Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Virginia Tech trial, Day 8: Families of two April 16 shooting victims awarded $4 million each

A Virginia Tech spokesman said the university is "disappointed with today's decision" and maintained that Tech responded appropriately, given the information available on that day.

The Roanoke Times

Updated 4:03 p.m. | Posted 9:21 a.m.

Virginia Tech spokesman Mark Owczarski responded to a jury's decision to award $4 million to the families of two April 16 shooting victims after finding that Virginia Tech's actions on that day contributed to their deaths.

Owczarski said, in a statement: "We are disappointed with today's decision and stand by our long-held position that the administration and law enforcement at Virginia Tech did their absolute best with the information available on April 16, 2007."

Updated 3:25 p.m.

Virginia Tech contributed to the deaths of two students, Erin Peterson and Julia Pryde, in the mass shooting that took place on the campus April 16, 2007, a jury ruled today.

The seven-person jury in Montgomery County Circuit Court also awarded each parent of Peterson and Pryde $2 million. In total, the jury awarded damages of $8 million. The state may only be responsible for paying $100,000 in damages. The judge will rule on the awards cap later.

The trial brings closure to five years of questions that victims' parents have had about decisions police and university administrators made the morning of April 16.

After two students were murdered in a residence hall, the university waited more than two hours to notify the campus of a shooting. The university was not put on lockdown as police searched for a person of interest -- wrongly, the boyfriend of the first female victim -- off campus.

The gunman opened fire minutes later in Norris Hall, killing 30, including Peterson and Pryde.

The families in court today were the only two estates of victims and wounded students who chose not to settle with the university or forgo a lawsuit.

When the jury announced its verdict after deliberating almost three and a half hours, Peterson’s mother, Celeste, began to weep.

Presiding Judge William Alexander then offered his condolences for the pain Celeste and Grafton Peterson, parents of Erin, and Harry and Karen Pryde, parents of Julia, have felt.

-- Katelyn Polantz | The Roanoke Times

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