Virginia state police said Friday the man who killed a police officer on the Virginia Tech campus before shooting himself was a 22-year-old part-time student at a nearby college and had stolen a Mercedes Benz SUV at gunpoint a day earlier.
Ross Truett Ashley, a part-time student at Radford University in Radford, Va., approached 39-year-old campus police officer Deriek W. Crouse, who had just stopped a motorist, and shot him dead as he sat in his patrol car around noon on Thursday, police said Friday.
Ashley, from Spotsylvania County, then fled on foot from the scene and changed out of his wool cap and pullover top, and put them inside a backpack. When police began to canvass the campus for the shooting suspect, a Montgomery County Sheriff’s deputy observed a male pedestrian in a parking lot. But when the deputy reached the lot, the man was lying dead on the ground with a handgun nearby.
Ashley had no identification on him and was dressed differently from the clothing description provided by witnesses at the scene of the officer’s shooting.
Before the incident, Ashley drove and subsequently dumped a stolen vehicle on the campus, police said. He had stolen a white 2011 Mercedes Benz car from an employee of a real estate office in Radford at gunpoint Wednesday.
Ashley’s motive remains a mystery as police said there appeared to be no prior contact or connection between the shooter and the deceased campus police officer. “State police investigators are continuing their work to establish a motive in the killing and to recreate Ashley’s movements in the days and hours leading up to the murder-suicide,” police said in a statement.
“That’s very much the fundamental part of the investigation right now, determining for what reason this man approached Officer Crouse and took his life,” Virginia State Police spokeswoman Corinne Geller was quoted as saying at a news conference.
Campus police urged people at Virginia Tech to “resume normal activities” as there was “no longer an active threat or a need to secure in place.”
The funeral service for the deceased officer has been scheduled for 2 p.m. on Monday at Cassell Coliseum, said the university, which has established a memorial fund to support the needs of the Crouse family. A candlelight vigil was held Friday night for Crouse.
Virginia Tech witnessed a massacre-suicide incident in April 2007, when in two separate attacks an undergraduate student, Seung-Hui Cho, killed 32 people and wounded 25 others before killing himself.