- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 17, 2007

2:09 p.m.

BLACKSBURG, Va. — School officials and police yesterday confirmed that the gunman in yesterday’s massacre at Virginia Tech was senior Cho Seung-Hui, a resident alien and English major.

“The only thing we know about him is he was a loner,” university spokesman Larry Hincker said. “They were trying to find information about him.”

Cho, a 23-year-old South Korean national, gunned down 30 persons Monday before shooting himself in the head in the deadliest shooting in U.S. history.

Two students were shot to death in a dormitory earlier Monday, but investigators could not say yesterday whether Cho, who has a residence in Centreville and graduated from Westfield High School in 2003, is responsible for both incidents.

Cho lived in the university’s Harper Residence Hall, officials said.

State, local and federal investigators worked around the clock last night collecting and processing evidence from Norris Hall, where 30 victims including students faculty — were found dead in four second-floor classrooms and a stairwell, officials said.

Investigators found a 9 mm handgun and 22-caliber handgun in Norris Hall, Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said.

Ballistics tests conducted at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives lab in Ammendale found that one of the weapons was used in Monday’s first shooting in West Ambler Johnston Hall, where two students were killed, Chief Flinchum said.

“Lab results confirmed that one of the weapons seized in Norris Hall was used in both shootings,” he said.

Col. Stephen Flaherty, Virginia State Police superintendent, said that doesn’t mean Cho is responsible for both shootings.

“Evidence has not led us to believe that we can say, with all certainty, that the same shooter was involved in all incidents,” Col. Flaherty said. “We also have no evidence to indicate that there is any accomplice at any event,” but investigators are exploring that possibility.

Processing the “horrific crime scene” will take some time, he said.

Cho was found with a backpack containing a receipt for a Glock 9mm pistol that he had bought in March.

His fingerprints were found on the two handguns used in both shootings, said two law enforcement officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the information had not been announced. The serial numbers on the two weapons had been filed off, the officials said.

As a permanent legal resident of the United States, Cho was eligible to buy a handgun unless he had been convicted of any felony criminal charges, a federal immigration official said.

All of the victims have been moved to the state medical examiner’s office in Roanoke.

Dr. Marcella Fierro, chief medical examiner for Virginia, said it would take some time before the names of all the victims are known, and school officials said the names of the 32 students and faculty would not be released until all victims are positively identified and their families are notified.

Virginia Tech President Charles Steger said classes would be canceled the rest of the week, and that Norris Hall would be closed for the remainder of the year.

“We are continuing to work to try to comprehend the terrible tragedy that happened on campus yesterday,” Mr. Steger said. “It is very difficult for me to express what has occurred on campus.”

John Marshall, Virginia Secretary of Public Safety, downplayed the numerous questions that have surrounded why campus police and administrators did not react faster between the two shootings.

They “made the right decisions based on the information they had at the time,” Mr. Marshall said.

University police responded to a 911 at 7:15 a.m. Monday about a possible domestic dispute at West Ambler Johnston Hall.

The university notified students and faculty via e-mail that a gunman was loose shortly before 10 a.m. — more than two hours after the first shooting and around the time the Norris Hall shooting took place.

Officials immediately shut down the dormitory, but not the rest of the campus because they believed it was an isolated incident, Chief Flinchum said.

Police located a so-called “person of interest,” an acquaintance of the female victim found in the dormitory, and stopped him in a vehicle off-campus for questioning, Chief Flinchum said.

“As officers interviewed him, the shootings in Norris Hall were reported,” he said, adding that officials are still working with that individual during the ongoing investigation.

The Virginia Tech Police Department, Blacksburg Police Department, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, Virginia State Police, FBI, ATF and multiple other state and local agencies are involved in the ongoing investigation.

Officials have not linked recent bomb threats that closed buildings and canceled classes to the shootings, but still are investigating, Chief Flinchum said.

News reports also said that he may have been taking medication for depression, that he was becoming increasingly violent and erratic, and that he left a note in his dorm in which he railed against “rich kids,” “debauchery” and “deceitful charlatans” on campus.

Professor Carolyn Rude, chairman of the university’s English department, said she did not personally know Cho. But she said she spoke with Lucinda Roy, the department’s director of creative writing, who had the gunman in one of her classes and described him as “troubled.”

“There was some concern about him,” Ms. Rude said. “Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it’s creative or if they’re describing things, if they’re imagining things or just how real it might be. But we’re all alert to not ignore things like this.”

She said Cho was referred to the counseling service, but she said she did not know when, or what the outcome was. Rude refused to release any of his writings or his grades, citing privacy laws.

The loner tag fit into the description Trey Perkins, a 20-year-old engineering student, gave of Cho when the gunman entered Christopher Bishop’s German class in room 207 of Norris Hall. With two guns blazing, Cho robotically shot Mr. Perkins’ professor in the head and picked off many of the 15 or so students.

“He pointed the guns at pretty close range,” Mr. Perkins, of Yorktown, Va., said. “It was just disgusting the way he had no facial expression, showed no signs of emotion or anything. I don’t know how somebody could do that, but I guess [there] has to be something terribly wrong with you to do that in the first place.”

After Cho left the room, Mr. Perkins and two other student held the classroom door shut with their feet and arms. The gunman returned, and despite firing about six shots into the door, he could not push off the students on the other side.

Within eye shot of Norris Hall, a large “VT” sign — made of cardboard and wood — was tied with rope to an oak tree on the school’s main quad. The quad, dubbed the drill field, is a massive green space that is decorated with oak and willow trees and separates most of the academic buildings, like Norris Hall, from the cafeteria and most of the dorm buildings.

At the feet of the makeshift memorial sat 32 white candles in honor of the shooting victims, and 15 red candles for those who had been injured.

“We were having a very hard time, and we needed to show support for one another,” said Jose Tores, a 28-year-old electronic technician in the Virginia Tech Transportation institute. He helped construct the makeshift memorial.

“It’s surreal,” he said, obviously shaken. “Today is the day it is hurting the most, especially for me. This could have happened to anyone.”

Nearby, outside Norris Hall, police tape was strung, and the American flag hung at half staff.

“It’s unfortunate that this class will be associated with this event, I know the class is much more,” said Chris Holer, a 23-year-old biological engineering student who knew Ryan Clark, the resident adviser who had been killed. “I think they will still treasure the time they had here at Virginia Tech, and if anything this will make them stronger as individual.”

Yesterday was the first step of what Mr. Steger called a “long, difficult road” to recovery for many.

“Everybody is pulling together,” Brad Matanin, 24-year-year biological engineering student. “The enormity of the situation has set in.”

• This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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