New details are emerging about Ross Truett Ashley, a part-time college student who killed a Virginia Tech campus police officer last Thursday before taking his own life.
The murder-suicide rattled the university community because it brought back memories of the 2007 rampage that left 33 people dead, launching a national debate about emergency alert management and the prevention of school violence.
The day before the Virginia Tech shooting, according to police reports, Mr. Ashley stole a Mercedes SUV at gunpoint from a real estate office in Radford, Va., about 10 miles from the Virginia Tech campus in Blacksburg. The real estate office manages a nearby apartment building where Ashley leased a unit, The Roanoke Times reports. Police cannot yet say whether Ashley was motivated by a dispute with the company.
Ashley was enrolled part time at Radford University. Matt Dailey, another Radford student who told The Roanoke Times that Ashley was his best friend, said he accompanied Ashley to a shooting range about three times this year. But, he said, his friend didn’t appear obsessed with the weaponry and didn’t seem particularly angry.
“He didn’t keep [the gun] locked away, but all summer I don’t think he had any bullets for the gun,” Mr. Dailey said. “He didn’t buy bullets that often because bullets are expensive.”
Many interviewed by local media described Ashley as withdrawn but cordial. Michael Armory, a former roommate, told The Roanoke Times that Ashley frequently dealt with depression, but was often helpful to others.
Nic Robinson, a student at Radford University, told the Associated Press that Ashley appeared “friendly” most of the time but hinted at family problems. Last summer, Mr. Robinson said, Ashley broke up with a girlfriend, but he didn’t appear particularly troubled by the outcome.
“He had his bad days, but it was the same as anyone else having those days,” said Robinson.
Ashley grew up in Partlow, an unincorporated community in Spotsylvania County, Va. On Sunday, his family faxed the Associated Press a brief apology to the family of Deriek Crouse, the slain Virginia Tech police officer.
“The Ashley family would like to offer their condolences to the family of Officer Crouse,” the statement read. “Officer Crouse and his family are in their prayers.”
According to police reports, Mr. Crouse was seated in his patrol car during a traffic stop when Ashley approached by foot and shot him using a handgun. Ashley fled by foot and changed clothes he had in a backpack. Thirty minutes later, less than a mile away in a parking lot, his body was found with a self-inflicted gunshot.
No motive is known for the killing, and police say they’ve found no link establishing a prior relationship between the men.
Crouse served in the US Army, including a tour in Iraq in 2004. He was the father of five children and stepchildren. Tina Crouse, his widow, told the Associated Press Saturday that she was exchanging text messages with her husband an hour before he was killed.
“Somebody took our life from us,” Ms. Crouse said.
Crouse’s funeral is scheduled Monday afternoon on the Virginia Tech campus. Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) is expected to speak. Also attending expected to attend are US Rep. Morgan Griffith (R) of Virginia, state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, state Secretary of Education Laura Fornash, and state Secretary of Public Safety Marla Graff Decker.
A memorial fund to help support Crouse’s family has been established through the National Bank of Blacksburg.