The gunman, identified by police late Friday as Ross Truett Ashley, of Spotsylvania County, had no apparent connection to Tech Police Officer Deriek W. Crouse, 39, who was slain as he sat in his cruiser.
According to police, the day prior, Ashley is suspected of walking into a real estate office in Radford with a gun, demanding car keys and stealing a white Mercedes SUV. That car was found Thursday on Virginia Tech’s campus.
Radford University officials said in a statement that Ashley was enrolled part-time as a business management major, but declined further comment.
Exactly what led to the string of violence remains unclear, but police have said they think Ashley acted alone. They are working to piece together his movements in the hours before the shooting, which occurred just after noon. Police said Ashley, dressed in a maroon hoodie and gray hat, walked up to Crouse’s cruiser and opened fire.
“Motive is very much a fundamental part of this investigation,” said Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State police.
Ashley appears to have graduated from Spotsylvania High School in 2007 and was a running back on the football team. He won numerous academic awards, according to published reports at that time.
“He was a good kid,” said Barry Perry, who knew Ashley when he was an athlete at Spotsylvania High. “An average kid. Somebody that seemed to be a good member of the community.”
That said, a Radford grad student told the iPad news agency The Daily that Ashley had recently shaved his head and had the odd habit of running down the hallways of the apartment building where he lived.