telling you, at 4:15 Eastern today, just a little over about an hour and 20 minutes, we are going to hear from the president in an on-camera statement as he sends his condolences to those at Virginia Tech in light of the deadliest shooting incident in U.S. history.


LEMON: And then, Betty, 15 minutes after that, at 4:30 Eastern, Virginia Tech will hold a press conference. One of the students at Virginia Tech, his name is Matt Waldron, he's a football player there, he joins us now by telephone.

I imagine you were on campus and at school at the time, Matt, correct?

MATT WALDRON, VIRGINIA TECH STUDENT: Yes. I was over actually -- what I didn't know at the time, was in Holden Hall, in by Norris Hall there. I was looking out the back windows of Holden Hall towards Norris and I eventually saw there was police all over the place holding guns and stuff like that. I was like the fourth -- the third or fourth floor, however many floors are on Norris. And I don't know what was happening. And everybody said that there was gunshots that came from the inside.

And then like not two minutes later people came pouring out the door with their hands up and they were screaming and stuff like that. And I guess two kids had jumped out of the windows and one boy had broke his ankle and the other had -- the girl had gotten pretty shaken up, so they brought them inside Holden Hall where were standing and called the ambulance and then they had everybody get out of here. So we ran across the drill field.

LEMON: Yes, and so word passes fast, moves fast when it comes to situations like this, Matt. And I understand you got a phone call from a friend who doesn't even live here?

WALDRON: Yes. He -- well, he's a friend that called from Iraq, and he was making sure he was putting out his concerns to everybody here. He's a soldier over there and was just wondering -- making sure everybody was OK. And I just -- I know everybody just got a lot of -- I'm sure everybody today got a lot of calls from their family and friends just concerning the situation. It's just a tragedy, you know.

LEMON: Yes. And, Matt, I'm sure you can see the irony in that, that someone from Iraq is calling you to see if you're OK over here and they're in a war zone.

WALDRON: Yes. That's were his exact words. He's like, man, that is a sad thing, a day when you know, when you're over there in college and I'm in Iraq and you're getting more action than I am today. And he said, it's just a sad thing.

LEMON: Yes. How are - have you spoken to any of your fellow students, Matt?

WALDRON: Yes. Well, I have my roommates here, some of them I've spoken over instant messenger to a lot of my friend. Some of them that live (INAUDIBLE) campus. And actually -- I was at Penn State last year and one of my friends from there called me and said that one of his friends, actually one of the boys that had gotten shot. And he didn't tell me his name or anything like that, and wouldn't release that, but they said that he was one of the boys that got hit and he was just like making sure that I was OK and everything like that. And it just wasn't good.

LEMON: Yes. Again, explain that to us, again, Matt. We have a lot of folks talking to us.

WALDRON: Well, sure.

LEMON: Who do you know that got shot?

WALDRON: I don't know anybody that got shot. But I was saying one of my friends, I was an Penn State last year, that's where I went to school, and one of my friend there, one of his friends that goes to Tech down here, was one of the boys that was actually a victim. And so I'm not -- I don't know his name or anything like that, but that's like one of the situations I know that somebody got shot.

LEMON: So, Matt, you're IMing your friends, you're e-mailing, you're talking by phone, what are you guys saying to each other today?

WALDRON: I don't know. It's just everybody is just kind of shook up and just really can't believe what's going on and we're just kind of stuck in the dorms and everybody's hungry and everybody's just like -- I don't know, it was just weird. It's just not a good situation. It's really hard to explain unless you're like firsthand here thinking and talking about it. It's just hard.


WALDRON: Because it could have been anybody. It could have been any of us out there today. I was like 50 yards from the spot that it happened. That could have been me today laying on my deathbed. It just wouldn't have been good.

LEMON: Matt Waldron, nothing else needs to be said after that, thank you for joining us today here in the CNN NEWSROOM.

The CNN NEWSROOM continues with continuing coverage of this breaking story here in the U.S. right after this.


NGUYEN: Just some pictures of what occurred today on the campus of Virginia Tech. You know, it started out as a shooting there and then it turned into the deadliest shooting on a campus in the history of the U.S. And then as the numbers continue to grow, we learned that there are 31 dead at this hour, according to the Associated Press. Some 29 injured. Then that turned into the deadliest shooting incident period in U.S. history.

I want to take you on the phone right now to Tiffany Otey. She was actually in one of the halls where the shooting occurred. In fact, Norris Hall, where most of the victims were shot today.

And, Tiffany, are you with us?


NGUYEN: I want you to talk to us about what was occurring at the time. In fact, you were taking a test and then what did you hear and see?

OTEY: I was currently taking a test. It was around like 9:30 or so. We didn't really have much time left. And we were all trying to finish up and we heard gunshots or something coming from downstairs, but none of us were really sure what was going on. So we were all kind of sitting there


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