Va. community college student held in campus shooting

A 20-year-old student opened fire in a community college classroom in Woodbridge, Va., but did not hit anyone and was arrested in a hallway, police said Tuesday.
By Tom Jackman, Jennifer Buske and Clarence Williams
Washington Post Staff Writers
Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A disgruntled 20-year-old student walked into a classroom at the Northern Virginia Community College campus in Woodbridge on Tuesday afternoon and fired at least two shots from a high-powered rifle at his math teacher, authorities said.

The teacher saw the gun, yelled for her 25 students to duck and then hit the floor.

"We heard a boom," one of the students said later. "I thought to myself, did a computer explode?"

The student's shots missed. He put the gun down, sat on a chair in a fourth-floor hallway and calmly waited for police.

Jason M. Hamilton of Baneberry Circle in the Manassas area was charged with attempted murder and discharging a firearm in school zone. He was being held without bail, and police officers said they wanted to question him about a motive. Officers were at his home late Tuesday, talking to his family, and did not allow reporters to approach.

The incident began about 2:40 p.m. in the college's main administration building off Neabsco Mills Road. Campus police officer Anthony Mellis said he had stopped a car on a traffic violation when he heard what he thought was a gunshot inside the building. He said he saw students running from the building as he headed toward it and then heard a second shot. He radioed for Prince William County police, who arrived in seconds.

Mellis and Prince William SWAT officers entered the building moments later, he said, and saw a man sitting in the hallway. Police asked the man to get up and walk toward them. He complied without resisting. They asked him whether he was the gunman, Mellis said, and the man said he was. He was asked to lead police to the rifle, which he did.

There were no injuries. Police did not release the name of the math teacher.

Alyssa Brown, an 18-year-old freshman who was in the class, described how the sound of the first shot set off a series of swift and dramatic events. The student turned to see an armed man standing just inside the classroom door.

"He was holding a big gun," she said. As he stood no more than five or six feet from her, she said, the man silently cocked the gun.

"I thought it was a joke," Brown said. "He didn't talk or say anything."

When the man cocked the gun a second time, she said, the teacher ducked behind her desk and shouted for the students to get out of the classroom. To run.

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