GRUNDY, Va. – Three quick-thinking law students risked their lives Wednesday to subdue a man charged with killing the dean, a professor and a fellow student and wounding three others at a rural Virginia law school.
"I just reacted," said Tracy Bridges, who is a student at the Appalachian School of Law, as well as a sheriff's deputy.
Bridges and classmates Todd Ross and Ted Besen tackled, pinned and handcuffed Peter Odighizuwa on the front lawn of the law school moments after Odighizuwa allegedly killed three people and wounded three others.
It was the latest in a string of cases of citizens preventing dangerous situations from becoming worse by taking matters into their own hands. Also hailed as heroes were the brave airline passengers who prevented the hijacked Sept. 11 jetliner that crashed in Pennsylvania from reaching its final destination, and those who stopped alleged shoe-bomber Richard Reid from setting fire to his explosives-packed sneakers.
The law school shooting occurred at the same time that Attorney General John Ashcroft was announcing indictments against Reid and praising the passengers who thwarted him.
Odighizuwa, 43, a former student who was dismissed on Tuesday for bad grades, is accused of shooting and killing Dean L. Anthony Sutin, Professor Thomas Blackwell and student Angela Dales. A naturalized U.S. citizen from Nigeria, he was arraigned Thursday morning in Buchanan County General District Court on three counts of capital murder, three counts of attempted capital murder and six charges of using a firearm in a felony.
Chris Clifton, the school's financial officer, said he met with Odighizuwa on Tuesday afternoon along with other school officials to notify him that he was being permanently dismissed for poor grades. Odighizuwa had flunked out and then was readmitted a year before.
On Wednesday, Odighizuwa stopped in the office of professor Dale Rubin to talk about his grades and as he left reportedly asked Rubin to pray for him, police said. He then walked to Sutin's and Blackwell's offices and shot them with a .380-caliber pistol, State Police spokesman Mike Stater said. Blackwell had taught contract law to Odighizuwa.
"There were three quick shots, then we heard, I think, three more," Bridges, 25, said.
As screaming students started climbing out of windows, Bridges and Besen said their police and military training took over.
"I'm a former Marine, former police officer," Besen, 37, said. "Who better to do that? I'm trained to do that. I'm not going to let him shoot anyone else if I could."
Bridges and Besen, a former police officer from Wilmington, N.C., crept down a back stairwell to the parking lot, and Bridges got his gun out of the car.
Odighizuwa was standing outside with a confused look on his face, Bridges said.
"I planned on blindsiding him from behind," Besen said. "He sat the weapon down and raised his hands up in the air. I didn't know if he was praying."
Besen said he ran toward Odighizuwa and told him to get on the ground.
"He kind of came at me. He swung and hit me in the jaw," Besen said.
Once pinned down, he kept shouting, "I have nowhere to go. I have nowhere to go."'
The Associated Press contributed to this report.