April 12, 2013

Two shot at Virginia mall; suspect arrested

The Associated Press

CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. – An 18-year-old college student was charged Friday with shooting and wounding two women at a mall branch of a southwest Virginia community college before he was subdued, the city's police chief said.

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Clara Keller, of Blacksburg, Va., holds her head as she sits on the sidewalk near law enforcement officers outside the New River Valley Mall in Christiansburg, Va., on Friday.

The Associated Press

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A medical helicopter approaches a parking lot outside the New River Valley Mall in Christiansburg, Va., on Friday after two women were shot there.

The Associated Press

Neil Allan MacInnis, of Christiansburg, faces two counts each of malicious wounding and using a firearm in the commission of a felony stemming from the shooting at the satellite campus of New River Community College at New River Valley Mall, Christiansburg Police Chief Mark Sisson said Friday night.

MacInnis, who was a student at the community college, was being held without bond at the Montgomery County Jail.

Sisson said authorities were still trying to establish a motive and any connection between MacInnis and the victims, who were hospitalized following the shooting in this town of approximately 21,000, less than 10 miles from Blacksburg, home to Virginia Tech.

He said authorities are investigating online postings allegedly made by MacInnis prior to the Friday shooting but that he was unable to confirm whether those postings were legitimate.

"Today has been a very tough day for law enforcement officers involved, it's been a very tough day for victims and their families, it's been a very tough day for the suspect's family," Sisson said before reading a prepared statement at a Friday night news conference. He did not take any additional questions.

One of the victims was airlifted to the hospital and the other was taken by ambulance. Authorities did not identify the victims or provide updated information on their conditions.

The type of weapon, how it was obtained and how many shots were fired during the incident were not being released due to the ongoing investigation, Sisson said.

The police chief also said MacInnis participated in the Christiansburg Police Department Citizens Academy program in 2012. The 12-week course gives citizens an idea what happens at the department on a typical day, according to a press release seeking participants for the free program. Participants are able to get a chance to ride along with police officers, tour the officers' training facility and practice with firearms at the firing range, the news release said.

The shooting took place at about 2 p.m. The community college was closed Friday following the shooting and Saturday classes were cancelled, according to its website. The mall was set to reopen Saturday at noon.

Friday isn't usually a busy day at the school's mall campus, Ben Kramer, an activities counselor for the community college, told The Roanoke Times. Enrollment is roughly 1,500, and about a third of those students likely were on campus, he said.

Student Josh Brown said he was working on a computer near the classrooms when the shots were fired.

"I heard one gunshot, and I didn't know what it was. ... I saw people running out," he told the newspaper.

Brown then got up and ran out himself.

"I'll be scared to come back to school," he said as he started to cry. "What's wrong with people? Who would do something like this?"

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