Ross Truett Ashley, a part-time student at Radford University, killed Virginia Tech police officer Deriek Crouse shortly after noon Thursday while Mr. Crouse was conducting a traffic stop. Mr. Ashley was not involved in the stop but approached the scene on foot. After shooting Crouse while he was seated in his unmarked patrol car, Ashley fled on foot.
Ashley’s body was found about a half mile away in a parking lot. Police determined he had changed clothes. No identification was found on his body.
No motive is known for the killing, and police say they’ve found no link establishing a prior relationship between both men.
On Wednesday, Ashley entered a real estate office in Radford and demanded at gunpoint the keys to a 2011 Mercedes SUV parked outside. The vehicle was found abandoned along the side of the road Thursday in Blacksburg, where Virginia Tech is located.
According to officials at Radford University, located about 10 miles from Virginia Tech, Ashley was a business management major. He was earlier enrolled at the University of Virginia at Wise, where he made the dean’s list in 2008.
The shooting rattled the Virginia Tech campus, the location of a 2007 massacre considered the worst slaying in US history. At that time a student gunman killed 33 people, including himself.
The university was criticized and received federal fines for failing to notify the university community within two hours of the first shots. This week, a modified emergency alert system sent alerts out seven minutes after the shooting.
The university was locked down until late Thursday afternoon. Friday’s finals were canceled and rescheduled to Saturday.
News that police had identified Ashley arrived hours before a candlelight vigil Friday night to honor Crouse, who joined the Virginia Tech police force six months after the 2007 massacre.
Several hundred people gathered outside a war memorial chapel to honor Crouse. The university announced a memorial fund to support his family through the National Bank of Blacksburg. His funeral is scheduled for Monday at Cassell Coliseum.
Crouse was the father of five children and stepchildren. He had served in the US Army, including a tour in Iraq in 2004, and he had previously worked as an officer for the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office.