A gunman killed 33 people at a Virginia university on Monday, calmly gunning down students attending class and then killing himself in the deadliest shooting rampage in U.S. history.
Most of those killed were students attending classes at a hall at Virginia Tech, where the gunman apparently used chains to lock the doors and prevent the victims from escaping, university and police officials said.
Fifteen people were wounded, included those shot and students hurt jumping from windows in a desperate attempt to escape the gunfire, officials said.
One student told the media that the killer was an Asian male, about six feet tall, who walked into his German class and shot a student and professor before systematically shooting nearly all of the other students in the room.
"I hid under the desk and he proceeded to shoot everybody else in the class, practically," said Derek O'Dell, who suffered an gunshot wound in his arm. "There were probably 15 to 20 people in the class and he shot 10 to 15 of them."
He said the gunman, who was wearing a black leather coat and maroon hat, fired several shots from a handgun, reloaded and resumed shooting. The man left the room, but returned and fired into the door before leaving again, O'Dell said.
By the time police reached the second floor of the building, the firing had stopped and they later found the gunman lying dead in a classroom. "It was probably one of the worst things I've seen in my life," said campus police chief Wendell Flinchum.
Television images of terrified students and police dragging bloody victims out of the building revived memories of the infamous Columbine High School massacre in 1999 and is likely to renew heated debate about U.S. gun laws.
The rampage began two hours earlier at a dormitory a half-mile away where a male and a female student were shot dead as other students began crisscrossing the sprawling campus for morning classes.
Police said they had thought it was an isolated incident and believed the gunman had left the campus, drawing criticism that they were slow to warn other students of the danger.