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BLACKSBURG, Va. – The Virginia State Police Bureau of Criminal Investigation’s Salem Field Office is continuing its efforts to identify a motive in the murder-suicide that occurred Dec. 8, 2011, on the Virginia Tech campus. State police investigators worked through the weekend and on into this week interviewing family, friends and acquaintances of Ross T. Ashley, 22, in order to piece together his movements and actions leading up to the murder of Virginia Tech Police Officer Deriek W. Crouse.
Despite investigators’ non-stop pursuit of this case, there still remains no prior connection or contact between Ashley and Officer Crouse. The Virginia State Police High-Tech Crimes Unit has been extensively reviewing Officer Crouse’s in-car camera video and surveillance video from on and off the campus. State police have secured surveillance video that does place Ashley at a local retail store in the Town of Blacksburg on Wednesday afternoon (Dec. 7).
The .40-caliber, semi-automatic handgun used in both shootings was legally purchased by Ashley from a licensed, Virginia gun dealer. He purchased the weapon in January 2011. (For more information on Virginia law pertaining to the purchase of a handgun, go to http://www.vsp.state.va.us/Firearms_PurchaseEligibility.shtm )
*Timeline (Please note that times are approximate)*
12/7/11 – 11:25 a.m. – At gunpoint, Ashley steals a 2011 white Mercedes SUV from Gilbert Real Estate in the 600 block of Calhoun Street in the City of Radford.
12/7/11 – 12:11 p.m. – City of Radford Police issue multi-state teletype message to law enforcement for a “Be on the Lookout” for the stolen Mercedes SUV.
12/7/11 – Later that afternoon, surveillance video places Ashley inside a Town of Blacksburg retailer. This video was not discovered by investigators until Thursday Dec. 8 – when they were conducting their investigation into the murder-suicide.
12/8/11 – 9:30 a.m. The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) notifies Blacksburg Police of an abandoned vehicle parked on a gravel drive near the VTTI complex. Police immediately respond, confirm the vehicle is the stolen Mercedes SUV and notify Radford Police.
12/8/11 – 12:15 p.m. –Virginia Tech Police Officer Deriek W. Crouse has stopped a car in the Coliseum parking lot along Washington Street near the intersection of Spring Road. Officer Crouse is seated inside his unmarked patrol car when Ashley approaches the officer and fatally shoots him. Ashley then flees on foot from the scene.
12/8/11 – 12:45 p.m. – As law enforcement search the campus for the shooting suspect, a Montgomery County Deputy Sheriff spots a male pedestrian walking by himself in the “Cage” parking lot along Duck Pond Drive. As the deputy drives towards the man, he momentarily loses sight of him. When the deputy finally reaches the subject, the man is on the ground and deceased from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
12/8/11 5:20 p.m. – Outside of the Greenhouses, police recover a backpack containing a wool cap and pullover worn by Ashley at the time of Officer Crouse’s shooting. At this stage of the investigation, state police investigators have found no connection between Ashley and a handwritten message on the wall of one of the Greenhouses.
The Virginia State Police, with the assistance of local and federal law enforcement, have executed search warrants during the course of the investigation. Because this is still an ongoing investigation, the warrants remain sealed at this time.
Virginia State Police has been assisted during the course of this active investigation by the Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Christiansburg and Radford City police departments, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, FBI and Secret Service.