- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2007

DEVELOPING / 4:05 p.m.

BLACKSBURG — Campus officials and police this morning reiterated that they did not have the power to remove Cho Seung-hui from school despite his mental illness, and said they already had most of the multimedia manifesto Cho sent to NBC News between the two shootings.

“I’m sorry you were all exposed to these images,” Col. W. Stephen Flaherty said. “We had hoped the correspondence with NBC would contain significant evidence. While there was some marginal value to the package received - we already had most of the evidence. The package simply confirmed what we already knew.”

Three days after the 23-year-old student killed at least 30 people on the Virginia Tech campus before taking his own life, university officials say they are concentrating on support services for family, students and faculty.

“Obviously the most important thing … is the care of the families that have been left behind,” said school spokesman Larry Hincker.

Dr. Mark G. McNamee, the school provost, announced the university would reward posthumous degrees to the student victims, and that current students will be given a variety of options to finish the semester.

Administrators and campus police are still facing questions concerning the university’s handling of Cho - most notably how his mental state and stalking of two female students could have slipped through the cracks.

“I know we followed all our policies correctly and we acted on the information we had at the time and now we have much more information,” said Ed Spencer, assistant vice president of student affairs.

12:37 p.m.

BLACKSBURG, Va. — The Virginia Tech student who killed 32 persons during a rampage on campus left behind a trail of bizarre behavior and disturbing evidence, including a video confession and pictures of himself wielding guns, which he mailed in between his two deadly attacks Monday.

“You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option,” gunman Cho Seung-hui said in a rambling video statement included in a package mailed to NBC News in New York. “The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that you can never wash off.”

The DVD and an 1,800-word statement containing 43 photographs were sent overnight from a Blacksburg-area post office to NBC’s headquarters in New York.

The package, which NBC anchorman Brian Williams described last night as “multimedia manifesto,” had the wrong ZIP code and address so it was delivered late Tuesday, then opened yesterday morning.

The disclosure about the materials came during an afternoon press conference.

Earlier in the day, investigators told reporters that Cho, 23, came to the attention of police twice in fall 2005 and was ordered to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.

On Nov. 27, 2005, Cho called and contacted a female student in person. The student declined to press charges, but Cho was referred to the school’s Office of Judicial Affairs.

The second incident occurred Dec. 13, 2005, when Cho sent a computer message to a female student.

Cho was not charged, but officials were concerned that he might be a danger to himself and got a temporary detention order from a Montgomery County, Va., magistrate judge, said Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum.

Cho was evaluated by a public mental-health agency, then taken to Carilion Saint Albans Behavioral Health Center in Christiansburg, Va.

The next day, Special Justice Paul M. Barnett approved outpatient treatment for Cho.

The medical examination that day found that Cho’s “affect is flat and is depressed” but “he denies suicidal ideations. He does not acknowledge symptoms of a thought disorder. His insight and judgment are normal.”

Court records show that Mr. Barnett checked a box that stated Cho “presents an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness.”

He did not check the box that would indicate a danger to others.

Dr. Christopher Flynn, head of the university’s counseling center, said yesterday that mental health officials have a “legal and moral responsibility” to warn people when a student poses a potential threat, but Cho’s behavior did not provide a clear indication that he would do something drastic.

University officials said they could do little to remove Cho because he had not violated the school’s academic honors system or the student-life policy.

Chief Flinchum also said yesterday morning that the women considered the incidents annoying but not threatening and that he was not aware of additional incidents.

The video clips received yesterday by NBC did not specifically target people for an attack, nor did the segments released by the network reveal why Cho selected the sites of the shootings.

The DVD has about 10 minutes of video clips prepared over several days.

The video appeared to be taken by Cho in different locations, including the backseat of a car.

The messages include profanity-laced tirades against the wealthy and religious images.

In one message he speaks of “martyrs like Eric and Dylan,” a reference to Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the teenagers who killed 12 students and a teacher eight years ago tomorrow at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo.

The return address on the package listed the sender’s name was “A. Ishmael.”

Reports in recent days said that the words “Ismail Ax” were scrawled in red ink on Cho’s arm when police found him dead by suicide after the shooting massacre, the deadliest in U.S. history.

The package was time-stamped by Blacksburg postal clerks at 9:01 a.m., about two hours after the first attack inside the West Ambler Johnston dorm, where two students were killed.

About 45 minutes later, Cho went to the Norris Hall building, where he killed 30 more persons. Other photographs showed Cho in threatening poses, wielding hammers, knives and pointing a handgun directly at the camera.

“I didn’t have to do this. I could have left,” he said in another video clip. “I could have fled. But now I can no longer run.”

At Virginia Tech, professors and classmates said the English major often turned in writings filled with violence and profanity.

“I knew when it happened that that’s probably who it was,” Nikki Giovanni, a poet and one of Cho’s professors, told CNN. “I would have been shocked if it wasn’t. …There was something mean about this boy. … It was the meanness that bothered me. It was a really mean streak.”

Miss Giovanni said Cho also took pictures of his classmates with his cell phone, bothering them so much that they stopped coming to class and she had security check her room.

The professor then had Cho removed from the class.

Lucinda Roy, a co-director of creative writing at Virginia Tech, said she tutored Cho after that. Miss Roy said she tried to get Cho into counseling in late 2005 but he always refused.

“He was so distant and so lonely,” she told ABC’s “Good Morning America” Wednesday. “It was almost like talking to a hole, as though he wasn’t there most of the time. He wore sunglasses, and his hat very low so it was hard to see his face.”

Ms. Roy also said she arranged to use a code word with her assistant to call police if she ever felt threatened by Cho, but she never used it.

Chief Flinchum said the writings revealed no specific threat.

“These assignments were for a creative writing course that encouraged students to be imaginative and artistic,” he said. “The writings did not express any threatening intentions or allude to any criminal activity, and no criminal violation had taken place. Miss Roy chose to reach out to this student, out of concern for him and his mental well being.”

Karan Grewal, who shared a suite with Cho, said university officials never informed him that Cho had been referred for a psychiatric evaluation or that Chos’ teachers were concerned that he was unstable.

“I had no idea he was capable of this,” Mr. Grewal said. “We were never told his teachers had concern about him committing suicide and all these dark feelings. We were never told that our suite-mate was depressed or suicidal.”

A portrait of the student gunman has emerged depicting him as a painfully shy and deeply disturbed individual with few, if any, friends.

Cho was born in South Korea and emigrated to the United States with his parents when he was 8. He attended Westfield High School in Chantilly, where he graduated in 2003.

At Westfield — where two of Cho’s victims, Reema Samaha and Erin Peterson, also attended high school — memories of Cho were hard to come by.

A 2002 yearbook listed him as a member of the science club, but his photo and name were absent from the 2003 edition, his senior year.

“I haven’t talked to a single person who knew anything about him,” said Rebecca Green, a Westfield senior. “Most of the teachers didn’t even know him.”

Jason Chesky, who graduated with Cho and had several classes with him, said Cho wouldn’t look people in the eye when they spoke to him.

“He was a very depressed kid,” said Mr. Chesky, 21. “We felt sorry for him and wondered what was wrong with him.”

Stephanie Roberts, who also graduated with Cho, said friends of hers who went to middle school with Cho told her they remembered him getting picked on.

“There were just some people who were really mean to him, and they would push him down and laugh at him,” she said. “He didn’t speak English really well, and they would really make fun of him.”

The media swarm surrounding the tragedy led school officials to ban reporters from sports events last night at Westfield, which garnered national headlines last year when one of its 2005 graduates — 18-year-old Michael Kennedy — fatally shot two Fairfax County police officers at a police station before being killed in the ensuing gunbattle.

Ryan Gwin, who had been a neighbor of Kennedy’s and was in Cho’s graduating class, said he didn’t remember the Virginia Tech gunman.

Miss Green, who was in Westfield’s theater program with Miss Samaha and was close friends with Kennedy, said her high school was not at fault, but people like Cho and Kennedy had been denied help when they needed it most.

“Isolation and mental health can’t excuse the lives and friends we’ve lost,” she said. But “they can be the motivating reason for us to support psychological funding and to be a friend to those who need one.”

Cho also was described as an extreme loner in his neighborhood.

One neighbor, Marshall Main, said, “I really knew nothing about him.”

Despite officials’ efforts to explain the events Monday and those involving Cho before the massacre, questions also remain about why they did not lock down the entire campus after the first attack and why campus police waited until 9:26 a.m. to alert students via e-mail.

Police pursued the wrong lead after Emily Jane Hilscher, an 18-year-old freshman, and Ryan Clark, a 22-year-old resident adviser from Georgia, were shot in the dorm.

They began looking for a vehicle driven by Miss Hilscher’s boyfriend, Karl D. Thornhill, who had just dropped her off and was returning to Radford University.

Miss Hilscher’s roommate told police Mr. Thornhill had guns and that she had recently been to the shooting range with him.

However, as police questioned Mr. Thornhill on Route 460 not far from campus, the second shooting was reported and he was released.

In response to all the criticism, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, has appointed former state police Superintendent Gerald Massengill to lead an independent review.

A Holocaust survivor killed during the attack in Norris Hall was flown to Israel for burial yesterday.

Liviu Librescu, 76, blocked the door to his classroom with his body so students could escape the assailant by jumping out windows.

During a service at the Holocaust Museum in the District, President Bush acknowledged Mr. Librescu’s sacrifice. “On the Day of Remembrance, this Holocaust survivor gave his own life so that others might live,” Mr. Bush said. “And this morning we honor his memory, and we take strength from his example.”

Reporters Natasha Altamirano, Gregory Lopes and Gary Emerling contributed to this article, which is based in part on wire service reports.

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