Florida lawyer recounts the horror of law school shooting

first_img February 1, 2002 Senior Editor Regular News Florida lawyer recounts the horror of law school shooting Florida lawyer recounts the horror of law school shootingcenter_img Gary Blankenship Senior EditorTim Chinaris was praying with his son. He had just explained that the dean of the law school where Chinaris teaches and is the law librarian was dead. The dean’s son is in Chinaris’ son’s preschool and the two are friends.“I told my son [about the death] and he prayed his friend would get a new daddy, and I started crying,” said Chinaris, who is a former ethics counsel for The Florida Bar and serves on the Professional Ethics Committee.That was one of the emotional moments following three shooting deaths January 16 at Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Va. A suspended Nigerian student was charged with killing Dean L. Anthony Sutin, Professor Thomas Blackwell, and student Angela Dales. Three other students were seriously wounded but are expected to recover.It had been a sunny, cool day at the two buildings of the law school in the small town nestled in a valley on the western side of the state. Chinaris said he had just returned from lunch and was in his office in the law library when he heard screaming from the other building, which houses offices and classrooms.“I went outside my office door and saw people running. I went inside and called the sheriff,” he said. “I went to the back of the library and one of the students who was injured had run in.”Fortunately, a library employee’s husband, a nurse, was visiting and immediately began treating the student. Meanwhile outside, three former police officers who were now law students subdued the shooter, identified as Peter Odighizuwa. When Chinaris went back outside, students told him the dean was dead.He recalled, aside from the young son, the dean and his wife had recently adopted a baby daughter. Professor Sutin left three young children, who attended the same school as Chinaris’ daughter.“It’s incredibly sad and senseless,” Chinaris said. “There’s no point to it.”But if there’s a positive side, he said, it’s been in the reaction at the 240-student school and the surrounding 1,100-person town, from the heroism of the former officers who apprehended the suspect to those who helped the wounded and those traumatized by the incident.“Everyone acted heroically, everyone tried to help,” Chinaris said. “People have responded and gone above and beyond what is expected of them normally. In an area like this that’s essentially isolated, people realize they have to pull together.“One of the admissions counselors was here yesterday, volunteering to answer the phone and she told me they had gotten several calls from prospective students who were so impressed with stories of the valor of students, they wanted to come here,” he added. “Faculty members from other schools have offered to help.”The school, which has as its mission training lawyers to serve underprivileged areas and includes a strong community service emphasis in its program, closed for several days and counselors were brought in to help the students and staff. Recovery has started, but some things will never be the same.Chinaris said one striking memory is one of his employees, Professor Blackwell’s wife. She had left to pick up their children from school when the shooting occurred, and he recalls her horror-stricken expression as she ran toward the offices. She was halted before reaching her husband’s body.“The dean was a great guy,” Chinaris said. “He was very fair, knowledgeable and had tons of integrity. He bent over backward to help this student [Odighizuwa], everybody did. Obviously, he just snapped.“It’s one thing to see people hurt and hope maybe they’ll be okay, it’s another when they’re dead. It could have been anybody.”last_img

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