- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said authorities will be investigated for their handling of Monday’s massacre at Virginia Tech in which 33 persons were killed.

“I recognize the need for an after-action review,” Mr. Kaine said yesterday at a press conference. “But dealing with families is first.”

The inquiry was ordered in response to outrage among parents and students that classes were not canceled after reports at 7:15 a.m. of a shooting in West Ambler Johnston Hall, a coed dormitory.

State law-enforcement officials backed Virginia Tech officials’ decision not to cancel classes after the first shots were fired, saying evidence pointed to an isolated incident.

John Marshall, Virginia secretary of public safety, downplayed questions about why campus police and administrators did not react faster between the two shooting incidents.

They “made the right decisions based on the information they had at the time,” Mr. Marshall said in a press conference yesterday morning.

University officials said officers responded to the dormitory within five minutes of the shooting and secured the building and the crime scene with the assistance of Blacksburg police.

A Virginia State Police official said the agency responded at 9:23 a.m., more than two hours after the initial homicide report.

The 38-member campus police force, which is accredited by the national Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, had jurisdiction and spearheaded the homicide investigation.

The double shooting was the first homicide on the campus since at least 2002, according to press reports and statistics provided under the federal Jeanne Cleary Act, which requires colleges and universities to publish crime statistics.

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 about the time of the second shooting at Norris Hall in which 31 persons, including the gunman, were found dead. The gunman in the Norris Hall shooting was identified yesterday as Cho Seung-hui, a 23-year-old senior.

After the initial shooting, officials immediately shut down the dormitory but not the rest of the campus because they thought the double homicide was an isolated incident and domestic in nature, said Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum, who has led the campus police force since December.

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.

Larry Hincker, Virginia Tech’s associate vice president for university relations, said the school is working to implement a system to better distribute information to students by text messaging and phone mail.

“Obviously, it’s very difficult, during breaking events, to be able to get information to people quickly,” Mr. Hincker said, noting that hundreds of buildings are on campus.

“We try to get to the university community through a phone broadcast system, which gets to the campus phones,” he said. “We get through postings on our Web site. We post messages on a call-in line. We do public media. We send e-mails.”

Steve Agresta, whose son Anthony is an electrical engineering major at Virginia Tech, said he was concerned that officials did not close the campus after the first reports of gunfire.

His son was in his off-campus apartment when the shootings took place.

“It’s a little upsetting they would allow classes to continue,” said Mr. Agresta, of Westfield, N.J.

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