BLACKSBURG, VA (WWBT) – As the investigation into the shootings on campus continues, the entire Virginia Tech community is struggling to cope with yet another loss of one of their own.
While that feeling has become tragically familiar there, the pain on campus still seems unbearable. It is difficult to understand how an officer sworn to protect and serve the community could be taken away so quickly and without explanation.
Police and officials we normally look to for strength in tragic times are visibly shaken by the loss of Officer Deriek Crouse. They choked back tears during a Friday morning press conference.
"The Virginia Tech Police Department is a very special group to those of us in the university community and so our heart goes out to them," said Associate Vice President of University Relations Larry Hincker.
Since he was identified, we've learned a lot about Deriek Crouse, who was known as a decorated officer, member of the SWAT team and veteran. But for those closest to Crouse, he was so much more.
"Deriek was a friend to many in our department," said Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum. "Deriek was a husband. Deriek was a father and Deriek was a son."
There is now one less guardian protecting the Hokie family. His family of sworn officers will have some help coping in the coming days. State and local law enforcement will assist in order to give the department time to grieve.
"Police officers develop many close bonds when you work together in many stressful situations and his death is a tremendous loss to our department and every one of us," the chief told NBC12.
Now even those who didn't know Crouse are offering their support.
"This is just going to make us stronger together because we're going to stick together no matter what," said freshman Alexandra Lee.
Still, they struggle with a loss they can't seem to understand.
"I'm just shocked," Lee explained. "There's not words to describe it: someone who has dedicated their life to protecting us then gets shot and killed.
A vigil to honor the fallen officer is set to begin at 6:30 p.m., at the April 16th memorial on campus.