- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Federal, state and local investigators continued working around the clock yesterday to make sense out of the Virginia Tech massacre, piecing together information about the deceased gunman and a motive for the shooting deaths of his victims.

Police yesterday identified the shooter who killed 30 persons before taking his own life in the university’s Norris Hall as senior Cho Seung-hui, a 2003 graduate of Westfield High School in Chantilly.

Students and faculty at the Blacksburg school described Cho, a 23-year-old English major, as a loner with few friends, and press reports yesterday mentioned behavioral problems.

“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 South Korean national and resident alien, fatally shot 30 persons Monday in the university’s Norris Hall before shooting himself in the head, Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said. Cho came to the United States in 1992 and was raised in Centreville, where his parents worked at a dry cleaners.

Two students were fatally shot in a dormitory earlier Monday, but investigators could not say yesterday whether Cho was responsible for both incidents. Ballistics reports show that one of the weapons found in Norris Hall was used in the shootings at West Ambler Johnston Hall.

Some students yesterday moved out of the dormitory for the final weeks of the semester.

Cho lived in a three-bedroom suite in Harper Hall. Each room, which housed two students, was connected through a common room.

Suitemate Karan Grewal, a 21-year-old from Falls Church, said Cho kept to himself.

“I never really saw him with anyone,” Mr. Grewal said. “I never took him to be a sad or angry guy, just shy.”

Cho often ate by himself in the dining hall, Mr. Grewal said, adding that Cho “would turn his face away” when others greeted him.

“He never spoke a word,” he said.

Mr. Grewal said he pulled an all-nighter to study for an exam and was in the shower at 5 a.m. Monday — about two hours before the first shooting — when Cho walked into the bathroom, then walked out.

“It’s just really scary thinking about that,” Mr. Grewal said. “I didn’t figure he had a death wish.”

The Web site the Smoking Gun (www.thesmokinggun.com) yesterday posted a one-act play attributed to Cho in which a 13-year-old boy accuses his stepfather of pedophilia and murdering his father.

Senior Stephanie Derry told Tech’s student newspaper, the Collegiate Times, that she took a playwriting class with Cho in which students critiqued one another’s work.

“His writing, the plays, were really morbid and grotesque,” Miss Derry told the Collegiate Times. “We made jokes around the class about his work, because it was just so fictional, so surreal, we just had to laugh. We had to laugh because it couldn’t ever be real or truthful.”

Professor Carolyn Rude, chairman of the university’s English department, told the Associated Press that Cho’s writing was so disturbing that he had been referred to the university’s counseling service.

“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,” Miss Rude said. “But we’re all alert to not ignore things like this.”

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

Lucinda Roy, the former head of the English department, told CNN that in the fall of 2005, she pulled Cho out of his class and gave him individual instruction in creative writing because his writing made other students uncomfortable. She said she repeatedly took the writing to university officials and police.

“The threats seemed to be underneath the surface,” she said. “They were not explicit, and that was the difficulty the police had.”

Other former classmates said that on the first day of class last year, when everyone introduced himself, Cho sat sullenly in the back of the room and refused to speak. On the sign-in sheet, he had put only a question mark for his name.

Meanwhile, medical officials said yesterday afternoon that eight shooting victims wounded in Cho’s attack on Norris Hall were in stable condition at Montgomery Regional Hospital and that one had been discharged. Lewis-Gale Hospital discharged four victims, and one remained in stable condition, officials said.

Investigators found the deceased in four second-floor classrooms and a stairwell in Norris Hall, along with a 9 mm handgun and a .22-caliber handgun, Chief 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, Chief Flinchum said.

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

Col. W. Steven 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.

Investigators have said there were no surveillance cameras on campus that could have videotaped Cho at the crime scenes.

Police executed a search warrant of Cho’s dorm room in the university’s Harper Hall, Col. Flaherty said.

“What we have taken were mostly documents that we are reviewing,” he said, but did not provide additional details.

A law-enforcement official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said investigators found a typed, eight-page rant against rich kids and religion that they have attributed to Cho.

“You caused me to do this,” the official quoted the note as saying.

Cho indicated in the letter that the end was near and that there was a deed to be done, the official said. He also expressed disappointment in his own religion and made several references to Christianity, the official said.

The official said the letter was either found in Cho’s dorm room or in his backpack. The backpack was found in the hallway of Norris Hall and contained several rounds of ammunition, the official said.

However, police said it was not clear when the notes were written or whether they were even written by Cho.

“There’s no evidence to suggest that Cho left behind any type of suicide note,” Col. Flaherty said.

Investigators determined that Cho had legally purchased both weapons found at the Norris Hall crime scene, Col. Flaherty said.

Roanoke Firearms owner John Markell said his shop sold the 9 mm Glock to Cho in March. The serial number had been scratched off, but federal agents traced it to the store using a receipt found in Cho’s backpack.

“It was a very unremarkable sale,” said Mr. Markell, who did not handle the sale personally. “He was a nice, clean-cut college kid. We won’t sell a gun if we have any idea at all that a purchase is suspicious.”

He also said Cho held a green card, meaning he was a legal, permanent resident, according to federal officials. So he was eligible to buy a handgun unless he had been convicted of a felony.

“To find out the gun came from my shop is just terrible,” Mr. Markell said.

Police yesterday cordoned off Truitt Farm Drive in Centreville, listed as Cho’s address, as the gunman’s identity came to light. Police officers, press and onlookers lined the sidewalk of the tiny cul-de-sac outside the family’s town house. Virginia property records indicate that the family bought the house in 1997.

“They were just parents. Just parents,” said one former neighbor who declined to be identified.

Cho was a member of the science club while a sophomore at Westfield, according to Fairfax County Public School officials.

The school district did not release additional information yesterday.

The loner tag fit the description that Trey Perkins, a 20-year-old engineering student, gave of Cho when the gunman entered instructor Christopher James 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,” said Mr. Perkins, of Yorktown, Va. “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 students 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.

Some of the injured students were hurt jumping out the second-floor windows of Norris Hall, where the doors had been chained shut by Cho, witnesses said.

Though gun control activists and pro-gun advocates have already started blaming each other for the massacre, Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said that debate should be put off for another day.

“People who want to take this within 24 hours of the event and use it as a political hobbyhorse — I only have loathing for them,” Mr. Kaine said in an evening press conference yesterday. “To those who want to make this into some sort of crusade, I say take this elsewhere.”

Mr. Kaine said he also plans on appointing a commission to determine whether the response to the event could have been better.

“That is a natural question to come up in such an emotional and tragic situation,” he said. “We have to answer that question.”

As of yesterday, officials had not linked recent bomb threats that closed campus buildings and canceled classes to the shootings, but still are investigating, Chief Flinchum 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.

• Natasha Altamirano reported from Washington and Seth McLaughlin reported from Blacksburg, Va. Jen Haberkorn in Washington contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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