Virginia Tech student discusses recent shooting on campus

Dec 09, 2011

A Virginia Tech police officer was fatally shot Thursday during a routine traffic stop on the Blacksburg campus and a second person was found slain in a nearby parking lot after the gunman fled, the university reports.

Chat with Virginia Tech sophomore Shawn Ghuman about his experience on campus during and after the event, including how the emergency system worked, what the students were told, what he saw and more.

Related: Virginia Tech police officer, one other killed on campus

Hey, everyone. I will try my best to answer any questions you have so please feel free to ask anything.

I'm in high school and I'm applying to Virginia Tech. After yesterday's news, I'm having second thoughts. I know that violence can occur anywhere, but it seems that Virginia Tech gets more than its fair share. Do you know of anyone that transferred after the shooting in 2007 or any other time after that because of the shootings?

Hey there, I do not know anyone who transferred from Tech after the shootings, but I can tell you that what happened yesterday does not reflect what students here at Virginia Tech feel. I have never felt unsafe here ever whatsoever. Tech is an amazing place and has some of the nicest people in the world. What one individual does, this event could have happened anywhere, is not a reflection on the student body at all. Give Tech a fair chance, I have a feeling you would love it.

At what point were you aware of increased police presence on campus? Was that before or after you became aware of the shooting?

As soon as I got back to my dorm after the first alert. I looked out my window and saw a ton of cops flying down the road. Crazy sight.

I hope you're safe, but one question. How crazy is it up there and what information do you have regarding all this? Do you know just as little as we do?

I'm fine, thanks for asking. It has really calmed down compared to how it was yesterday.  It was nothing like what happened in '07, but we had a candlelight vigil for the police officer. I have heard several rumor,s but we know the gunman was the second guy that was killed. Not much else has been released to us. Tons of rumors though.

Hi dude. Why are you seeking this publicity? I grew up in NOVA like you but I went to Tech from 2002-2007. I went through the shooting on April 16 so I understand something that maybe you don't. That is to NOT TALK TO THE MEDIA.

Why? I was asked politely from a friend to do this as a way to let people know how I feel. My Brother went to VT the same time you did and I know what he feels. I know what I felt yesterday. Why keep stuff to yourself when you can help those understand your sentiments? Sorry that I am offending you.

As a college sophomore, I know how exciting and terrifying these campus events can be. How did your reaction to the situation evolve throughout the day? How did you feel as you learned more (or less) about the shooting?

To be honest, I was in such shock most of the day.  I never really got to think about the reality of what happened until I heard that the Police Officer who died had five children. I couldn't even imagine. Yesterday truly made me appreciate all that is around me.

What is the university doing to make sure the students are ok mentally after something like this? Are they offering counseling services, and how are they letting you all know about them?

Yes, they have emailed us about counseling services throughout different areas of campus. Several professors of mine have also taken the initiative to email the class and tell us that we can talk to them about this. Hokies truly get through everything together.

Just wanted to say thanks for doing this chat. So much of the media last night and today seems to be working towards implying VT is an unsafe place and our students should be scared out of their minds. That's definitely not the case!

Yes, thank you for saying that. I want to do this because I am trying to express to people what we all feel.  People jump to conclusions far too quickly these days...VT is amazing and I have never felt safer!

How did you get most of your information to stay updated on the situation?

Mostly through the student-run Collegiate Times' Twitter page. They did a fantastic job of continually updating us. The ABC channel did a nice job as well later in the day.

What's the mood around campus today? Are you worried something like this is going to happen again?

To tell you the truth, it feels very normal today. I am not worried at all, yesterday was a freakish incident that can really just happen anytime and anywhere. 

How did you first hear or read about the shooting?

I recieved in alert from Virginia Tech through text message and then a phone call and then an email, all in succession. I really respect the honesty they gave us in the alerts as well.

Do you think Virginia's lax gun laws should be re-examined?

Yes. Guns are way too easy to get in VA, gun shows, etc are literally allowing these kinds of people to empower themselves without any restriction...

Something about the information that is coming out of the very tragic Tech shooting doesn't sound right. Did the shooter know the police officer that was shot? I just get a feeling information is being withheld.

I feel the same way. There have been rumors the gunman walked up to the car and shot the officer. I guess we will have to just wait and see.

When I went to Tech, all my freinds said it was so much safer going to school in the country than to a urban college. Has this incident created more conversation about the easy access to guns?

Not particularly. I think it should and I think its something our University should introduce to our state politicians..if they're serious about our safety

Was the car check (where the office was shot) in place to prevent people with guns from entering the campus? Was this a new thing since '07? How has security stepped up over the years?

What do you mean "car check?" I am not sure what you are speaking of.

Is this incident affecting your studies for finals? Is it more distracting or giving you more motivation?

Definitely distracting.  I had a paper due yesterday, but by the time I had started it all of this occurred. Couldn't think about anything else until the press conference.

According to the timeline of events, the police responded at about 12:30 and found the second victim (aka the shooter with his gun) not too long after -- so why was the campus locked down until 4:30pm?

Not sure. There were rumors that gunshots were fired across campus in a building far from where the parking lot was. They never actually told us they found the gun until the press conference.

What was in like in your dorm yesterday? Did everyone stay in his/her own room or did everyone gather in common areas? Were you sharing bits of information with each other? Did the RA's make any announcements or provide any advice?

It was a weird feeling. We all sat around in the common room saying what we felt and if we did come across any information we would blurt it out. RA's weren't too informative, but they did come and check on us.

Thank you for sharing your feelings, I know it helps you work through, plus it allows us to vicariously share. Has the university allowed you counseling and do you think you will take up the offer?

The University sent emails about counseling opportunities, but honestly I am a person that puts everything in perspective. What happened yesterday was tragic and my heart goes out to the police officer who was there protecting us.  But life goes on and all I can do is learn to appreciate what I have because life is fragile. I probably won't, too much studying to do...

Thanks for chatting. I wanted to get your thoughts on a post-4/16 sentiment that (I feel) really shows the power of the Virginia Tech community. Basically it was, "It sucks that things like this happen, but if it had to happen somewhere ... then at least it happened to a strong community that can handle it." Can you talk a bit about the sense of community at Virginia Tech that perhaps allows the school to better handle tragedies like this?

Thank you for asking this question. Since I have been here at Virginia Tech, the pride in this community has made me truly feel apart of something larger. This school can get through anything and its made me feel as if I can get through anything. 

How many different rumors did you hear around campus? Even being 250 miles away, I was hearing rumors of a second shooter -- that one guy shot the cop, the other guy shot the first in the cage, and that police were following the second shooter across campus. PAB, Torgerson Bridge, and Squires were all mentioned. Were you hearing the same stuff? Where does this come from?

Yeah definitely. I heard the exact same stuff. I heard he was near the Panera Bread a couple miles off campus. I heard it was a drug deal gone wrong, or this guy had stolen the car. There are too many rumors...hard to know whats right especially when the police keep you in the dark.

It took a while to verify that the 2nd body was the shooter. At first it appeared that the 2nd body was a 2nd victim and the shooter was still at large. This is just what leadership was criticized for in 07, so don't blame them for being overly cautious and assuming the opposite of what they assumed last time.

I am not blaming anyone. I am the first to thank them for their courage to protect us.

I hope I could answer everyone's questions. I just want to say, Virginia Tech is an amazing place. I have never felt safer than when I am here. I hope my responses will make people not jump to conclusions on the safety and character of this proud university.  We are Virginia Tech.

In This Chat
Shawn Ghuman
My name is Shawn Ghuman and I am from McLean, Virginia and I went to Langley High School. I am in my second year here at Virginia Tech and I plan on majoring in Communication and possibly International Studies. When the shooting happened, I believe I was in the dining hall located near my dormitory, Harper Hall. As soon as I got the alert of the shooting, I quickly went back to my dorm and didn't leave.
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