Flowers sit on a mulch-covered curbing next to the site of a police officer shooting on the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg Va., Friday, Dec. 9 2011. A Virginia Tech police officer was killed Thursday after pulling a driver over in a school parking lot. Police said the gunman was not involved in the traffic stop. Instead, he approached, shot the officer and then fled on foot before apparently killing himself in another lot. (AP Photo/The Roanoke Times, Matt Gentry)
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Police are identifying the Virginia Tech gunman as a 22-year-old college student at nearby Radford University.
Police said Friday that Ross Truett Ashley, of Radford, was responsible for killing a Virginia Tech police officer Thursday, triggering a campus-wide lockdown for thousands of students.
Ashley killed himself after shooting the officer.
Police also say Ashley stole a car on Wednesday from a real estate office in Radford, which is about 15 miles from Virginia Tech.
The shooting shook up the campus, the scene of the nation's worst mass slaying in recent memory.
The man who killed a Virginia Tech police officer walked up to the patrolman he did not know and fired, then took off for the campus greenhouses, ditching his pullover, wool cap and backpack. He made his way to a nearby parking lot and when a deputy spotted him, he took his own life, leaving fresh questions on a campus still coping with the nation's worst mass slaying in recent memory.
Why didn't he run or engage the deputy who closed in? Was he even aware that thousands of students had just been alerted by cell phone that a gunman was on the loose and the campus was locked down? And why did he shoot an officer at a school he never attended?
"That's very much the fundamental part of the investigation right now," state police spokeswoman Corrine Geller said Friday at a news conference.
Authorities said they know who the gunman is, but they were waiting to publicly name him because they said his family didn't know yet. A law enforcement official who spoke on condition of anonymity described the shooter as in his early 20s from Virginia.
The gunman was likely the same man who is accused of stealing a 2011 white Mercedes SUV from a real estate office Wednesday in Radford, which is about 15 miles from Virginia Tech. Office employees told police a man came in with a handgun and demanded keys to one of their vehicles.
The office is located in a gritty part of Radford and caters to students who go to the city's small namesake school. At the real estate office Friday, the shades were drawn and the doors locked.
It's not clear what happened between the robbery and 24 hours later when university officer Deriek W. Crouse, 39, was shot. Police were looking for surveillance video around campus to see if it would lend any clues to the gunman's whereabouts before the shooting.
Crouse was a trained firearms and defense instructor with a specialty in crisis intervention. He had been on the force for four years, joining about six months after 33 people were killed in a classroom building and dorm April 16, 2007.
At 12:15 p.m. Thursday, Crouse pulled over a student and was shot while sitting in his unmarked cruiser. The student didn't have any link to the gunman, Geller said.