A school shooting that occurred on January 16, 2002, at the Appalachian School of Law, an American Bar Association accredited private law school in Grundy, Virginia, United States. Three people were killed and three others were wounded when a former student, 43-year-old Nigerian immigrant Peter Odighizuwa, opened fire in the school with a handgun.
|Appalachian School of Law shooting|
|Part of mass shootings in the United States|
|Location||Grundy, Virginia, United States|
|Date||January 16, 2002 |
1 p.m. (EST)
|Target||Faculty members and students at the Appalachian School of Law|
|School shooting, murder|
|Weapons||.380 ACP semi-automatic handgun|
On January 16, 2002, 43-year-old Nigerian former student Peter Odighizuwa arrived on the Appalachian School of Law campus with a handgun. Odighizuwa first discussed his academic problems with professor Dale Rubin, where he reportedly told Rubin to pray for him. Odighizuwa returned to the school around 1 p.m. and proceeded to the offices of Dean Anthony Sutin and Professor Thomas Blackwell, where he opened fire with a .380 ACP semi-automatic handgun. According to a county coroner, powder burns indicated that both victims were shot at point blank range. Also killed was student Angela Dales. Three students were wounded.
When Odighizuwa left the building where the shooting took place, he was approached by two students with personal firearms and one unarmed student. There are two versions of the events that transpired at that moment, one by Tracy Bridges and one by Ted Besen.
According to Bridges, at the first sound of gunfire, he and fellow student Mikael Gross, unbeknownst to each other, ran to their vehicles to retrieve their personally-owned firearms placed in their glove compartments. Mikael Gross, a police officer from Grifton, North Carolina retrieved a 9 mm pistol and body armor. Bridges, a county sheriff's deputy from Asheville, North Carolina retrieved his .357 Magnum pistol from beneath the driver's seat of his Chevrolet Tahoe. Bridges and Gross approached Odighizuwa from different angles, with Bridges yelling at Odighizuwa to drop his gun. Odighizuwa then dropped his firearm and was subdued by several other unarmed students, including Ted Besen, Daniel Boyd, and Todd Ross.
According to Besen, before Odighizuwa saw Bridges and Gross with their weapons, Odighizuwa set down his gun and raised his arms like he was mocking people. Besen, a Marine veteran and former police officer in Wilmington, North Carolina, engaged in a physical confrontation with Odighizuwa, and knocked him to the ground. Bridges and Gross then arrived with their guns once Odighizuwa was tackled. Additional witnesses at the scene stated they did not see Bridges or Gross with their guns at the time Besen started subduing Odighizuwa. Once Odighizuwa was securely held down, Gross went back to his vehicle and retrieved handcuffs to detain Odighizuwa until police could arrive.
Police reports later noted that two empty eight round magazines designed for Odighizuwa’s handgun were recovered. Most sources (including those quoting Virginia State Police spokesman Mike Stater) state that when Odighizuwa dropped the gun the magazine was empty. A report by another witness's hometown newspaper, a month after the shooting, suggested that the gun still held three cartridges.
Initially in 2002, Odighizuwa was found to be incompetent to stand trial and was referred for psychiatric treatment. After three years of treatment and monitoring, in 2005, Odighizuwa was found mentally competent and pleaded guilty to the murders to avoid the death penalty. Odighizuwa received three life sentences and an additional 28 years without the possibility of parole. He is currently serving his sentence at Red Onion State Prison.
Odighizuwa's son Owa would go on to play in the NFL as a 3rd round pick in the 2015 NFL Draft. His other son, Osa, was also drafted in the 3rd round, being picked in the 2021 NFL Draft by the Dallas Cowboys.
After the shooting, students at the law school planted trees in memory of Sutin, Blackwell, and Dales on the school's front lawn. The school's student services office and scholarship program were named for Dales, along with County Highway 624 in Buchanan County, Virginia. Faculty fellowships at the school were named for Sutin and Blackwell. The school's Phi Alpha Delta chapter is named for Sutin while the Phi Delta Phi chapter is named for Blackwell.
The Legal Writing Institute and the Association of Legal Writing Directors created the Thomas Blackwell Memorial Award that is presented annually to a person who has made an outstanding contribution to improve the field of legal writing by demonstrating: (1) an ability to nurture and motivate students to excellence; (2) a willingness to help other legal writing educators improve their teaching skills or their legal writing programs; and (3) an ability to create and integrate new ideas for teaching and motivating legal writing educators and students.
- Kahn, Chris (February 27, 2002). "Ex-Law Student Pleads Guilty to Slayings". Associated Press via Washington Post.
- "Suspect in law school slayings arraigned" Archived April 23, 2007, at the Wayback Machine USA Today, January 17, 2002.
- The Bias Against Guns: Why Almost Everything You've Heard About Gun Control Is Wrong by John R. Lott, Regnery Publishing, Inc., 2003. This book's section on this shooting incidence is summarized at "Appalachian Law School Shootings, Media Crushes The Truth" Archived April 5, 2004, at the Wayback Machine by Ted Lang, the Price of Liberty Website. Retrieved April 17, 2007.
- Man who confronted 2002 law school shooter says Gingrich wrong on arming students by Chris Kahn, the Associated Press, found at [permanent dead link]
- "Helping to Stop a Killer: Students Went After Law School Gunman" by Rex Bowman, Richmond Times Dispatch, May 5, 2002. Also "Ex-Charlottean: I Helped Nab Suspect" by Diane Suchetka, The Charlotte Observer, 2002-01-18, Page 2A.
- "Shooting Hits Many Lives, Roanoke Times & World News (Roanoke, VA), January 20, 2002, page A-1. Story can be accessed at The Feed Directory. Retrieved April 17, 2007.
- "Ex-Charlottean: I Helped Nab Suspect" by Diane Suchetka, The Charlotte Observer, 2002-01-18, Page 2A.
- "Helping to Stop a Killer: Students Went After Law School Gunman" by Rex Bowman, Richmond Times Dispatch, May 5, 2002.
- "Helping to Stop a Killer: Students Went After Law School Gunman" by Rex Bowman, Richmond Times Dispatch, May 5, 2002; also "Area officer helps wrestle law school gunman to ground" The Asheville Citizen-Times, Story can be accessed at The Feed Directory. Retrieved April 20, 2007.
- "Law school, guns, and a media bias" Archived April 20, 2007, at the Wayback Machine by James Eaves-Johnson, The Daily Iowan January 24, 2002; Helping to Stop a Killer: Students Went After Law School Gunman" by Rex Bowman, Richmond Times Dispatch, May 5, 2002; "Ex-Charlottean: I Helped Nab Suspect" by Diane Suchetka, The Charlotte Observer, 2002-01-18, Page 2A.
- Gun Lobby says media downplayed role of gun owners in subduing shooter," by Rick Montgomery, The Kansas City Star, March 6, 2002.
- A Tragedy Compounded. Jim Oliphant, the Legal Times
- Lonnie W. Ayers, Attorney at Law, also was a major help in the shooting. For he helped slow down the shooter, and also helped a fellow students life. "A Tragedy Compounded", Jim Oliphant, Legal Times, June 20, 2002. Retrieved April 18, 2007; also Roanoke Times January 17, 2002, and Lexington Herald leader January 18, 2002.
- "Local man lives through recent shooting at college" by Carrie Sidener, The Elkin Tribune, Feb 13, 2002, accessed via archive.org August 13, 2012.
- Schwartz, Paul (May 10, 2015). "A murderous father, a battered mother: Rookie's long road to Giants". Retrieved January 3, 2021.
- ASL January 16, 2002 Memorial Archived September 4, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved August 25, 2007
- Phi Alpha Delta Sutin Chapter Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved August 25, 2007
- Phi Delta Phi Blackwell Inn Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. Retrieved August 25, 2007
- "Legal Writing Prof Blog". lawprofessors.typepad.com. Retrieved January 3, 2021.