Virginia Tech Community Mourns Slain Officer

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Students and faculty at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., are trying to make sense of another deadly tragedy on their campus.

Derek W. Crouse, a security officer, was shot and killed Thursday while making a routine traffic stop in a campus parking lot.  The Virginia State Police said Friday their investigation led them to believe the gunman acted alone in the killing.

The incident came less than five years after a university student carried out the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

"This has happened not once, but twice to a school that really just doesn't deserve to happen to us," one student said.

Crouse, 39, was sitting in his crusier when the gunman walked up and shot him.  He was a U.S. Army veteran and the father of five children.

"When they opened his car door, he just fell out toward the ground and I could see his face and he was covered in blood," said Julie Fielding, a student.

The assailant apparently had stashed a bag of clothes near the university's greenhouses.  The suspect changed clothes and then killed himself in a parking lot located a half-mile from where he shot Crouse, according to state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller. 

With a new alert system in place, campus police sent out the first notice less than 10 minutes after the shooting.

"Do not leave this room until you're told, do you understand?" a security officer told students.

"They were banging on the doors, checking all the doors to make sure they weren't locked and telling everyone to stay in their rooms and not leave," recalled one young woman who was identified as a student.

"Let's go, Hokies!" students chanted at a vigil held Thursday night near the memorial for those killed in the April 17, 2007 attack.

"It was just kind of like an eerie kind of aura around campus because it was just quiet, and that's not what you get on a weekday," one student told a reporter.

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers on Capitol Hill sent their sympathy to the university and the people of Blacksburg.

"I want to join in expressing our sorrow and extending our thoughts and prayers to those in the Hokie nation and Blacksburg, who unfortunately have endured more pain today and reminiscent of the pain that so many have felt in that fine university in the past," House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., said from the House floor.

Police say they are still investigating why the killer abushed Crouse. The incident one more question for a town and a campus that has seen more than their share of tragedy.  

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