CRIME

Friends: Va. Tech gunman never hinted at violence

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RADFORD, Va. (AP) - The man authorities say killed a Virginia Tech police officer before committing suicide had broken up with his girlfriend over the summer and vaguely mentioned some family issues, but he was loyal and never hinted at plans for violence, friends and former classmates said Saturday.

Ross Truett Ashley.

Police say Ross Truett Ashley, 22, stole a car at gunpoint Wednesday from his landlord's office in what would be a precursor to the events a day later: On Thursday, police say he killed the police officer, then turned the gun on himself in a parking lot on the campus.

"Ross wasn't that kind of person. He was friendly, nice," said Nic Robinson, a 21-year-old history major at Radford University preparing for law school. "Obviously, he had his bad days, but it was the same as anyone else having those days."

The most notable setback in his life that Robinson knew about was Ashley's breakup over the summer with his girlfriend. It clearly hurt him, she said, but she never saw him obsess over it.

There were other issues in Ashley's life, however, that he wasn't as forthcoming about, she said.

"We all have our family problems, so the way that he was saying it just made it kind of seem like, `just another thing to add to the list," she said. "He never made anything sound like, `This is serious, I need you to sit down."'

Ashley never talked about guns or weapons, and she said she never knew whether he owned or knew how to use one. He also didn't use drugs or drink heavily.

Former classmates in his hometown described him as a hard-nosed football player who had a deep knowledge of the Bible.

J.D. Muller, 22, said he and Ashley kept in touch through social media but hadn't spoken in person for a couple of years. Ashley never made any suggestions that he might turn violent, Muller said. He said he never recalled Ashley so much as losing his temper or getting upset, and Ashley also seemed to know Scripture well.

"He wasn't some kind of monster that people are trying to depict him as," Muller said.

Those who knew Ashley said he could be standoffish and reserved, and one neighbor said he liked to run down the hallways of his building. Ashley lived in an apartment in the college town of Radford and was a part-time student at the university there.

"He was always very nice, I would say that he was reserved, but I wouldn't call him a loner," said 22-year-old Kyle Carlson, who graduated high school with Ashley and had a few advanced-level classes with him.

At the Stop and Shop in the center of town, residents were talking about the shooting, but no one knew Ashley or his family.

Pat Pickett, 68, a 27-year resident of Partlow said her grandson played football with Ashley at Spotsylvania High School.

She said her grandson called Ashley "a nice boy, he was just like any other football player. He said he wasn't a troublemaker."

"Everybody's just kind of sad. I feel bad for the boy, I feel bad for his family, and I feel bad for the family who lost their father and husband," Pickett said.

The gathering place in the middle of town is about five miles from the Ashley family's stone and timber house, complete with a picnic table on the lawn amid expansive woods.

No one answered the door at the house on Saturday morning. Hours later, a man in a white pickup truck was parked in the driveway and posting no trespassing signs.

Neighbors said they did not know the family and declined to comment.

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