- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2007

The video, photographs and an 1,800-word diatribe that Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-hui mailed to NBC News between Monday’s shootings have yielded little new evidence, police said yesterday.

“We had hoped the correspondence …would contain significant evidence,” said Col. W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police superintendent. “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.”

He said he was sorry “you all have been exposed to the images.”

Cho sent the package Monday to NBC News in New York at 9:01 a.m. — about two hours after the first attack inside West Ambler Johnston dorm, where two students were slain. About 45 minutes later, Cho went to Norris Hall, where he killed 30 more persons.

Investigators said they discovered much of same information Tuesday when they searched Cho’s dorm room. Cho, a 23-year-old English major, mailed his so-called “multimedia manifesto” from a Blacksburg post office about half a mile away from campus. An incorrect ZIP code and address delayed its arrival until Wednesday.

Though the monologues and pictures of Cho wielding guns and a hammer offered insight into the depth of his anger, alienation and unbalanced emotional state, they appear to provide no answers to such questions as what else did he do between the two attacks and did he have any personal connection to the victims, many of whom grew up in Northern Virginia suburbs near his family’s residence in Centreville. Col. Flaherty said earlier this week that he is “not aware” of a connection between Cho and any of the victims.

Cho’s videos were studded with threat and insult. “Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people,” Cho said in one of the videos, some of which appear to be made in his dorm and in a car.

Many students said they did not watch the video and instead concentrated on trying to return to their normal routines. Several Tech students joined Col. Flaherty and others across the country in scolding NBC and other press outlets airing Cho’s DVD pictures, texts and video rants.

“I think it’s disgusting,” said Aaron Buck, a sophomore from Georgia who lives in Cho’s dormitory building, Harper Hall. “It is one thing to hear about it. Then, when he is dead and gone, he comes back [with such] hatred out of those videos and stills — it is just not something I wanted to see.”

Eileen Lauby, a 25-year-old graduate student from Falls Church, was upset, too. “To me, it was a setback in the healing process,” she said. “I can’t imagine being someone who was in a classroom [where the shooting occurred], then having to turn on the TV and relive it or being a parent who lost a child, then turning on a TV and having to see almost firsthand what their kids went through.”

The sprawling, 2,600-acre campus is now awash in memorials to the dead and tributes to the wounded. Under three maroon-and-white tents, students, faculty and staff continued the healing process by writing messages on white boards.

“God Bless the Hokie nation forever,” reads one posting.

Many of the signs praised Liviu Librescu, the popular engineering science and mechanics professor killed while using his body to barricade a classroom door so his students could escape the attack. A petition is now circulating to change the name of Norris Hall to Librescu Hall.

“Norris Hall should not be allowed to remain synonymous with a place of darkness and terror,” the petitioners say. “Renaming the building will begin the healing process and help us remember Dr. Librescu for what he truly was. A friend. A colleague. A hero among the ages.”

University officials said yesterday they have concluded their twice-a-day press conferences and are now concentrating on support services for students, faculty and their families.

“Obviously the most important thing … we have been trying to focus on is the care of the families that have been left behind here,” university spokesman Larry Hincker said.

University Provost Mark G. McNamee announced the school will award posthumous degrees to the slain students and that other students will get a variety of options on how they can finish the semester. Classes were canceled this week and are scheduled to resume Monday.

One sign on campus makes clear students want the reporters to be gone when they return.

“Hokie Nation Needs to Heal. Media Stay Away,” read a bright orange sign near Norris Hall. A young woman was in tears at West Ambler Johnston Hall as she paused to read the headline in Collegiate Times, the campus newspaper: “Beginning to Heal.”

Health officials said three of the eight remaining victims at Montgomery Regional Hospital will be released soon. All eight patients are in stable condition.

Some if not all patients will require rehabilitation, whether physical, occupational therapy or “general psychological healing,” said Dr. Demian Yakel, an orthopedic surgeon who operated on several victims.

Dr. Yakel said he’s seen “nothing but positivity” from victims’ families and the Virginia Tech community. The university community should hold the victims in its memory but move forward, university spokesman Mr. Hincker said.

“We cannot let this horror define Virginia Tech,” he said. “We’re going to do whatever we can to get this place on its feet again.”

However, questions remain about the school’s response to the first shootings and indications of Cho’s mental health problems and his history of stalking young women.

School administration officials yesterday repeated their assertions that removing Cho was not within their authority, despite his problems. “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.

Two female students in late 2005 called university police on two occasions, accusing Cho of stalking them, but neither pressed charges. After the second incident, in December, Cho voluntarily entered a Blacksburg mental health clinic after he told two roommates he wanted to kill himself.

That month, a district court in Montgomery County, Va., ruled that Cho presented an “imminent danger to self and others.” That ruling allowed police to obtain a detention order so that Cho could be evaluated at a nearby inpatient mental health clinic.

Court papers show that Special Justice Paul Barnett approved outpatient treatment and checked court papers to indicate his belief that “Cho presents an imminent danger to himself as results of mental illness.” He did not check a box that would have indicated Cho was a danger to others.

Campus counselor Chris Flynn said Cho would have been ordered to stay at the clinic if he had been considered dangerous.

The university and an independent panel appointed by Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine, a Democrat, will analyze the responses to the shootings and the handling of Cho’s problems.

Cho bought one of the guns Feb. 9 from an Internet site and picked it up at a pawn shop on April 13, according to CNN.

Joe Dowdy, owner of JND Pawnbrokers, in Blacksburg, where Cho picked up the .22-caliber handgun, said he runs a background check on every customer who buys a gun. Mr. Dowdy said Cho only filled out the paperwork and picked up the gun at his store, while the sale was made by an out-of-state gun dealer who ran the background check, according to U.S. News & World Report.

Under federal law, a weapon purchased from an out-of-state dealer must be shipped to a federally licensed gun dealer in the state, who makes the background check. The buyer must appear in person to pick up the gun, and the dealer receives a small fee — usually between $20 and $40 — for facilitating the pickup, according to CNN.

Cho bought a Glock 9 mm and 50 rounds of ammunition March 13 at Roanoke Firearms in Roanoke, said John Markell, who owns the shop.

The university has been criticized for not immediately shutting down the campus after the first shooting in West Ambler Johnston dorm. Police have ballistics evidence linking the two shootings but have not definitively identified Cho, a South Korean immigrant, as the gunman in the first attack.

Officials immediately closed the dormitory, but kept open the rest of the campus because they believed it was an isolated incident, said Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum.


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