- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2007

Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine yesterday appointed six of the eight members of an independent panel that will investigate Monday’s deadly shootings at Virginia Tech and the university’s response.

The panel will submit a report in two to three months on shooter Cho Seung-hui’s mental health history and how police responded to the tragedy.

Retired Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. W. Gerald Massengill, who oversaw the agency’s response to the September 11 attack on the Pentagon and the Washington-area sniper attacks, will be chairman of the panel.

“It’s awfully important to me that this process be filled with integrity,” Col. Massengill said. “We’re not trying to second-guess anyone, with any decision or with any action that was taken, but at the same time I want it clearly understood that our purpose is to address those things that need to be brought forward and started, processes, whatever it might be that will make Virginia safer.”

Also named to the panel was Tom Ridge, former secretary of homeland security and Pennsylvania governor.

Mr. Kaine also appointed Gordon K. Davies, former director of the Virginia Council of Higher Education; Roger L. Depue, former administrator of the FBI National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime; Dr. Aradhana A. “Bela” Sood, chairwoman of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Virginia Commonwealth University and medical director of the Virginia Treatment Center for Children; and Dr. Marcus L. Martin, assistant dean at the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, will soon appoint the remaining two members. One will be a specialist on crime victims, he said, and the other will be a retired judge.

The panel will examine the mental health history of Cho, the circumstances surrounding the shooting, and the response of the university and law enforcement, Mr. Kaine said. Both he and Col. Massengill said it was premature to judge the school’s decision not to shut down the campus immediately after the first shooting in a dormitory.

Col. Massengill neither defended nor criticized the decision, saying it will be a major aspect of his committee’s review after police finish their criminal investigation.

“I’m not going into it with any preconceived notions of what was proper or what was improper,” he said. “It will be driven by what information they had at the time.”

The panel will delve into the university’s actions after Cho, 23, apparently killed two students in a dormitory hours before he shot 30 more persons across campus in an academic building before killing himself. Students did not receive notification of the first shooting until after the second one occurred.

“There may be barriers that prevent information from flowing to the people it needs to flow to just as we found was the case with 9/11,” Col. Massengill said.

“I think it’s awfully important that we look as closely as we can from a policy standpoint to the thresholds that have to be considered: When do we keep people out? When do we keep students under a lockdown? All of that has to be discussed,” he said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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