WASHINGTON (Reuters) - At least 22 people and as many as 32 were killed and more than two dozen wounded at Virginia Tech university on Monday in the deadliest campus shooting in U.S. history.
Fox News, quoting federal sources, said the death toll was 32.
The rampage by what police believed was a lone gunman took place in two separate areas about two hours apart. Students who had begun crisscrossing the large campus for morning classes rushed for cover.
"This is a tragedy of monumental proportions," Virginia Tech president Charles Steger told reporters.
Virginia Tech campus police chief Wendell Finchum said the suspected gunman was dead and that police were trying to determine whether he killed himself or was shot by officers.
"At this time we believe it's only one gunman," said Finchum.
President George W. Bush was "horrified" by the shooting White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.
"He was horrified and his immediate reaction was one of deep concern for the families of the victims, the victims themselves, the students, the professors and all of the people of Virginia who have dealt with this shocking incident," she said.
A student journalist's video of the chaos was replayed repeatedly on U.S. television networks, showing people scurrying around the campus and volleys of shots ringing out.
The death toll was worse than a massacre at the University of Texas in Austin on August 1, 1966, when trained marksman Charles Whitman killed 15 people, including his mother and wife the night before, and wounded 31 others.
The first shooting at Virginia Tech, a state university, was reported to campus police at about 7:15 a.m. in West Ambler Johnston Hall, a dormitory housing some 900 students.
It was followed by more shooting at Norris Hall, site of the science and engineering school that has given the university much of its fame as a leading technical institute in the United States.
MULTIPLE BOMB THREATS
The wounded were taken to hospitals in the area for treatment.
Students said there were multiple bomb threats to the campus last week. Two of the threats were aimed at the science and engineering school.
Virginia Tech, with 26,000 students, is located in the town of Blacksburg and set in lush rolling hills in the southwest corner of the state, about 240 miles from Washington.
"It's just shock and anger around here right now," graduate student Elizabeth Stewart said, adding she saw the shootings as "freak incidents" that would not stop her attending Virginia Tech.
"I love my school with all my heart and soul."
The university had already sent out an e-mail canceling classes after the first shooting when students heard more shots, another student, Laura Spaventa, said.
Classes were canceled for Monday and Tuesday and counselors were being brought in to talk to the students.
"We continue to work to identify the victims that have been impacted by this tragedy," said Steger, the university president.
"I cannot begin to convey my own personal sense of loss over this senseless and incomprehensible heinous act."
Virginia Tech closed for a day last August 21 because of a manhunt for an escaped prisoner. William Morva, accused of shooting and killing a hospital guard and then a sheriff's deputy near the Virginia Tech campus while on the run, was captured a day after escaping custody on August 20.
U.S. News & World Report, which produces well-regarded annual ratings of U.S. universities, ranked Virginia Tech's College of Engineering 17th for an engineering school in the United States, tied with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Texas A&M University, and the University of Minnesota.
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