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BLACKSBURG — The legal purchase of the handgun used to kill Virginia Tech Police Officer Deriek Crouse was among a trickle of new details in the case this week, but the motive that led a Radford University student to travel to Blacksburg and shoot the officer remained a mystery.
“Despite investigators’ nonstop pursuit of this case, there still remains no prior connection or contact between” Crouse, a 39-year-old Christiansburg resident and Carroll County native, and 22-year-old shooter Ross Truett Ashley, said a Virginia State Police news release.
Search warrants for Ashley have been filed in Radford Circuit Court, but are sealed, said court clerk Ann Howard. The clerk’s office hasn’t been told when the warrants will be unsealed, she said.
Crouse’s slaying drew international attention that continued as thousands attended the officer’s funeral Monday.
The .40-caliber, semiautomatic handgun used to shoot Crouse was bought in January 2011, state police said. Police did not identify the seller. Ballistics tests have linked it both to Crouse’s slaying on Dec. 8 and to the death of Ashley on the same day from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Another new detail Tuesday was that a surveillance camera in a Blacksburg store captured an image of Ashley on the afternoon of Dec. 7, the day before the shootings.
Police say that about midday on Dec. 7, a pistol-brandishing Ashley stole a Mercedes SUV from his landlord. He was seen in the Blacksburg store that afternoon, and the Mercedes was found the next morning abandoned near the Smart Road, a research facility overseen by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute.
Crouse was killed just over 24 hours after the Mercedes was stolen. The university police officer had made a traffic stop and was sitting in his unmarked car in the parking lot of Tech’s Cassell Coliseum when Ashley approached and shot him in front of witnesses.
Ashley left the parking lot on foot, and was spotted a half-hour later a few blocks away in the Cage, a fenced parking lot used by Tech dormitory residents. A Montgomery County sheriff’s deputy drove toward Ashley, but briefly lost sight of him. When the deputy reached Ashley, he had shot himself, police said.
Video from Crouse’s car showed that Ashley was wearing a maroon sweatshirt and gray cap when he shot the officer. Police later found the sweatshirt and cap in a backpack outside Tech greenhouses located between the two shooting sites.
Near the backpack was graffiti addressed to a woman, police said.
On Tuesday, state police spokeswoman Corinne Geller said the graffiti did not seem significant.
“At this point, it’s been ruled out as being connected to this case,” Geller wrote in an e-mail.