The Virginia Tech Massacre
Classification: Mass murderer
Characteristics: Shooting rampage
Number of victims: 32
Date of murders: April 16, 2007
Date of birth: January 18, 1984
Victims profile: Ryan Clark (22) / Emily Hilscher (19) / Minal Panchal (26) / G. V. Loganathan (53) / Jarrett Lane (22) / Brian Bluhm (25) / Matthew Gwaltney (24) / Jeremy Herbstritt (27) / Partahi Lumbantoruan (34) / Daniel O'Neil (22) / Juan Ortiz (26) / Julia Pryde (23) / Waleed Shaalan (32) / Jamie Bishop (35) / Lauren McCain (20) / Michael Pohle Jr. (23) / Maxine Turner (22) / Nicole White (20) / Liviu Librescu (76) / Jocelyne Couture-Nowak (49) / Ross Alameddine (20) / Austin Cloyd (18) / Daniel Perez Cueva (21) / Caitlin Hammaren (19) / Rachael Hill (18) / Matthew La Porte (20) / Henry Lee (20) / Erin Peterson (18) / Mary Karen Read (19) / Reema Samaha (18) / Leslie Sherman (20) / Kevin Granata (45)
Method of murder: Shooting (a .22 caliber Walther P22 semi-automatic pistol, and a 9 mm Glock 19 semiautomatic pistol)
Location: Blacksburg, Virginia, USA
Status: Committed suicide by shooting himself the same day
Seung-Hui Cho (January 18, 1984–April 16, 2007), also known as Cho Seung-Hui or Seung Cho was a mass murderer who shot and killed 32 people and wounded many more.
The shooting rampage, termed the "Virginia Tech massacre," took place on April 16, 2007, on the campus of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University—commonly known as Virginia Tech—in Blacksburg, Virginia, United States.
He committed suicide after law enforcement officers breached the doors of the academic building in which he had killed 30 of his 32 victims and wounded many more, both faculty and students. Cho was a South Korean national with permanent resident status in the United States and was a senior English major at Virginia Tech.
Childhood and adolescence
In September 1992, Seung-Hui Cho immigrated to the United States at age 8 with both of his parents and his older sister, Sun-Kyung Cho. Cho's family lived in Detroit, Michigan before moving to Centreville, an unincorporated town located in western Fairfax County, Virginia about 25 miles (40 km) west of Washington, D.C. Cho was a permanent resident of the United States and a South Korean national whose permanent address was in Centreville.
Behavior as a young child
Cho's maternal great-aunt, Kim Yang-soon, described Cho as "cold" and a cause of family concern from as young as 8 years old. According to Kim—who met him only twice—Cho was extremely shy and "just wouldn't talk at all." He was otherwise considered "well-behaved," readily obeying verbal commands and cues. The aunt said she knew something was wrong after the family's departure for the United States because she heard frequent updates about Cho's older sister, but little news about Cho.
During a New Year's telephone call in 2006, Cho's mother told the elderly aunt that Cho might have autism, a developmental disability marked by profound social isolation and delayed speech acquisition. No autism diagnosis could be verified with Cho's parents, and no records or other evidence have surfaced to indicate such a diagnosis was made or relied upon by U.S. school authorities. Cho's relatives thought that he was mute or even mentally ill. According to Cho's uncle, Cho "didn’t say much and didn't mix with other children."
Behavior in elementary school
Cho studied at Poplar Tree Elementary School in Chantilly, an unincorporated section of Fairfax County. According to Kim Gyeong-won, Cho's friend in elementary school for three years (and currently a student of Seoul's Kyung Hee University), Cho finished the school's three-year program in one and a half years. Cho was noted for being good at mathematics and English, and teachers pointed to him as an example for other students.
Kim met Cho in fifth grade, attending the same classes and riding the school bus together. There were only three Korean students in the school. Back then, he said, nobody hated Cho and he "was recognised by friends as a boy of knowledge... a good dresser who was popular with the girls." Cho kept a distance from others because he chose to do so. Kim added that "I only have good memories about him."
Behavior in middle school and high school
Cho attended secondary schools in Fairfax County, including Stone Middle School in Centreville and Westfield High School in Chantilly.
In middle school and high school, Cho was teased and picked on for his shyness and unusual speech patterns. In English class at Westfield High School, he looked down and refused to speak when called upon, said Chris Davids, a high school classmate. After one teacher threatened to give him a failing grade for not participating, Cho began reading in a strange, deep voice that sounded "like he had something in his mouth," Davids said. "The whole class started laughing and pointing and saying, ‘Go back to China.’"
Another classmate, Stephanie Roberts, stated that "There were just some people who were really cruel to him, and they would push him down and laugh at him. He didn't speak English really well, and they would really make fun of him." Cho was also teased as the "Trombone Kid" for is habit of walking to school alone with his trombone, other students recall crueller names and that most of the bullying was because he was so alone.
Christopher Chomchird and Carmen Blandon, former classmates of Cho, stated that they heard rumors of a "hit list" of other students Cho wanted to kill; Blandon stated that she saw the "list" as a joke at the time. Cho graduated from Westfield High School in 2003.
To address his problems, Cho's parents took him to church. But he was bullied in his youth group, especially by "the rich kids." In a interview with Newsweek magazine a pastor at Centreville Korean Presbyterian Church said that Cho was an intelligent student who understood the Bible but he was concerned over Cho’s difficulty speaking; until he saw the video Cho sent to NBC, he never saw him complete a sentence. The pastor also recalled that told Cho's mother that he speculated Cho was a little autistic and he asked her to take him to a hospital but she declined.
Demeanor at Virginia Tech
Cho was an undergraduate at Virginia Tech, majoring in English, although he had told others he was a business major. At the time of the attacks, he was living in Suite 2121 in Harper Hall, a dormitory just west of West Ambler Johnston Hall, with five roommates.
Relationship with professors
Professor/Professional Poet Nikki Giovanni, who taught Cho in a poetry class, stated that she had him removed from her class because she found his behavior menacing. She recalls being bothered by a "mean streak" and described Cho's writing as "intimidating." When informed of the massacre, she remarked, "I knew when it happened that that's probably who it was," and "I would have been shocked if it wasn't."
Giovanni insisted that Cho be removed from her class in 2005, about six weeks after the semester had started in September; Cho had intimidated female students by photographing their legs under their desks and by writing obscene, violent poetry. Giovanni said, "I was willing to resign before I would continue with him."
Giovanni wrote a letter to then-department head Lucinda Roy, who removed Cho from the class. Roy alerted student affairs, the dean's office, and the campus police, but each said there was nothing they could do if Cho had made no overt threats against himself or others.
Roy described Cho as "an intelligent man" but stated that he seemed to be an awkward and very lonely and insecure student who never took off his sunglasses, even indoors. She described his behavior as at times "arrogant" and "obnoxious". Roy says she tried several different ways to help him. Roy would not comment at length on Cho’s writings, saying only that in general they “seemed very angry.”
She said that he whispered, took 20 seconds to answer questions, and took cell phone pictures of her in class. After becoming concerned with his behavior and the themes in his writings, Roy started meeting with Cho to work with him one-on-one. She said she was concerned for her safety when she met with him. Roy told her assistant that if she uttered a name of a dead professor, a secret emergency code, the assistant was to call security. After notifying the legal authorities about his behavior, Roy urged Cho to seek counseling, but he never attended.
When Virginia Tech creative writing professor Lisa Norris who taught Cho in both Advanced Fiction Writing and Contemporary Fiction inquired about Cho from the school's associate dean for Liberal Arts and Human Sciences Mary Ann Lewis, she was not told that Cho was suffering from mental health issues, nor about police reports.
Norris wrote, "My guess is that either the information was not accessible to her or it was privileged and could not be released to me." Lewis told professor Norris to recommend that Cho seek counseling at the on-campus Cook Counseling Center, which she had already done.
Relationship with students
Fellow students described Cho as a "quiet" person who "would not respond if someone greeted him." Student Julie Poole recalled the first day of a literature class last year, when the students introduced themselves one by one: when it was Cho's turn, he did not speak. The professor, she said, looked at the sign-in sheet, and where everyone else had written their names, Cho had written a question mark. "We just really knew him as the question mark kid," Poole added.
According to a CNN interview with both his roommates, Andy Koch and John Eide, Cho demonstrated repetitive behavior such as listening repeatedly to Collective Soul's "Shine" and writing the lyrics "Teach me how to speak; Teach me how to share; Teach me where to go" on his dormitory room wall.
Andy described two unusual incidents, one in which Cho stood in the doorway of his room late at night taking photographs of him, the second in which he repeatedly placed harassing cell phone calls to Andy as "Cho's brother, Question Mark", a name Cho also used when introducing himself to girls with whom he was allegedly obsessed. Koch and Eide searched Cho's belongings and found a pocket knife; they did not find any items that they deemed seriously threatening.
In the fall of 2005, Cho told Koch and Eide that he had an imaginary girlfriend he called "Jelly", a supermodel that lived in outer space who called Cho by the name "Spanky". Due to Cho's troubling behaviours during 2005-06, Koch and Eide who had tried to befriend Cho, gradually stopped talking to him and told their friends, especially female classmates, not to visit their room.
Andy Koch and John Eide also stated that that Cho was involved in at least three stalking incidents, two of which resulted in verbal warnings by campus police. The first stalking incident occurred on Sunday November 27 2005.
According to Koch, after the incident Cho claimed that he had AIMed the girl online and found out where she lived. He then went to her dorm room to see if she was "cool", but only found "promiscuity" in her eyes. Eide added that when Cho visited the girl he said, "Hi, I'm Question Mark" to her, "which really freaked her out."
The girl called campus police; she complained that Cho sent her annoying messages and he had made an unannounced visit. Two uniformed members of campus police visited Cho’s dorm late Sunday evening and verbally warned him not to contact the girl again, no further contact was made.
The final stalking incident occurred on Tuesday December 13 2005. Cho frightened a friend of Koch by writing on her door board a line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, scene II, in which Romeo laments to Juliet:
My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself. . . . Had I it written, I would tear the word.
The young woman contacted the campus police and again Cho was verbally warned. No further contact was made. Later on Tuesday, Cho texted Koch saying, "I might as well kill myself now." Worried that Cho was suicidal, Koch contacted his father for advice and they both contacted campus authorities. The campus police returned to the dorm and escorted Cho to Carilion St. Albans Behavioral Health Center in Radford, Va.
According to Virginia law, "A magistrate has the authority to issue a detention order upon a finding that a person is mentally ill and in need of hospitalization or treatment." The magistrate also must find that the person is an imminent danger to himself or others.
On December 13, 2005, Cho was temporarily detained for a psychiatric assessment, as he was suspected to be mentally ill and a danger to himself or others by a Montgomery County, Virginia district court. Virginia Special Justice Paul Barnett certified in an order that Cho "[presented] an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness," and directed that as a "Court-ordered Out-Patient he follow all recommended treatments."
Following a psychiatric evaluation and medical exam which noted Cho's flat affect and depressed mood, he was ordered to undergo outpatient care and was released on December 14, 2005. Some reports state that Cho is believed to have been taking psychiatric medications for depression, but there is no record of this.
“Virginia state law on mental health disqualifications to firearms purchases, however, is worded slightly differently from the federal statute. So the form that Virginia courts use to notify state police about a mental health disqualification addresses only the state criteria, which list two potential categories that would warrant notification to the state police: someone who was “involuntarily committed” or ruled mentally “incapacitated.””
Cho was not involuntarily committed and was still legally eligible to buy guns under Virginia law. A Virginia state official and other law experts have argued that under United States federal law, Justice Barnett's order meant that Cho had been "adjudicated as a mental defective" and was thus ineligible to purchase firearms under federal law.
In a New Year's call in 2006, Cho's parents told the elderly aunt that he might have autism, a developmental disability marked by profound social isolation and delayed speech acquisition. However, no autism diagnosis could be verified with Cho's parents, and no records or other evidence have surfaced to indicate such a diagnosis was ever made, let alone relied upon, by U.S. school authorities.
Virginia Tech massacre
Around 7:15 a.m. EDT (11:15 UTC), Cho allegedly killed two students, Emily J. Hilscher and Ryan C. "Stack" Clark, on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston Hall, a high-rise co-educational dormitory.
Police had not positively stated that Cho was the perpetrator of that shooting in addition to the later one, although forensic evidence confirmed that the same gun was used in both shooting incidents.
Within the next two and a half hours, Cho returned to his room to re-arm himself and mailed a package containing pictures, digital video files and documents to NBC News. At approximately 9:45 a.m. EDT (13:45 UTC), Cho then crossed the campus to Norris Hall, a classroom building on the campus where, in a span of nine minutes, Cho shot dozens of people, killing 30 of them.
As police breached area of the building where Cho attacked the faculty and students, Cho committed suicide in Norris 211 with a gunshot to his head. The police identified Cho by matching the fingerprints on the guns used in the shootings with immigration records. Cho's rampage occurred on April 16, 2007, just four days before the 8th anniversary of the Columbine shooting.
During February and March 2007, Cho began purchasing the weapons that he later used during the killings. On February 2, 2007, Cho purchased his first handgun, a .22 caliber Walther P22 semi-automatic pistol, from TGSCOM Inc., a federally-licensed firearms dealer based in Green Bay, Wisconsin and the operator of the website through which Cho ordered the gun. TGSCOM Inc. shipped the Walther P22 to JND Pawnbrokers in Blacksburg, Virginia, where Cho completed the purchase transaction and picked up the handgun.
Cho bought a second handgun, a 9 mm Glock 19 semiautomatic pistol, on March 13, 2007 from Roanoke Firearms, a licensed gun dealer located in Roanoke, Virginia. Cho was able to pass both background checks and successfully complete both handgun purchases after he presented to the gun dealers his U.S. permanent residency card, his Virginia driver's permit to prove legal age and length of Virginia residence and a checkbook showing his Virginia address, in addition to waiting the required 30-day period between each gun purchase.
He was successful in completing both handgun purchases, even though he failed to disclose on the background questionnaire information about his mental health history leading to court-ordered outpatient treatment at a mental health facility.
On March 22, 2007, Cho purchased two 10-round magazines for the Walther P22 pistol through eBay from Elk Ridge Shooting Supplies in Idaho. Cho purchased additional ammunition magazines from the Wal-Mart and Dick's Sporting Goods stores. Based on a preliminary computer forensics examination of Cho's eBay purchase records, investigators suspect that Cho may have purchased an additional 10-round magazine on March 23, 2007 from another eBay seller who sold gun accessories.
During the investigation, the police found a note in Cho's room that in which he criticized "rich kids," "debauchery" and "deceitful charlatans." In the note, Cho continued by saying that "you caused me to do this." Early reports also speculated that Cho was obsessed with fellow student Emily Hilscher and became enraged after his romantic overtures were rejected.
During the investigation, law enforcement officials could not find evidence that Cho knew Hilscher or the other students killed during the rampage. According to Heather Haugh, Hilscher's roommate, she also knew of no connection between Hilscher and Cho.
Through ballistics examination, law enforcement investigators determined that Cho used the Glock 19 pistol during the attacks at the West Ambler Johnston dormitory and at Norris Hall on the Virginia Tech campus.
Police investigators found that Cho fired 170 shots during the bloody killing spree, with evidence technicians finding at least 17 spent ammunition magazines at the scene. During the investigation, federal law enforcement investigators found that the serial numbers were filed off both the Walther P22 and the Glock 19 handguns used by Cho during the killing spree.
Investigators also learned that Cho practiced shooting during mid-March at a firing range in Roanoke, about 40 miles from the Virginia Tech campus. According to former FBI agent Brad Garrett, "This was no spur-of-the-moment crime. He's been thinking about this for several months prior to the shooting."
In the aftermath of the spree killing, Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine appointed a panel to investigate the campus shootings. Governor Kaine also invited former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to join the panel to review Cho’s mental health history and how police responded to the shootings. The panel plans to submit a report of its findings in approximately two to three months. To help investigate and analyze the emergency response surrounding the shootings at Virginia Tech, Governor Kaine also hired the same company that investigated the Columbine massacre.
Reaction of Cho's family
Cho's older sister, Sun-Kyung Cho, a 2004 graduate of Princeton University who works as a contractor for the United States Department of State, prepared a public statement on her family's behalf, publicly apologizing for her brother's actions and lending prayers to the victims and the families of the wounded and killed victims. "This is someone that I grew up with and loved. Now I feel like I didn't know this person," she said in the statement issued through a North Carolina attorney. "We never could have envisioned that he was capable of so much violence." Cho's grandfather stated, "My grandson Seung-Hui was very shy. I can't believe he did such a thing."
Media package sent to NBC News
During the time period between the two shooting events on April 16, Cho visited a local post office near the Virginia Tech campus where he mailed a parcel to the New York headquarters of NBC News containing video clips, photographs and a manifesto explaining the reasons for his actions. The package was delayed in its delivery to NBC News because of an incorrect ZIP code in the address of the parcel.
Release of material
Upon receiving the package on April 18, 2007, NBC contacted authorities and made the controversial decision to publicize Cho's communications by releasing a small fraction of what it received.
After pictures and images from the videos were broadcasted in numerous news reports, students and faculty from Virginia Tech, along with relatives of victims of the campus shooting, expressed concerns that glorifying Cho's rampage could lead to copycat killings. The airing of the manifesto and its video images and pictures were especially upsetting to those persons affected by the shootings. Peter Read, the father of Mary Read, one of the students who was killed by Cho during the rampage, asked the media to stop airing Cho's manifesto.
Police officials, who reviewed the video, pictures and Cho's manifesto, concluded that the contents of the media package had marginal value in helping them learn and understand why Cho committed the killings.
Dr. Michael Wellner, who also reviewed the materials, believed that Cho's rantings offer little insight into the mental illness that may have triggered his rampage. Wellner stated that "These videos do not help us understand [Cho]. They distort him. He was meek. He was quiet. This is a PR tape of him trying to turn himself into a Quentin Tarantino character."
During the April 24, 2007 edition of the Oprah Winfrey Show, NBC News President Steve Capus stated NBC decided to show two minutes of 25 minutes of video, seven of 43 photographs and 37 sentences of 23 pages of written material. He also stated that the content not shown included "over the top profanity" and "incredibly violent images." He expressed hope that the unreleased material is never made public.
In his manifesto, Cho mentioned the Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold with respect and denigrated former teachers John Mark Karr and Debra Lafave. In one of the videos, Cho said:
“I didn’t have to do this. I could have left. I could have fled. But no, I will no longer run. It’s not for me. For my children, for my brothers and sisters that you fucked, I did it for them… When the time came, I did it. I had to.”
Pete Williams, a MSNBC justice correspondent, opined that Cho lacked logical governance, suggesting that Cho was under severe emotional distress. In the video, Cho also railed against materialism and hedonism while, in another video, he compared himself to Jesus Christ, explaining that his death will influence generations of people.
Media organizations, including Newsweek, Reuters and the Associated Press, even raised questions and speculated the similarity between a stance in one of Cho's videos, which showed him holding and raising a hammer, and a pose from promotional posters for the South Korean movie Oldboy, a revenge story about a businessman who was kidnapped away from his wife and infant daughter by an unknown assailant and imprisoned in a small room for 15 years.
In 2006, Cho wrote a short, profanity-laden one-act play entitled "Richard McBeef" in connection with a class assignment. The play was about John, a 13-year-old boy whose father reportedly died in a boating accident, and Richard McBeef, John's stepfather who was an ex-football player. When the stepfather touched John during an attempt at a father-to-son talk, the boy started claiming suddenly that his stepfather was molesting him.
John accused his stepfather Richard of murdering his father, and John repeatedly said he will kill Richard. John, Richard and Sue, John's mother, became involved in a major, irrational argument. Richard retreated to his car in search of solitude, but John, despite claiming repeatedly that Richard was abusing him, joined him in the car and began harassing his stepfather. The play ended with John trying to shove a cereal bar down his stepfather's throat and Richard, who had been passive who up until this point, reacting "out of sheer desecrated hurt and anger" and "swinging a deadly blow" at the boy.
In a second play, "Mr. Brownstone," written by Cho for another class assignment, three 17-year-olds (John, Jane and Joe) were in a casino while they discussed their deep hatred for Mr. Brownstone, their 45-year-old mathematics teacher. The three characters claimed that Mr. Brownstone mistreated them (using the phrase "ass-rape").
John won a multi-million-dollar jackpot from one of the slot machines and Mr. Brownstone, amid volleys of profanity, reported to casino officials that the three characters were underage and had picked up the winning ticket. Mr. Brownstone told the casino officials that he had won the jackpot and that the minors took it from him. "Mr. Brownstone" was also the name of a Guns N' Roses song about heroin, and one page from Cho's play consisted of lyrics from the song.
Reactions to writings
Edward Falco, a playwriting professor at Virginia Tech, has acknowledged that Cho wrote both plays in his class. The plays are less than 12 pages long and have several grammatical and typographical errors. Falco believed that Cho was drawn to writing because of his difficulty communicating orally. Falco said of the plays, "They're not good writing, but at least they are a form of communication."
Another professor who taught Cho characterized his work as "very adolescent" and "silly", with attempts at "slapstick comedy" and "elements of violence."
Classmates believed "the plays, were really morbid and grotesque." Former classmate Ian MacFarlane stated, "When we read Cho's plays, it was like something out of a nightmare. The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn't have even thought of." After reading "Richard McBeef," Stephen Davis, a senior in Cho's class, stated that he turned to his roommate and said, "This is the kind of guy who is going to walk into a classroom and start shooting people."
Novelist Stephen King examined Cho's plays and wrote an essay for Entertainment Weekly. The essay read, in part:
“For most creative people, the imagination serves as an excretory channel for violence: We visualize what we will never actually do (James Patterson, for instance, a nice man who has all too often worked the street that my old friend George used to work). Cho doesn't strike me as in the least creative, however. Dude was crazy. Dude was, in the memorable phrasing of Nikki Giovanni, just mean. Essentially there's no story here, except for a paranoid a--hole who went DEFCON-1. He may have been inspired by Columbine, but only because he was too dim to think up such a scenario on his own.
On the whole, I don't think you can pick these guys out based on their work, unless you look for violence unenlivened by any real talent.”
According to a CBS report, "Cho Seung-Hui's violent writing [and] loner status fit the Secret Service shooter profile." Violent writing was one of the most typical behavioral attributes of school shooters, according to a 2002 US Secret Service study. "The largest group of [school shooters] exhibited an interest in violence in their own writings, such as poems, essays or journal entries (37 percent)," the report concluded. Some also showed an interest in violent video games (12 percent), violent movies (27 percent) and violent books (24 percent).
The different ways that the media had rendered Cho's name led to some confusion among the American public. The university and many news media organizations originally used Cho Seung-hui, the Korean ordering of the perpetrator's name, due to the fact that Cho held South Korean citizenship.
Normally, news organizations ask the subject and/or his or her family members about preferred naming orders. However because Cho was dead and his family was unavailable, Virginia Tech followed the advice of a state trooper of Korean origin working on the case and used the Korean naming order.
The Korean rendering became standard in English-speaking countries in the first few days following the massacre due in part to its usage by wire services Reuters and the Associated Press.
In response to the Korean ordering of Cho's name in press reports, some Korean-Americans asked news organizations to use Western order because they felt that the media tried to exaggerate Cho's "foreign-ness." The Asian American Journalists Association issued a press release asking media to avoid such "racial identifiers."
National Public Radio, ABC News, and The Los Angeles Times broke from the Reuters/AP standard and used the Western ordering of Cho's name, Seung-Hui Cho, because Cho was a resident of the United States since 1992 and several documents revealed Cho's name written in the Western order.
For example, Cho had written the Western ordering of his name on a speeding ticket and a mental health form. The ordering Seung-Hui Cho was also used in his school records, and Cho wrote his plays under the name "Seung Cho."
On April 20, 2007, Sun-Kyung Cho's written statements showed that Cho's family used the ordering Seung-Hui Cho. Media organizations which had previously used the Korean order have now generally changed their presentation of the perpetrator's name to the Western order in response to the family's statement.
Seung-Hui Cho (January 18, 1984 – April 16, 2007) was a senior-level undergraduate student at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University who killed 32 people and wounded 17 others on April 16, 2007, in the shooting rampage which came to be known as the "Virginia Tech massacre." Cho later committed suicide after law enforcement officers breached the doors of the building where the majority of the shooting had taken place. Cho's body is buried in Fairfax, Virginia.
Born in South Korea, Cho arrived in the United States at the age of 8 with his family. He became a US permanent resident as a South Korean national.
In middle school, he was diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder known as selective mutism, as well as major depressive disorder. After this diagnosis he began receiving treatment and continued to receive therapy and special education support until his junior year of high school. During Cho's last two years at Virginia Tech, several instances of his abnormal behavior, as well as plays and other writings he submitted containing references to violence, caused concern among teachers and classmates.
In the aftermath of the Virginia Tech massacre, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine convened a panel consisting of various officials and experts to investigate and examine the response and handling of issues related to the shootings. The panel released its final report in August 2007, devoting more than 30 pages to detailing Cho's troubled history. In the report, the panel criticized the failure of the educators and mental health professionals who came into contact with Cho during his college years to notice his deteriorating condition and help him. The panel also criticized misinterpretations of privacy laws and gaps in Virginia's mental health system and gun laws. In addition, the panel faulted Virginia Tech administrators in particular for failing to take immediate action after the first shootings. Nevertheless, the report did acknowledge that Cho was still primarily responsible for not seeking assistance and for his murderous rampage.
Cho and his family lived in a basement apartment in Seoul, South Korea. Cho's father was self-employed as a bookstore owner, but made minimum wages from the venture. Seeking better education and opportunities for his children, Cho's father emigrated to the United States in September 1992 with his wife and three children. Cho was eight years old at the time. The family first lived in Maryland, then moved to the Washington metropolitan area after learning that it had one of the largest Korean communities in the country, particularly in Northern Virginia. Cho's family settled in Centreville, an unincorporated community in western Fairfax County, Virginia about 25 miles (40 km) west of Washington, D.C. Cho's father and mother opened a dry-cleaning business in Centreville. After the family moved to Centreville, Cho and his family became permanent residents of the United States as South Korean nationals. His parents became members of a local Christian church, and Cho himself was raised as a member of the religion, although he "railed against his parents' strong Christian faith." According to one report, Cho Seung-hui had left a note in his dormitory which contains a rant referencing Christianity and denigrating "rich kids." He stated that "Thanks to you I died like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and defenseless people." Cho's remains are buried in Fairfax County, Virginia.
Family concerns about Cho's behavior during childhood
A few members of Cho's family, those who remained in South Korea, had concerns about his behavior during his early childhood. Cho's relatives thought that he was selectively mute or mentally ill. According to Cho's uncle, Cho "didn’t say much and did not mix with other children." Cho's maternal great-aunt, Kim Yang-soon, described Cho as "cold" and a cause of family concern from as young as eight years old. According to Kim, who met him twice, Cho was extremely shy and "just would not talk at all." He was otherwise considered "well-behaved", readily obeying verbal commands and cues. The great-aunt said she knew something was wrong after the family's departure for the United States because she heard frequent updates about Cho's older sister but little news about Cho During an ABC News Nightline interview on August 30, 2007, Cho's grandfather reported his concerns about Cho's behavior during childhood. According to Cho's grandfather, Cho never looked up to him to make eye contact, never called him grandfather, and never moved to embrace him.
Behavior in school
Cho attended Poplar Tree Elementary School in Chantilly, an unincorporated, small community in Fairfax County. According to Kim Gyeong-won, who met Cho in the fifth grade and took classes with him, Cho finished the three-year program at Poplar Tree Elementary School in one and a half years. Cho was noted for being good at mathematics and English, and teachers pointed to him as an example for other students. At that time, according to Kim, nobody disliked Cho and he "was recognized by friends as a boy of knowledge;... a good dresser who was popular with the girls." Kim added that "I only have good memories about him." An acquaintance noted that "Every time he came home from school he would cry and throw tantrums saying he never wanted to return to school" when Cho first came to America in about the second grade.
Cho attended secondary schools in Fairfax County, including Ormond Stone Middle School in Centreville and Westfield High School in Chantilly, and by eighth grade had been diagnosed with selective mutism, a social anxiety disorder which inhibited him from speaking. Through high school, he was teased for his shyness and unusual speech patterns. Some classmates even offered their lunch money to Cho just to hear him talk. According to Chris Davids, a high school classmate in Cho's English class at Westfield High School, Cho looked down and refused to speak when called upon. Davids added that, after one teacher threatened to give Cho a failing grade for not participating in class, he began reading in a strange, deep voice that sounded "like he had something in his mouth. [...] The whole class started laughing and pointing and saying, 'Go back to China.'" Another classmate, Stephanie Roberts, stated that "there were just some people who were really cruel to him, and they would push him down and laugh at him. He didn't speak English really well, and they would really make fun of him." Cho was also teased as the "trombone kid" for his practice of walking to school alone with his trombone. Other students recall crueler names and that most of the bullying was because he was alone. Christopher Chomchird and Carmen Blandon, former classmates of Cho, stated that they heard rumors of a "hit list" of other students Cho wanted to kill. Blandon stated that she saw the "list" as a joke at the time. While several students recalled instances of Cho being teased and mocked at Westfield, most left him alone and later said they were not aware of his anger. Cho graduated from Westfield High School in 2003.
In 1999, during the spring of Cho's eighth grade year, the Columbine High School massacre made national news. Cho was transfixed by it. "I remember sitting in Spanish class with him, right next to him, and there being something written on his binder to the effect of, you know, ' 'F' you all, I hope you all burn in hell,' which I would assume meant us, the students," said Ben Baldwin, a classmate of Cho. Also, Cho wrote in a school assignment about wanting to "repeat Columbine". The school contacted Cho's sister, who reported the incident to their parents. Cho was sent to a psychiatrist.
Immediately after the incident, reports carried speculation by family members in Korea that Cho was autistic. However, no known record exists of Cho ever being diagnosed with autism, nor could an autism diagnosis be verified with Cho's parents. The Virginia Tech Review Panel report dismissed an autism diagnosis and experts later doubted the autism claim.
More than four months after the attack, the Wall Street Journal reported on August 20, 2007 that Cho had been diagnosed with selective mutism. The Virginia Tech Review Panel report, also released in August 2007, placed this diagnosis in the spring of Cho's eighth grade year, and his parents sought treatment for him through medication and therapy. In high school, Cho was placed in special education under the 'emotional disturbance' classification. He was excused from oral presentations and participation in class conversation and received 50 minutes a month of speech therapy. He continued receiving mental health therapy as well until his junior year, when Cho rejected further therapy.
To address his problems, Cho's parents also took him to church. According to a pastor at Centreville Korean Presbyterian Church, Cho was a smart student who understood the Bible, but he was concerned about Cho's difficulty in speaking to people. The pastor added that, until he saw the video that Cho sent to NBC News, he never heard him say a complete sentence. The pastor also recalled that he told Cho's mother that he speculated Cho was autistic and he asked her to take him to a hospital, but she declined.
Forbidden by federal law to disclose (without Cho's permission) any record of disability or treatment, Westfield officials disclosed none of Cho's speech and anxiety-related problems to Virginia Tech.
The lack of speech that resulted in the diagnosis of selective mutism could have been an early indication that Cho was developing schizophrenia. One symptom of schizophrenia is what is known as "poverty of speech," referring to a marked deficit in the amount of talking in which the person engages. In addition, Cho's manifesto provides evidence of both paranoid and grandiose delusions. Such symptoms are also associated with schizophrenia, and it has been argued that Cho was schizophrenic.
Demeanor at Virginia Tech
In his freshman year at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech), Cho enrolled as an undergraduate major in business information technology a program that included "a combination of computer science and management coursework offered by the Pamplin College of Business." The program was listed as No. 6 on the "list of majors with the highest median starting salary after graduation." By his senior year, Cho was majoring in English. Virginia Tech declined to divulge details about Cho's academic record and why he changed his major, citing privacy laws.
At the time of the attacks, Cho lived with five roommates in Suite 2121, a three-room dormitory at Harper Hall, located just west of West Ambler Johnston Hall on the Virginia Tech campus.
Relationsgip with professors
Professor and acclaimed poet Nikki Giovanni, who taught Cho in a poetry class, stated that she had him removed from her class because she found his behavior "menacing." She recalled that Cho had a "mean streak" and described his writing as "intimidating." After Giovanni was informed of the massacre, she remarked that "[I] knew when it happened that that's probably who it was," and "would have been shocked if it wasn't." Giovanni insisted that Cho be removed from her class in 2005, about six weeks after the semester began in September. Cho had intimidated female students by photographing their legs under their desks and by writing obscene, violent poetry. Giovanni offered that "[she] was willing to resign before [she] would continue with him." Because of her concerns about Cho, Giovanni wrote a letter to then-department head Lucinda Roy, who removed Cho from the class. Roy alerted the student affairs office, the dean's office, and the campus police, but each office responded that there was nothing they could do if Cho made no overt threats against himself or others.
Roy described Cho as "an intelligent man," and stated that he seemed to be an awkward, lonely and insecure student who never took off his sunglasses, even indoors. She described Cho's behavior as "arrogant" and "obnoxious" at times, and that she tried several different ways to help him. Roy declined to comment about Cho’s writings, saying only in general that the writings "seemed very angry". She added that Cho whispered his response after taking 20 seconds to answer questions, and he also took cell phone pictures of her in class. After Roy became concerned with Cho's behavior and the themes in his writings, she started meeting with Cho to work with him one-on-one. As Roy worked with Cho, she became concerned for her safety. She told her assistant that, if she uttered the name of a dead professor (which served as a duress code), the assistant was to call security. After Roy notified legal authorities about Cho's behavior, she urged Cho to seek counseling. Roy said that, to her knowledge, Cho never followed through with the request.
When Virginia Tech creative writing professor Lisa Norris, who taught Cho in both Advanced Fiction Writing and Contemporary Fiction, inquired about him from Mary Ann Lewis, associate dean for Liberal Arts and Human Sciences at Virginia Tech, she was not told that he was suffering from mental health problems or about prior police reports concerning the harassment of female students. Norris noted that, "my guess is that either the information was not accessible to her or it was privileged and could not be released to me." Lewis told Norris to recommend that Cho seek counseling at the on-campus Cook Counseling Center, which she had already done.
Relationship with students
Fellow students described Cho as a "quiet" person who "would not respond if someone greeted him." Student Julie Poole recalled the first day of a literature class the previous year when the students introduced themselves one by one. When it was Cho's turn to introduce himself, he did not speak. According to Poole, the professor looked at the sign-in sheet and found that, whereas everyone else had written out their names, Cho had written only a question mark. Poole added that "we just really knew him as the question mark kid".
Karan Grewal, who shared a suite with Cho at Harper Hall, reported that Cho "would sit in a wood rocker by the window [in his room at the dormitory]; and stare at the lawn below". According to Grewal, "Cho appeared to never to go [sic] to class or read a book during his (Cho's) senior year," adding that Cho just typed on his laptop, went to the dining hall and clipped his hair in the bathroom, cleaning up the hair afterwards. Grewal also reported that he witnessed Cho riding his bicycle in circles in the parking lot of the dormitory.
Andy Koch and John Eide, who once shared a room with Cho at Cochrane Hall during 2005 and 2006, stated that Cho demonstrated other repetitive behaviors, such as listening repeatedly to "Shine" by the alternative rock band Collective Soul. Cho wrote the song's lyrics "Teach me how to speak; Teach me how to share; Teach me where to go" on the wall of his dormitory room. Koch described two further unusual incidents, including one where Cho stood in the doorway of his room late at night taking photographs of him (Koch) and a second incident where Cho repeatedly placed harassing cell phone calls to Koch as "Cho's brother, 'Question Mark'", a name Cho also used when introducing himself to girls. Koch and Eide searched Cho's belongings and found a pocket knife, but they did not find any items that they deemed seriously threatening to them. Koch also described a telephone call that he received from Cho during the Thanksgiving holiday break from school. During that call, Koch said that Cho claimed to be "vacationing with Vladimir Putin", with Cho adding "Yeah, we're in North Carolina." In response, Koch told him "I'm pretty sure that's not possible, Seung." Because of Cho's behavior, Koch and Eide, who had earlier tried to befriend him, gradually stopped talking to him and told their friends, especially female classmates, not to visit their room.
Koch and Eide also stated that Cho was involved in at least three stalking incidents, two of which resulted in verbal warnings by the Virginia Tech campus police. The first stalking incident occurred on November 27, 2005. After the incident, according to Koch, Cho claimed to have sent an instant message online to the female student by AOL Instant Messenger and found out where she lived on the campus. Eide stated that Cho then visited her room to see if she was "cool", adding that Cho remarked that he only found "promiscuity in her eyes". Eide added that, when Cho visited the female student, Cho said, "Hi, I'm Question Mark" to her, "which really freaked her out." The female student called the campus police, complaining that Cho had sent her annoying messages and made an unannounced visit to her room. Two uniformed members of the campus police visited Cho’s room at the dormitory later that evening and warned him not to contact the female student again. Cho made no further contact with the student.
The final stalking incident came to light on December 13, 2005. In the preceding days, Cho had contacted a female friend of Koch via AIM and wrote on her door board a line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Act 2, scene II, in which Romeo laments to Juliet.
"By a name, I know not how to tell who I am. My name, dear saint, is hateful to myself, because it is an enemy to thee. Had I it written, I would tear the word".
The young woman was initially unconcerned by Cho's AIM messages and the Shakespearean graffiti he left on her door board, until she was contacted by Andy Koch via AIM. Koch told her that Cho was involved in an earlier stalking incident and that, "i think he is schophrenic" [sic]. Upon Koch's encouragement, the young woman contacted the campus police, who again warned Cho against further unwanted contact. After that warning, Cho made no further contact with the second female student.
Later the same day, Cho sent a text message to Koch with the words, "I might as well kill myself now." Worried that Cho was suicidal, Koch contacted his father for advice, and both of them contacted campus authorities. The campus police returned to the dormitory and escorted Cho to New River Valley Community Services Board, the Virginia mental health agency serving Blacksburg.
Court-ordered psychiatric assessment
On December 13, 2005, Cho was found "mentally ill and in need of hospitalization" by New River Valley Community Services Board. The physician who examined Cho noted that he had a flat affect and depressed mood, even though Cho "denied suicidal thoughts and did not acknowledge symptoms of a thought disorder." Based on this mental health examination and because Cho was suspected of being "an imminent danger to himself or others", he was detained temporarily at Carilion St. Albans Behavioral Health Center in Radford, Virginia, pending a commitment hearing before the Montgomery County, Virginia district court.
Virginia Special Justice Paul Barnett certified in an order that Cho "presented an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness", but instead recommended treatment for Cho as an outpatient. On December 14, 2005, Cho was released from the mental health facility after Judge Barnett ordered Cho to undergo mental health treatment on an outpatient basis, with a directive for the "court-ordered [outpatient] to follow all recommended treatments." Since Cho underwent only a minimal psychiatric assessment, the true diagnosis for Cho's mental health status remains unknown.
Virginia state law on mental health disqualifications to firearms purchases, however, is worded slightly differently from the federal statute. So the form that Virginia courts use to notify state police about a mental health disqualification addresses only the state criteria, which list two potential categories that would warrant notification to the state police: someone who was "involuntarily committed" or ruled mentally "incapacitated".
Because Cho was not involuntarily committed to a mental health facility as an inpatient, he was still legally eligible to buy guns under Virginia law. However, according to Virginia law, "A magistrate has the authority to issue a detention order upon a finding that a person is mentally ill and in need of hospitalization or treatment." The magistrate also must find that the person is an imminent danger to himself or others. Virginia officials and other law experts have argued that, under United States federal law, Barnett's order meant that Cho had been "adjudicated as a mental defective" and was thus ineligible to purchase firearms under federal law; and that the state of Virginia erred in not enforcing the requirements of the federal law.
The Virginia Tech Review Panel report shed light on numerous efforts by Cho's family to secure help for him as early as adolescence. However, when Cho reached 18 and left for college, the family lost its legal authority over him, and its influence on him waned. Cho's mother, increasingly concerned about his inattention to classwork, his classroom absences and his asocial behavior, sought help for him during summer 2006 from various churches in Northern Virginia. According to Dong Cheol Lee, minister of One Mind Presbyterian Church of Washington (located in Woodbridge) Cho's mother sought help from the church for Cho's problems. Lee added that "[Cho's] problem needed to be solved by spiritual power ... that's why she came to our church – because we were helping several people like him." Members of Lee's church even told Cho's mother that he was afflicted by "demonic power" and needed "deliverance". Before the church could meet with the family, however, Cho returned to school to start his senior year at Virginia Tech.
Virginia Tech Massacre
Around 7:15 a.m. EDT (11:15 UTC) on April 16, 2007, Cho killed two students, Emily J. Hilscher and Ryan C. "Stack" Clark, on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston Hall, a high-rise co-educational dormitory. Investigators later determined that Cho's shoes matched a blood-stained print found in the hallway outside Hilscher's room. The shoes and bloody jeans were found in Cho's dormitory room where he had stashed them after the attack.
Within the next two and a half hours, Cho returned to his room to re-arm himself and mailed a package to NBC News that contained pictures, digital video files and documents. At approximately 9:45 a.m. EDT (13:45 UTC), Cho then crossed the campus to Norris Hall, a classroom building on the campus where, in a span of nine minutes, Cho shot dozens of people, killing 30 of them. As police breached the area of the building where Cho attacked the faculty and students, Cho committed suicide in Norris 211 with a gunshot to his temple. Cho's gunshot wounds destroyed his face, frustrating identification of his body for several hours. The police identified Cho by matching the fingerprints on the guns used in the shootings with immigration records. Before the shootings, Cho's only known connection to Norris Hall was as a student in the sociology class, which met in a classroom on the second floor of the building. Although police had not stated positively at the time of the initial investigation that Cho was the perpetrator of the Norris Hall shootings and the earlier one at West Ambler Johnston Hall, forensic evidence confirmed that the same gun was used in both shooting incidents.
During February and March 2007, Cho began purchasing the weapons that he later used during the killings. On February 9, 2007, Cho purchased his first handgun, a .22 caliber Walther P22 semi-automatic pistol, from TGSCOM Inc., a federally-licensed firearms dealer based in Green Bay, Wisconsin and the operator of the website through which Cho ordered the gun. TGSCOM Inc. shipped the Walther P22 to JND Pawnbrokers in Blacksburg, Virginia, where Cho completed the legally-required background check for the purchase transaction and took possession of the handgun. Cho bought a second handgun, a 9mm Glock 19 semiautomatic pistol, on March 13, 2007 from Roanoke Firearms, a licensed gun dealer located in Roanoke, Virginia.
Cho was able to pass both background checks and successfully complete both handgun purchases after he presented to the gun dealers his U.S. permanent residency card, his Virginia driver's permit to prove legal age and length of Virginia residence and a checkbook showing his Virginia address, in addition to waiting the required 30-day period between each gun purchase. He was successful at completing both handgun purchases, even though he had failed to disclose information on the background questionnaire about his mental health that required court-ordered outpatient treatment at a mental health facility.
On March 22, 2007, Cho purchased two 10-round magazines for the Walther P22 pistol through eBay from Elk Ridge Shooting Supplies in Idaho. Based on a preliminary computer forensics examination of Cho's eBay purchase records, investigators suspected that Cho may have purchased an additional 10-round magazine on March 23, 2007 from another eBay seller who sold gun accessories.
Cho also bought jacketed hollow-point bullets, which result in more tissue damage than full metal jacket bullets against unarmored targets by expanding upon entering soft tissue. Along with a manifesto, Cho later sent a photograph of the hollow point bullets to NBC News with the caption "All the [shit] you've given me, right back at you with hollow points.
During the investigation, the police found a note in Cho's room in which he criticized "rich kids", "debauchery" and "deceitful charlatans". In the note, Cho continued by saying that "you caused me to do this." Early media reports also speculated that he was obsessed with fellow student Emily Hilscher and became enraged after she rejected his romantic overtures. Law enforcement investigators could not find evidence that Hilscher knew Cho. Cho and one of his victims, Ross Alameddine, attended the same English class during Autumn 2006. Also in one video, he mentions "martyrs like Eric and Dylan", apparently referring to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the perpetrators of Columbine High School massacre.
Through ballistics examination, law enforcement investigators determined that Cho used the Glock 19 pistol during the attacks at the West Ambler Johnston dormitory and at Norris Hall on the Virginia Tech campus. Police investigators found that Cho fired 170 shots during the killing spree, with evidence technicians finding at least 17 empty magazines at the scene. During the investigation, federal law enforcement investigators found that the serial numbers were illegally filed off both the Walther P22 and the Glock 19 handguns used by Cho during the rampage. "Investigators also say Cho practiced shooting at a firing range in Roanoke, about 40 miles from the campus, in mid-March." According to a former FBI agent and ABC consultant, "This was no spur-of-the-moment crime. He's been thinking about this for several months prior to the shooting."
Review of Cho's medical records
During the investigation, the matter of Cho's court-ordered mental health treatment was also examined to determine its outcome. Virginia investigators learned after a review of Cho's medical records that he never complied with the order for the mandated mental health treatment as an outpatient. The investigators also found that neither the court nor New River Valley Community Services Board exercised oversight of his case to determine his compliance with the order. In response to questions about Cho's case, New River Valley Community Services Board maintained that its facility was never named in the court order as the provider for his mental health treatment, and its responsibility ended once he was discharged from its care after the court order. In addition, Christopher Flynn, director of the Cook Counseling Center at Virginia Tech, mentioned that the court did not notify his office to report that Cho was required to seek outpatient mental health treatment. Flynn added that, "When a court gives a mandatory order that someone get outpatient treatment, that order is to the individual, not an agency ... The one responsible for ensuring that the mentally ill person receives help in these sort of cases ... is the mentally ill person."
As a result, Cho escaped compliance with the court order for mandatory mental health treatment as an outpatient, even though Virginia law required community services boards to "recommend a specific course of treatment and programs" for mental health patients and "monitor the person's compliance." As for the court, Virginia law also mandated that, if a person fails to comply with a court order to seek mental health treatment as an outpatient, that person can be brought back before the court "and if found still in crisis, can be committed to a psychiatric institution for up to 180 days." Cho was never summoned to court to explain why he had not complied with the December 14, 2005 order for mandatory mental health treatment as an outpatient.
The investigation panel had sought Cho's medical records for several weeks, but due to privacy laws, Virginia Tech was prohibited from releasing them without permission from Cho's family, even after his death. The panel had considered using subpoenas to obtain his records. On June 12, 2007, Cho's family released his medical records to the panel, although the panel said that the records were not enough. The panel obtained additional information by court order. Like the perpetrators of both the Columbine and Jokela school massacres, Cho was prescribed the antidepressant drug Prozac prior to his rampage, a substance suspected by Peter Breggin and David Healy of leading to suicidal behaviors. However, it is likely that Cho never complied in filling or taking this prescription; the toxicology test from the official autopsy later showed that neither psychiatric nor any kind of illegal drugs were in his system during the time of the shooting.
In August 2009, Cho's family allowed Virginia Tech to release the records, along with those found in July 2009, to the public. Previously, they were only given to the panel.
Investigative panel reports
In the aftermath of the killing spree, Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine (D) appointed a panel to investigate the campus shootings, with plans for the panel to submit a report of its findings in approximately two to three months. Kaine also invited former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge to join the panel to "review Cho’s mental health history and how police responded to the tragedy." To help investigate and analyze the emergency response surrounding the Virginia Tech shootings, Kaine hired the same company that investigated the Columbine High School massacre.
The panel's final report devoted more than 30 pages to detailing Cho's mental health history. The report criticized Virginia Tech educators, administrators and mental health staff in failing to "connect the dots" from numerous incidents that were warning signs of Cho's mental instability beginning in his junior year. The report concluded that the school's mental health systems "failed for lack of resources, incorrect interpretation of privacy laws, and passivity." The report called Virginia's mental health laws "flawed" and its mental health services "inadequate". The report also confirmed that Cho was able to purchase two guns in violation of federal law because of Virginia's inadequate background check requirements.
Reaction of Cho's family
Cho's older sister, Sun-Kyung Cho, a 2004 graduate of Princeton University who works as a contractor for the U.S. State Department, prepared a statement on her family's behalf to apologize publicly for her brother's actions, in addition to lending prayers to the victims and the families of the wounded and killed victims. "This is someone that I grew up with and loved. Now I feel like I didn't know this person," she said in the statement issued through a North Carolina attorney. "We never could have envisioned that he was capable of so much violence." Cho's grandfather stated, "My grandson Seung-Hui was very shy. I can't believe he did such a thing."
In an article acknowledging the anniversary of the massacre, the Washington Post did a follow-up on the family, reporting that they had gone into hiding for months following the massacre and, after eventually returning home, had "virtually cut themselves off from the world." Several windows in their home have been papered over and drawn blinds cover the rest. The only real outside contact they have maintained is with an FBI Agent assigned to their care and their lawyer, refusing even to contact their own relatives in South Korea.
Media package sent to NBC News
During the time period between the two shooting events on April 16, Cho visited a local post office near the Virginia Tech campus where he mailed a parcel with a DVD inside to the New York headquarters of NBC News, which contained video clips, photographs and a manifesto explaining the reasons for his actions. The package, addressed from "A. Ishmael" as seen on an image of the USPS Express Mail envelope (incorrectly printed as "Ismail" by The New York Times) and apparently intended to be received on April 17, was delayed because of an incorrect ZIP code and street address. The words "Ismail Ax" were scrawled in red ink on Cho's arm.
Release of material
Upon receiving the package on April 18, 2007, NBC contacted authorities and made the controversial decision to publicize Cho's communications by releasing a small fraction of what it received. After pictures and images from the videos were broadcast in numerous news reports, students and faculty from Virginia Tech, along with relatives of victims of the campus shooting, expressed concerns that, "to understand a person's motives is to glorify them", and that glorifying Cho's rampage could lead to copycat killings. The airing of the manifesto and its video images and pictures was upsetting to many who were more closely-affected by the shootings: Peter Read, the father of Mary Read, one of the students who was killed by Cho during the rampage, asked the media to stop airing Cho's manifesto.
Police officials, who reviewed the video, pictures and manifesto, concluded that the contents of the media package had marginal value in helping them learn and understand why Cho committed the killings. Dr. Michael Welner, who also reviewed the materials, believed that Cho's rantings offer little insight into the mental illness that may have triggered his rampage. Dr. Welner stated that "These videos do not help us understand Cho. They distort him. He was meek. He was quiet. This is a PR tape of him trying to turn himself into a Quentin Tarantino character."
During the April 24, 2007 edition of The Oprah Winfrey Show, NBC News President Steve Capus stated NBC decided to show two minutes of 25 minutes of video, seven of 43 photographs, and 37 sentences of 23 pages of written material or 5 of the 23 PDF files that were last modified at 7:24 a.m., after the first shooting. He also stated that the content not shown included "over the top profanity" and "incredibly violent images". He expressed hope that the unreleased material is never made public.
In his manifesto, Cho mentioned the Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, denigrated former teachers, and made threatening messages to then-U.S. President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. In one of the videos, Cho said:
You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul, and torched my conscience. You thought it was one pathetic boy's life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and defenseless people. Do you know what it feels to be spit on your face and to have trash shoved down your throat? Do you know what it feels like to dig your own grave? Do you know what it feels like to have your throat slashed from ear to ear? Do you know what it feels like to be torched alive? Do you know what it feels like to be humiliated and be impaled upon on a cross? And left to bleed to death for your amusement? You have never felt a single ounce of pain your whole life. Did you want to inject as much misery in our lives as you can just because you can?...I didn't have to do this. I could have left. I could have fled. But no, I will no longer run. It's not for me. For my children, for my brothers and sisters that you fucked;, I did it for them... When the time came, I did it. I had to...You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today, but you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off. You had everything you wanted. Your Mercedes wasn't enough, you brats. Your golden necklaces weren't enough, you snobs. Your trust fund wasn't enough. Your Vodka and Cognac weren't enough. All your debaucheries weren't enough. Those weren't enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs. You had everything.
Pete Williams, a MSNBC justice correspondent, said that Cho lacked logical governance, suggesting that Cho was under severe emotional distress. In the video, Cho also railed against deceitful charlatans on campus, rich kids, materialism, and hedonism while, in another video, he compared himself to Jesus Christ, explaining that his death will influence generations of "defenseless people". Media organizations, including Newsweek, MSNBC, Reuters and the Associated Press, even raised questions and speculated the similarity between a stance in one of Cho's videos, which showed him holding and raising a hammer, and a pose from promotional posters for the South Korean movie Oldboy, a film based on the manga of the same name about a businessman who was kidnapped away from his wife and infant daughter by an unknown assailant and imprisoned in a small room for 15 years. Investigators found no evidence that Cho had ever watched Oldboy, and the professor who made the initial connection to Oldboy had since discounted his theory that Cho was influenced by the movie.
In 2006, pursuant to a class assignment, Cho wrote a short one-act play entitled Richard McBeef. The play focused on John, a 13-year-old boy whose father had died in a boating accident, and John's stepfather, ex-football player Richard McBeef (whom John constantly refers to as "Dick"). When Richard touches John's lap during an attempt at a 'father-to-son' talk, the boy abruptly claims that his stepfather is molesting him. John then accuses his stepfather of having murdered his actual father and repeatedly says that he will kill Richard. John, Richard and Sue (John's mother) are suddenly embroiled in a major argument. Richard retreats to his car to escape the conflict, but John, despite claiming repeatedly that Richard was abusing him, joins his stepfather in the car and harasses him. The play ends with John trying to shove a banana-flavored cereal bar into his stepfather's throat; Richard, hitherto a passive character, reacts "out of sheer desecrated hurt and anger" by "swinging a deadly blow" at the boy.
In a second play, Mr. Brownstone, written for another class assignment, Cho depicted three 17-year-olds (John, Jane, and Joe), who sit in a casino while discussing their deep hatred for Mr. Brownstone, their 45-year-old mathematics teacher. The three characters claim—using the phrase "ass-rape"—that Mr. Brownstone mistreats them. John wins a multimillion-dollar jackpot from one of the slot machines, and Mr. Brownstone, amid volleys of profanity from the students, reports to casino officials that the three characters were underage and had illegally picked up the winning ticket. Mr. Brownstone tells the casino officials that it was he who had really won the jackpot, and that the minors had taken the ticket from him. "Mr. Brownstone" was also the name of a Guns N' Roses song about heroin, and one page from Cho's play consisted of lyrics from the song.
Short fiction paper
Approximately one year before the incident at Virginia Tech, Cho also wrote a paper for an assignment in the "Intro to Short Fiction" class that he took during the spring 2006 semester. In that paper, Cho wrote about a mass school murder that was planned by the protagonist of the story but, according to the story, the protagonist did not follow through with the killings. During the proceedings of the Virginia Tech panel, the panel was unaware of the existence of the paper written by Cho for his fiction writing class.
When information surfaced about the paper, the Virginia Tech panel learned at that time that only the Virginia State Police and Virginia Tech had copies of the unreleased paper in their possession. The Virginia State Police reported that, although it had a copy of the paper, Virginia law prevented them from releasing the paper to the panel because it was part of the investigative file in an ongoing investigation.
Virginia Tech, on the other hand, had known about the paper, and officials at the school discussed the contents of the paper among themselves in the aftermath of the shootings. According to Governor Kaine, "[Virginia Tech] was expected to turn over all of Cho's writings to the panel" during the proceedings of the Virginia Tech panel.
After some members of the Virginia Tech panel complained about the missing paper, Virginia Tech decided to release a copy of the paper to the panel during the latter part of the week of August 25, 2007. Although the Virginia Tech panel has since received the paper written by Cho for the fiction writing class, the precise contents of that paper have not been released to the public.
Reaction to writings
Edward Falco, a playwriting professor at Virginia Tech, has acknowledged that Cho wrote both plays in his class. The plays are fewer than 12 pages long and have several grammatical and typographical errors. Falco believed that Cho was drawn to writing because of his difficulty communicating orally. Falco said of the plays, "They're not good writing, but at least they are a form of communication." Another professor who taught Cho characterized his work as "very adolescent" and "silly", with attempts at "Slapstick comedy" and "elements of violence". Novelist Stephen King examined the plays written by Cho, stating that they had no significance in an essay for Entertainment Weekly.
Classmates believed "the plays were really morbid and grotesque." Ian MacFarlane, Cho's former classmate, stated that, "when we read Cho's plays, it was like something out of a nightmare. The plays had really twisted, macabre violence that used weapons I wouldn't have even thought of." When Stephen Davis, a senior who was also in Cho's class, read "Richard McBeef", he turned to his roommate and said "this is the kind of guy who is going to walk into a classroom and start shooting people." Anna Brown, another student in the class, sometimes joked with her friends that Cho was "the kind of guy who might go on a rampage killing."
According to CBS News, "Cho Seung-Hui's violent writing [and] loner status fit the Secret Service shooter profile," referring to a 2002 U.S. Secret Service study that was conducted after the Columbine massacre, with violent writing cited as one of the most typical behavioral attributes of school shooters. The U.S. Secret Service concluded the study by saying that "[t]he largest group of [school shooters] exhibited an interest in violence in their own writings, such as poems, essays or journal entries," while other school shooters showed an interest in violent video games, violent movies and violent books.
Users of YouTube created filmed adaptations of "Richard McBeef". Something Awful created a parody "CliffsNotes" entry describing Richard McBeef.
The Virginia Tech Massacre was a school shooting that unfolded as two separate attacks approximately two hours apart on April 16, 2007, on the campus of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Virginia, United States.
A shooter killed 32 people and wounded many more before committing suicide, making it the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
The shooter, Seung-Hui Cho, was a South Korean who had moved to the U.S. at eight years of age. At the time of the shootings, he was a senior majoring in English at Virginia Tech. He had a history of incidents at the school, including allegations of stalking, referrals to counseling, and a 2005 declaration of mental illness by a Virginia special justice.
Cho used two firearms during the attacks; a small-bore .22 caliber semiautomatic handgun, and a 9mm semiautomatic Glock handgun. The shootings occurred in separate incidents, with the first at West Ambler Johnston Hall and the second at Norris Hall.
West Ambler Johnston shootings
At approximately 7 a.m., Cho was seen loitering near the entrance to West Ambler Johnston Hall, a co-ed dormitory that houses 895 students. The hall is normally locked until 10 a.m., and it is not clear how Cho gained entrance to the facility. Cho shot his first victims around 7:15 a.m. EDT in West Ambler Johnston Hall.
A young woman, Emily J. Hilscher of Woodville, Rappahannock County, Virginia, and a male resident assistant, Ryan C. Clark of Martinez, Columbia County, Georgia, were shot and killed in Room 4040, the room Hilscher shared with another student. Cho left the scene and soon thereafter mailed a package to NBC News, postmarked 9:01 a.m., containing various writings and recordings.
Norris Hall shootings
About two hours after the initial shootings, Cho entered Norris Hall, which houses the Engineering Science and Mechanics program, and chained the three main entrance doors shut. He then went to the second floor and began shooting students and faculty members.
By the end of this second attack, some nine minutes later according to police, 30 people lay dead in four classrooms and a second-floor hallway. Police reports indicated that Cho fired about 170 rounds in the attack at Norris Hall, and still had ammunition when he killed himself.
Five professors were killed in the attack. Eleven students were killed in the intermediate French language class in Norris Room 211. Nine students were killed in an advanced hydrology class in Room 206. Four students died in an elementary German language class in Room 207. One student in a solid mechanics class in Room 204 was killed. Erin Sheehan, an eyewitness and survivor of Norris 207, told reporters that the shooter "peeked in twice" earlier in the lesson and that "it was strange that someone at this point in the semester would be lost, looking for a class." Shortly thereafter, Cho began shooting. Sheehan said that only four students in the German class were able to leave the room on their own, two of them injured; the rest were dead or more severely wounded.
Virginia Tech student Jamal Albarghouti used his mobile phone to capture video footage of part of the attack from the exterior of Norris Hall; this was later broadcast on many news outlets.
Student Nikolas Macko described to BBC News his experience at the center of the shootings. He had been attending an issues-in-scientific-computing mathematics class (near the German class) and heard gunshots in the hallway. At least three people in the classroom, including Zach Petkewicz, barricaded the door using a table. At one point, Macko said, the shooter attempted to open the classroom door and then shot twice into the room; one shot hit a podium; the other went out the window. The shooter reloaded and fired into the door, but the bullet did not penetrate into the room. Macko stated there were "many, many shots" fired.
It took police nearly five minutes to gain entrance to the barricaded building; an officer finally shot out a dead-bolt lock leading to a stairwell. As police reached the second floor, they heard Cho fire his final, suicidal shot. Cho was found dead in Jocelyne Couture-Nowak's classroom, Room 211, from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the temple.
In the aftermath, high winds related to the April 2007 nor'easter prevented emergency medical services from using helicopters for evacuation of the injured. Victims injured in the shooting were treated at Montgomery Regional Hospital in Blacksburg, Carilion New River Valley Medical Center in Radford, Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, and Lewis-Gale Medical Center in Salem.
Several people tried to help others during the attack, including:
Professor Liviu Librescu held the door of his classroom, Room 204, shut while Cho attempted to enter it. Librescu was able to prevent the shooter from entering the classroom until his students had escaped through the windows, but was eventually shot five times and killed.
Couture-Nowak tried to save the students in her classroom, Room 211, after looking Cho in the eye in the hallway. Colin Goddard, one of the five known survivors of the French class, told his family that Couture-Nowak ordered her students to the back of the class for their safety and made a fatal attempt to barricade the door.
In Room 206, Waleed Shaalan, a Ph.D. student in civil engineering and teaching assistant from Zagazig, Egypt, though badly wounded, distracted Cho from a nearby student after the shooter had returned to the room. Shaalan was shot a second time and died.
Also in Room 206, Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan protected fellow student Guillermo Colman by diving on top of him; Colman's various accounts make it unclear whether this act was intentional or the involuntary result of being shot. Multiple gunshots killed Lumbantoruan, but Colman was protected by Lumbantoruan's body.
Student Zach Petkewicz barricaded the door of Room 205 with a large table, while Cho shot several times through the door. No one in that classroom was killed.
Katelyn Carney, Derek O'Dell, and their friends barricaded the door of Room 207, the German class, after the first attack and attended to the wounded. Cho returned minutes later, but O'Dell and Carney prevented him from re-entering the room. Both were injured.
Matthew Joseph La Porte, an Air Force ROTC student, is reported to have attempted to tackle Cho from behind but was fatally injured in the attempt.
Hearing the commotion on the floor below, Kevin Granata and another professor, Wally Grant, brought 20 students from a nearby classroom into an office, where the door could be locked, on the third floor of Norris Hall. He and Grant then went downstairs to investigate. They were both shot by Cho. Grant was wounded and survived, but Granata died from his injuries. None of the students locked in Granata's office were injured.
During the two attacks, the shooter's bullets killed 27 students and 5 faculty members and wounded many more.
1. Ryan Clark (22) Martinez, Georgia
—senior in Psych/Biology/English
2. Emily Hilscher (19) Woodville, Virginia
—freshman in Animal Sciences
3. Minal Panchal (26) Mumbai, India
—masters student in Architecture
4. G. V. Loganathan (53) Erode, Tamil Nadu, India
—professor of Engineering
5. Jarrett Lane (22) Narrows, Virginia
—senior in Civil Engineering
6. Brian Bluhm (25) Louisville, Kentucky
—masters student in Civil Engineering
7. Matthew Gwaltney (24) Chesterfield County, Virginia
—masters student in Environmental Engineering
8. Jeremy Herbstritt (27) Bellefonte, Pennsylvania
—masters student in Civil Engineering
9. Partahi Lumbantoruan (34) Medan, Indonesia
—PhD student in Civil Engineering
10. Daniel O'Neil (22) Lincoln, Rhode Island
—masters student in Environmental Engineering
11. Juan Ortiz (26) Bayamón, Puerto Rico
—masters student in Civil Engineering
12. Julia Pryde (23) Middletown, New Jersey
—masters student in Biological Systems Engineering
13. Waleed Shaalan (32) Zagazig, Egypt
—PhD student in Civil Engineering
14. Jamie Bishop (35) Pine Mountain, Georgia
15. Lauren McCain (20) Hampton, Virginia
—freshman in International Studies
16. Michael Pohle Jr. (23) Flemington, New Jersey
—senior in Biological Sciences
17. Maxine Turner (22) Vienna, Virginia
—senior in Chemical Engineering
18. Nicole White (20) Smithfield, Virginia
—junior in International Studies
19. Liviu Librescu (76) Ploieşti, Romania
—professor of Engineering
20. Jocelyne Couture-Nowak (49) Truro, Nova Scotia
—professor of French
21. Ross Alameddine (20) Saugus, Massachusetts
—sophomore in English/Business
22. Austin Cloyd (18) Champaign, Illinois
—freshman in Int'l Studies/French
23. Daniel Perez Cueva (21) Woodbridge, Virginia
—junior in International Studies
24. Caitlin Hammaren (19) Westtown, New York
—sophomore in Int'l Studies/French
25. Rachael Hill (18) Richmond County, Virginia
—freshman in Biological Sciences
26. Matthew La Porte (20) Dumont, New Jersey
—sophomore in Political Science
27. Henry Lee (20) Roanoke, Virginia/Vietnam
—freshman in Computer Engineering
28. Erin Peterson (18) Centreville, Virginia
—freshman in International Studies
29. Mary Karen Read (19) Annandale, Virginia
—freshman in Interdisciplinary Studies
30. Reema Samaha (18) Centreville, Virginia
—freshman in Urban Planning
31. Leslie Sherman (20) Springfield, Virginia
—junior in History/Int'l Studies
32. Kevin Granata (45) Toledo, Ohio
—professor of Engineering
The shooter was identified as 23-year-old Seung-Hui Cho, a South Korean citizen with U.S. permanent resident status living in Virginia. An undergraduate at Virginia Tech, Cho lived in Harper Hall, a dormitory west of West Ambler Johnston Hall.
A spokesman for Virginia Tech has described him as "a loner." Several former professors of Cho have stated that his writing was disturbing, and he was encouraged to seek counseling. He had also been investigated by the university for stalking and harassing two female students. In 2005, Cho had been declared mentally ill by a Virginia special justice and ordered to seek outpatient treatment.
According to Cho's grand aunt in South Korea, Cho's parents had offered autism as an explanation for his behavior. The notion that autism was the cause of Cho's behavior has been thrown into doubt, as there is no record of a diagnosis. Cho's flat emotional affect was evident through middle and high school years, during which he was bullied for speech difficulties. "Relatives thought he might be a mute. Or mentally ill," reported the New York Times. Cho's underlying psychological diagnosis remains a matter of speculation. Media outlets routinely compared Cho's motives and mental state to those of the Columbine killers, despite the fact that Harris and Klebold's motives and mental states were not even similar to each other.
Early reports had suggested that the killing resulted from a domestic dispute between the killer and his supposed former girlfriend Emily Hilscher, whose friends said had no prior relationship with Cho. In the ensuing investigation, police found a suicide note in Cho's dorm room, which included comments about "rich kids," "debauchery," and "deceitful charlatans" on campus.
On April 18, 2007, NBC News received a package from Cho time-stamped between the first and second shooting episodes. It contained an 1,800-word manifesto, photos, and 27 digitally recorded videos, in which Cho likened himself to Jesus Christ and expressed his hatred of the wealthy.
Some family members of the victims were upset that the photos and video sent by the killer were broadcast and canceled interviews with NBC in protest. A Virginia State Police spokesman said he was "rather disappointed in the editorial decision to broadcast these disturbing images," adding that he regretted that "[people who] are not used to seeing that type of image had to see it."
Fox News, which replayed NBC's information extensively, defended NBC's release of the materials. Bill O'Reilly asserted that while he sympathized with the victims' families, it was necessary for "evil" to "be exposed" and to inspire lawmakers to take corrective action.
The American Psychiatric Association, however, urged the media to withdraw the footage from circulation, arguing that publicizing it "seriously jeopardizes the public’s safety by potentially inciting 'copycat' suicides, homicides and other incidents." NBC defended itself by stating its staff had intensely debated releasing the footage before deciding to broadcast it and asserted it had covered this story with extreme sensitivity.
Responses to the incidents
Virginia Tech canceled classes for the rest of the week and closed Norris Hall for the remainder of the semester. The University also offered counseling assistance for students and faculty and held an assembly on Tuesday, April 17, 2007. Additionally, the Red Cross dispatched several dozen crisis counselors to Blacksburg to help Virginia Tech students cope with the events.
Virginia Tech President Charles Steger stated at the first news conference that authorities initially believed the first shooting at the West Ambler Johnston dormitory was a domestic dispute and that the shooter had left campus. Authorities identified a "person of interest" in the first shooting, Karl Thornhill, who was Emily Hilscher's boyfriend.
Hilscher's roommate, Heather Haugh, told authorities that Thornhill owned firearms and had taken both girls to a shooting range. Thornhill was pulled over while leaving Tech's campus after the first shooting, and made authorities suspicious by contradicting Haugh's account. Because authorities quickly apprehended him, they determined that the threat of further violence was minimal and consequently did not justify additional action by the University.
As Thornhill was being questioned, reports of shooting at Norris Hall came in, indicating that the police had not apprehended the perpetrator. Thornhill has subsequently been released, but remains an important witness in the case, according to police.
After the incident, Virginia Tech announced that the students killed during the massacre would be posthumously awarded their degrees during commencement ceremonies. Because of the incident's impact, university officials also gave students options to abbreviate their semester coursework and still receive a grade.
Criticism of Virginia Tech response
Some students blamed the university, saying that administrators should have immediately notified the community and locked down the campus. Virginia Tech currently has no text messaging capability to augment student and staff email as some educational institutions do.
Governor Timothy Kaine of Virginia appointed an independent review panel to "provide a thoughtful, objective analysis of the circumstances leading up to, during, and immediately after Monday's horrible events." The panel is led by Retired Virginia State Police Superintendent Colonel Gerald Massengill and includes, among others, former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge and Gordon Davies, Director for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia for 20 years.
It should be noted that Virginia Tech President Charles Steger received a standing ovation from students during the convocation ceremony, and while many outsiders and some members of the Virginia Tech Community questioned his actions during the crisis, he has garnered overwhelming support from students on campus since the incident.
Some Virginia Tech students questioned why the University had not been locked down after the first shooting. The University first informed students via e-mail at 9:26 AM, over two hours after the first shooting, warning them of the danger and canceling classes.
After becoming aware of the incident, students communicated with their family and peers about their conditions, using telephones or social networking websites such as MySpace and Facebook A Christianburg resident and member of a local volunteer firefighting squad said he found dead bodies with their cell phones and PDAs still ringing. Many students created Facebook memorial pages for fellow students.
Fearing retribution from other students, Kim Min-kyung, a student at Virginia Tech, said students of South Korean descent were gathering in groups for support. Lee Seung-wook, head of Virginia Tech's Korean Student Association, said he was worried about possible repercussions the incident may bring to Asians, especially Koreans.
A student-led emergency-response relief group called "Hokies United" was activated immediately to help the Virginia Tech student body and families of the victims through a Hokies Memorial Fund. Hokies United is an alliance of student organizations that combine efforts; key players include the Student Government Association, the Class System, the Student Alumni Associates, Fraternity and Sorority life, the Residence Hall Federation, and many others.
Law enforcement response
After the second attack, the Virginia Tech Police, along with the Blacksburg Police Department, Montgomery County Sheriff's Office and the Virginia State Police immediately responded following their active shooter protocols. Local SWAT teams were activated and responded.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation also joined the investigation. Bureau spokesman Richard Kolko said that there was no immediate evidence to suggest a terrorist incident, but that the agency would explore all avenues. Former FBI terrorism task force member Mike Brooks told CNN.com that perhaps the school's warning system should not rely so heavily on e-mail to notify a campus comprising more than 2,600 acres, hundreds of buildings and 26,000 students, faculty and staff.
At the time of the incident, Virginia Tech police had been investigating an alert system based on cellphone text messaging. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) immediately responded to the incident with 10 agents on-scene identifying the weapons and performing forensics.
Virginia's U.S. Senators John Warner and Jim Webb both offered their condolences. Virginia Governor Tim Kaine returned early from a trip to Tokyo, Japan, and declared a "state of emergency" in Virginia, allowing the governor to immediately deploy state personnel, equipment, and other resources to help out in the aftermath of a shootings.
On Monday, the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate observed a moment of silence in remembrance of the victims. The Senate also approved a resolution on Monday night extending condolences to the victims of the shooting.
Senate Judiciary Committee chairman Patrick Leahy postponed by two days the scheduled April 17, 2007 testimony of Attorney General Alberto Gonzales concerning the firings of eight United States prosecutors. In a statement, Gonzales said that the Justice Department would provide support and assistance to the local authorities and victims as long as they were needed.
According to a spokesman, President George W. Bush was said to be horrified by the rampage and offered his prayers to the victims and the people of Virginia. Bush and his wife Laura also attended the convocation at Virginia Tech on 17 April. Bush stated that the nation was "shocked and saddened" by the shooting. He also pledged assistance to law enforcement and the local community. The White House issued a statement saying "The president believes that there is a right for people to bear arms, but that all laws must be followed."
The White House flag flew at half-staff, and Bush also requested all flags be so flown until sundown on Sunday, April 22, 2007.
The Internal Revenue Service and Virginia Department of Taxation granted six month extensions to individuals affected by the massacre.
Responses from other educational institutions
In addition to official condolences from many universities, both inside of the United States and abroad, many universities have initiated examinations of existing and possible local response procedures.
Radford University provided free temporary housing for the Virginia State Police officers investigating the incident. East Carolina University pledged $100,000 in general assistance funds.
At the annual Blue and White football game at Penn State, students displayed a large "VT" in tribute to the victims.
Administrators at Emmanuel College in Boston fired adjunct professor Nicholas Winset over a reenactment of the shooting during a classroom discussion. There is debate on whether the firing was justified.
South Korean response
When the citizenship of the shooter became known, South Koreans expressed shock and a sense of public shame. A candlelight vigil was held outside the Embassy of the United States in Seoul. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun expressed his deepest condolences. South Korea's ambassador to the United States asked Koreans living in America to fast for repentance. The foreign minister, Song Min-soon, also mentioned that safety measures have been established for Koreans living in the U.S., in apparent reference to fears of possible reprisal attacks against Koreans in the U.S. A ministry official expressed hope that the shooting would not "stir up racial prejudice or confrontation."
Some commentators contrasted the lack of a backlash in the U.S. to the South Korean public's virulently anti-American response when a U.S. military vehicle in South Korea accidentally killed two girls. News reports noted that South Koreans seemed relieved that American news coverage of Cho focused not on his nationality but rather on individual aspects, such as his psychological problems.
Cho family response
Some family members expressed sympathy for the victims' families and described Cho's history of mental and behavioral problems. Cho's maternal grandfather was quoted in The Daily Mirror referring to Cho as a person who deserved to die with the victims. On Friday, April 20, Cho's family issued a statement of grief and apology, written by his sister, Sun-Kyung Cho.
This incident is the deadliest shooting on a college campus, exceeding the 16 deaths of the University of Texas at Austin shooting by Charles Whitman in 1966. It is the second deadliest school-related killing in U.S. history, behind the 1927 Bath School disaster which claimed 45 lives, including 38 school children, through the use of explosives.
With a death toll of 32 victims plus the killer, this is the deadliest single-perpetrator shooting in United States history, surpassing the Luby's massacre of 1991, in which 24 people were killed. Internationally, it is surpassed by the 1982 massacre in South Korea of 57 innocent people by off-duty police officer Woo Bum-kon and the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in the Australian state of Tasmania where 35 people were killed by shooter Martin Bryant. Although deadlier shootings have occurred in the U.S., they have occurred during times of war or insurrection that predate WWII, largely involving militias or military groups.
In the media package sent to NBC, Cho discussed "martyrs like Eric and Dylan" apparently referring to the Columbine High School gunmen. The Virginia Tech massacre occurred just four days before the eight-year anniversary of the Columbine shooting.
Gun control debate
The massacre reignited the gun control debate in the United States, with proponents of gun control legislation arguing that guns are too accessible, citing that Cho, a mentally unsound individual, was able to purchase two semi-automatic pistols. Proponents of gun rights and the Second Amendment argued that Virginia Tech's gun-free "safe zone" policy ensured that none of the students or faculty would be armed, guaranteeing that no one could stop Cho's rampage. Others said that adequate communication between government entities could have prevented Cho from acquiring the weapons, without compromising Second Amendment rights.
Law enforcement officials have described finding a purchase receipt for at least one of the guns used in the assault. The shooter had apparently waited one month after buying his Walther P22 .22 caliber pistol before he bought his second pistol, a Glock 19. Cho used a 15-round ammunition magazine in the Glock. The serial numbers on the weapons were filed off, but the ATF National Laboratory was able to reveal them and performed a firearms trace.
Virginia Tech has a blanket ban on possession or storage of firearms on campus, even by state licensed concealed weapons permit holders. However, this policy has been challenged in recent years: In April 2005, a student licensed in Virginia to carry concealed weapons was discovered possessing a concealed firearm in class. While no criminal charges were filed, a university spokesman said the University had "the right to adhere to and enforce that policy" as a common-sense protection of students, staff and faculty as well as guests and visitors."
Virginia bill HB 1572, intended to prohibit public universities from making "rules or regulations limiting or abridging the ability of a student who possesses a valid concealed handgun permit … from lawfully carrying a concealed handgun" was introduced into the Virginia House of Representatives by delegate Todd Gilbert. The university opposed the bill, which died in subcommittee in January 2006. Spokesman Larry Hincker responded, "I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."
The sale of firearms to permanent residents in Virginia is legal as long as the buyer shows proof of residency. Additionally, though, Virginia has a law that limits purchases of handguns to one every 30 days. Federal law requires a criminal background check for handgun purchases from licensed firearms dealers, and Virginia checks other databases in addition to the Federally-mandated NICS. Federal law also prohibits those "adjudicated as a mental defective" from buying guns, and Seung-Hui Cho should have been prohibited from buying a gun after a Virginia court declared him to be a danger to himself in late 2005 and sent him for psychiatric treatment.
“Virginia state law on mental health disqualifications to firearms purchases, however, is worded slightly differently from the federal statute. So the form that Virginia courts use to notify state police about a mental health disqualification addresses only the state criteria, which list two potential categories that would warrant notification to the state police: someone who was “involuntarily committed” or ruled mentally “incapacitated.”
The federal law defines adjudication as a mental defective to include "determination by a court, board, commission or other lawful authority" that as a result of mental illness, the person is a "danger to himself or others." Because of gaps between federal and Virginia state laws, the state failed to report Cho's legal status to the federal National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and thus failed to prevent Cho's purchases. The week following the incident, Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell called for changes in state law to close those gaps.
U.S. media response
The response to how gun control affected the massacre was divided.
The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, an American gun control group, said that it was easy for an individual to get powerful weapons and called for "common-sense actions to prevent tragedies like this from continuing to occur" and also noted that the 15-bullet magazines were illegal to manufacture from 1994 to 2004 under the Federal Assault Weapons Ban. The New York Times ran an editorial calling for more gun control, saying that it was a "horrifying reminder that some of the gravest dangers Americans face come from killers at home armed with guns that are frighteningly easy to obtain."
The Conservative Voice contrasted the Virginia Tech massacre with the Appalachian School of Law shooting in 2002, when a disgruntled student killed three students before he was subdued by two other students with personal firearms they had retrieved from their vehicles, declaring that "All the school shootings that have ended abruptly in the last ten years were stopped because a law-abiding citizen—a potential victim—had a gun."
Virginia Governor Tim Kaine condemned this debate, saying it was "loathsome" that "People who want to take this within 24 hours of the event and use it as a political hobbyhorse." Kaine said on April 17, 2007: "To those who want to make this into some sort of crusade, I say take this elsewhere."
The Virginia Tech shootings sparked commentary and editorials critical of U.S. gun control laws and gun culture around the rest of the developed world. In the UK, a Times editorial asked, "Why ... do Americans continue to tolerate gun laws and a culture that seems to condemn thousands of innocents to death every year, when presumably, tougher restrictions, such as those in force in European countries, could at least reduce the number?"
The Swedish paper Göteborgs-Posten commented that "without access to weapons, the killings at Virginia Tech might have been prevented" because "the fundamental reason is often the perpetrator's psychological problems in combination with access to weapons." In Japan, the Asahi Shimbun commented that "the mass shooting.... reminded us once again how disturbingly common gun fatalities are in the United States," and went on to note, "Humans become enraged and desperate, and a gun in the hands of an enraged or desperate individual could be a sure recipe of disaster or tragedy."
Other international commentators predicted little chance of tougher gun laws or changes to the U.S. gun culture. BBC's Washington correspondent Matt Frei wrote "America is at its most impressive when it grieves and remembers. But will the soul-searching ever produce legislation and will it make schools safer?" He found that many students wished that the victims had been armed to stop the shooter, exerting "self defence in the face of a rampaging menace".
He further predicted that "[d]espite this week's bloodbath there will be no overwhelming demand for gun control in this country." Similarly, The Economist described both sides of the debate saying, "... Virginia Tech, like many schools and universities, is a gun-free zone. Gun advocates are daring to say that if Virginia Tech allowed concealed weapons, someone might have stopped the rampaging killer. To gun-control advocates, this is self-evident madness." The Economist also concluded: "The Columbine killings of 1999 failed to provoke any shift in Americans' attitudes to guns. There is no reason to believe that this massacre, or the next one, will do so either."
In addition to the international media response, while many non-U.S. governmental officials refrained from commenting on gun control in connection with the incident, some governmental officials criticized the U.S. gun control policies.
Most notably Australian Prime Minister John Howard said tough Australian legislation introduced after a mass shooting in Tasmania in 1996 had prevented a problematic gun culture in Australia: "We took action to limit the availability of guns and we showed a national resolve that the gun culture that is such a negative in the United States would never become a negative in our country."
Virginia Tech massacre timeline
The following is a timeline of events from the Virginia Tech massacre. All times are in Eastern Daylight Time (UTC-4). TriData Corp, a division of defense contractor System Planning Corp., will develop the official detailed timeline of the Virginia Tech massacre. The official timeline will be used by the eight-member panel appointed by Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine.
Andy Koch, Cho's suitemate, took Cho out to some parties at the start of the fall semester in 2005. At one party, Cho did get tipsy enough that he opened up and began talking about his virtual love life. He said he had an imaginary girlfriend named Jelly, and that she was "a supermodel that lived in space." Jelly had a nickname for Cho -- Spanky.
Fall poetry class
Removed from poetry class
Lucinda Roy, co-director the creative writing program removed Cho from Prof. Giovanni's class and tutored him one-on-one. When Cho refused to go to counseling, Roy notified the Division of Student Affairs, the Cook Counseling Center, the Schiffert Health Center, the Virginia Tech police and the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences.
Fall writing class
Prof. Lisa Norris, who had Cho in her class, alerted the associate dean of students, Mary Ann Lewis who could find "no mention of mental health issues or police reports" on Cho.
Sunday, November 27
A female student files a report with the Virginia Tech campus police indicating that Seung-Hui Cho had made "annoying" contact with her on the internet, by phone and in person. The investigating officer refers Cho to the school's disciplinary office, which is separate from the police department.
Monday, December 12
Another female student, a friend of Andy Koch, filed a report with the Virginia Tech campus police complaining of "disturbing" instant messages from Cho. She requested that Cho "have no further contact with her."
Tuesday, December 13
Virginia Tech campus police notifies Cho that he is to have no further contact with the female student. That same day Andy Koch, Cho's roommate, alerts Virginia Tech campus police that Cho had sent him an instant message stating, "I might as well kill myself." Koch notifies campus police. Campus police take Cho to a voluntary counseling evaluation, which leads to a court ruling declaring Cho "an imminent danger to self or others," and in turn leads to transport to Carilion St. Albans Psychiatric Hospital where psychologist Roy Crouse determines he "presents an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness." Special Justice Paul M. Barnett certifies the finding and orders follow-up treatment.
Wednesday, December 14
Cho enrolled in Professor Brent Stevens's English 3984 class, "Special Studies: Contemporary Horror. - 'not for the faint of heart' ." In that class he analyzed "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and explored in papers and a "fear journal" how "horror has become a masochistic pleasure." Other texts included From Hell by Alan Moore and "Men, Women and Chainsaws." Cho later sold these texts on eBay.
Friday, February 2
Friday, February 9
Monday, March 12
Tuesday, March 13
Thursday, March 22
Cho shows up at the PSS Range, which is advertised as “Roanoke’s only indoor pistol range” and charges $10 per hour. Cho spends an hour practicing, buying four ammunition magazines for the Glock 19. Range employees, investigators later say, remembered a young Asian man videotaping himself inside a van in the parking lot.
Thursday, March 22
Friday, March 23
Saturday, March 31 (April 7, April 8 and April 13)
-- unknown date
Sunday, April 8,
Friday, April 13
Bomb threats to Torgersen, Durham, and Whittemore Halls are called in anonymously. An additional bomb threat, this time to engineering school buildings, was found at the shooting scene at Norris Hall. Virginia Tech police chief Wendell Flinchum has stated that the bomb threats are not linked to the April 16, 2007 massacre; however, a written bomb threat similar to the ones that were phoned in was found in Cho's dorm room.
Sunday, April 15
Cho phoned his family in Fairfax county. Event
Monday, April 16
5:00 a.m.: While in Suite 2121 of Harper Hall, Joe Aust, one of Cho's five roommates, notices that Cho is awake and at his computer.
Around 5:30 a.m.: Karan Grewal, one of Cho's other roommates, notices Cho, clad in boxer shorts and a T-shirt, brushing his teeth and applying acne cream after Grewal finished an "all-nighter" of study in Suite 2121. Grewal does not see Cho after this point.
Before 7:00 a.m.: Cho was seen waiting outside an entrance to West Ambler Johnston Hall.
Before 7:15 a.m.: Emily Hilscher is dropped off at her dormitory by her boyfriend, Karl D. Thornhill, with whom she has spent the night.
7:15 a.m.: A 9-1-1 emergency call to Virginia Tech campus police reports a shooting at West Ambler Johnston Hall, leaving Ryan Christopher Clark, the resident advisor, dead and Emily Hilscher fatally wounded in Room 4040, which housed Hilscher.
Between 7:15 am and 9:01 am: Cho returns to his dormitory room to reload and leaves a "disturbing note."
7:30 a.m.: Investigators from VT PD and Blacksburg PD arrive.
Between 7:30 am and 8:00 am: Heather Haugh, Emily Hilscher's friend and roommate arrives to meet her to go to chemistry class together. When she asks about Hilscher, Haugh is questioned by detectives and gives them the information that Hilscher would usually spend weekends with her boyfriend, Karl Thornhill, at his off-campus townhouse. She explains that on Monday mornings Thornhill would drop off Hilscher and go back to Radford University where he was a student, and that Karl Thornhill is an avid gun user. This leads the police to seek him out as a "person of interest."
8:00 a.m.: Classes at Virginia Tech begin.
8:25 a.m.: Virginia Tech leadership team meets to develop a plan on how to notify students of the homicide. Meanwhile, police stop Karl Thornhill, in a vehicle off-campus and detain him for questioning.
9:00 a.m.: Virginia Tech leadership team is briefed on the latest events in the ongoing dormitory homicide investigation.
9:01 am: Cho mails a package to NBC headquarters in New York, containing pictures of him holding weapons, an 1,800-word manifesto-like diatribe in which he expresses rage, resentment and a desire to get even and a video clip in which he alludes to the coming massacre.
9:05 am: Jocelyne Couture-Nowak's Intermediate French Class in Norris 211 begins.
Around 9:05 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.: Cho is seen in Norris Hall, an Engineering building. Using the chains he had purchased at Home Depot, Cho chains the building's entry doors shut from the inside in order to stop anyone from escaping.
9:26 a.m.: E-mails go out to campus staff, faculty, and students informing them of the dormitory shooting.
Around 9:30 am: A female student walks into Norris 211 and alerts the occupants that a shooting occurred at West Ambler Johnston.
9:32 a.m.: Students in the engineering building, Norris Hall, make a 9-1-1 emergency call to alert police that more shots have been fired.
9:35 a.m.: Police arrived three minutes later and found that Cho had chained all three entrances shut.
Between 9:30 and 9:45 am: Using the .22 caliber Walther P22 and 9 millimeter Glock 19 handgun with 17 magazines of ammunition, Cho shoots 60 people, killing 30 of them. Cho's rampage lasts for approximately nine minutes. A student in Room 205 noticed the time remaining in class shortly before the start of the shootings.
Around 9:40 a.m.: Students in Norris 205, while attending an issues in scientific computing class, hear Cho's gunshots. The students, including Zach Petkewicz, barricade the door and prevent Cho's entry.
9:40 a.m.: After arriving at Norris Hall, police took 5 minutes to assemble the proper team, clear the area and then break through the doors. They use a shotgun to break through the chained entry doors. Investigators believe that the shotgun blast alerted the gunman to the arrival of the police. The police hear gunshots as they enter the building. They follow the sounds to the second floor.
9:41 a.m.: As the police reached the second floor, the gunshots stopped. Cho's shooting spree in Norris Hall lasted 9 minutes. Police officers discovered that after his second round of shooting the occupants of room 211 Norris, the gunman fatally shot himself in the temple.
9:50 a.m.: A second e-mail announcing: "A gunman is loose on campus. Stay in buildings until further notice. Stay away from all windows" is sent to all Virginia Tech email addresses. Loudspeakers broadcast a similar message.
10:17 a.m: A third e-mail cancels classes and advises people to stay where they are.
10:52 a.m.: A fourth e-mail warns of "a multiple shooting with multiple victims in Norris Hall," saying the shooter has been arrested and that police are hunting for a possible second shooter. The entrances to the campus buildings are locked.
12:00 p.m.: At a press conference, authorities said there may have been more than 21 people killed and twenty-eight injured.
12:42 p.m.: University President Charles Steger announces that police are releasing people from buildings and that counseling centers are being set up.
4:01 p.m.: President George W. Bush speaks from the White House regarding the shooting.
7:30 p.m.: A confirmation that there have been at least 31 deaths at Norris Hall, including the shooter. Aftermath
Tuesday, April 17
9:15 a.m.: Virginia Tech Police Department releases name of shooter as Cho Seung-Hui and confirms the death toll of 33.
9:30 a.m.: Virginia Tech announces that classes would be canceled "for the remainder of the week to allow students the time they need to grieve and seek assistance as needed."
2:00 p.m.: A convocation ceremony is held for the University community at the Cassell Coliseum. Speakers included (in order) Virginia Tech VP for Student Affairs Zenobia L. Hikes, Virginia Tech President Charles W. Steger, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine (who had returned from Japan), President George W. Bush, local religious leaders (representing the Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish, and Christian communities), Provost Dr. Mark G. McNamee, Dean of Students Tom Brown, Counselor Dr. Christopher Flynn, and poet and Professor Nikki Giovanni. First Lady Laura Bush was also in attendance.
8:00 p.m.: A candlelight vigil is held on the University Drillfield.
Wednesday, April 18
8:25 a.m.: A SWAT team enters Burruss Hall, a campus building next to Norris Hall. No explanation is immediately available. Virginia Tech's public affairs office states that police are responding to a "suspicious event".
4:37 p.m.: Local police authorities announce that television network NBC received correspondence from Cho, some of which included images of him holding weapons, writings, audio recordings and videos; this information was immediately submitted to the FBI. It is believed that the package was timestamped between the first incident at West Ambler Johnson and the second shooting at Norris Hall, raising the possibility of the material being drafted by Cho during the 2 hour interval.
Thursday, April 19
Friday, April 20
Monday, April 23
William Massello, an assistant state medical examiner, said autopsies of Cho's 32 victims revealed that he fired "more than 100" bullets into them. "Some were hit once; some were hit several times, more than once. We had two, three, four, maybe even as high as six." The initial autopsy of the Virginia Tech gunman found no gross brain function abnormalities that could explain the rampage that left 32 people dead. Wikipedia.org