Families of victims injured in law school shooting sue school
Several people injured when a gunman went on a deadly rampage at the Appalachian School of Law in 2002 sued the school Thursday, claiming it failed to keep the campus safe from the man who is charged in the shootings.
Peter Odighizuwa, 45, is accused in the shootings, in which three were killed and three injured.
Attorneys for victims Rebecca Claire Brown, Martha Madeline Short and Stacey Emilie Beans filed the suits Thursday in Wise County Circuit Court.
The lawsuits allege that the law school was negligent in protecting the students and faculty from Odighizuwa, who was known to be prone to outbursts, said E. Brent Bryson, an attorney for the three women.
"They absolutely knew of the propensity of the man we'll call Peter O., for violence. He had displayed numerous outbursts while on the campus. He was known to have a dislike for women and was nicknamed 'the shooter' by his classmates.
"The student body was so afraid of this individual that they used to sit behind him in class in case he went 'postal,'" Bryson said. "I know these are strong statements, but we have them backed up."
Lucius F. Ellsworth, president of the law school, said he has not seen the suits and had no comment on the allegations in them.
Odighuizuwa is accused of killing law school Dean Anthony Sutin, professor Thomas Blackwell and student Angela Dales and injuring the three students at the school in Grundy, a tiny mountain community in the coalfields of southwest Virginia.
Odighizuwa has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic but was found mentally competent to stand trial in September.
He is accused of opening fire on the campus Jan. 16, 2002 after learning he had failed out of school. Odighizuwa has claimed in rambling letters and courtroom rants that he is the victim of a government conspiracy.
Earlier evaluations documented widespread delusions, including his belief that he was being framed by the FBI and that the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks were carried out by the government in response to an article he wrote for the law school newspaper titled "Fix'n the Constitution."
Beverly Davis, an attorney for Odighizuwa, did not immediately return calls seeking comment.