Police Describe Scene of 'Tremendous Chaos and Panic'
July 7, 2008 - 8:23 PM
(1st Add: Includes details concerning the shooter's possible motive.)
(CNSNews.com) - Virginia Tech announced that it is canceling all classes for the remainder of the week to give students "the time they need to grieve and seek assistance, as needed."
At a Tuesday morning news conference, University President Charles Steger also announced that Norris Hall -- where 30 students and the gunman died -- will remain closed for remainder of semester. Alternative classroom locations are being arranged, he said.
Virginia Tech will hold a convocation at 2 p.m. Tuesday. President and Mrs. Bush, Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine and other dignitaries will join the community in its "collective sorrow," Steger said. They will offer condolences and "words of hope" as the university begins the process of moving forward, Steger said.
Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum identified the gunman as 23-year-old Cho Seung-hui of South Korea, a resident alien who was enrolled at Virginia Tech as an English major.
Cho was in his senior year and came from Centreville, a town in northern Virginia. He was living on campus, in Harper Hall, police said.
Flinchum said Cho used two handguns - one, a 9 millimeter and the other a 22-caliber pistol. The same weapons were used in both the dormitory and classroom attacks.
Although there is no official word on motive, Cho is described as a loner who demonstrated deranged behavior, including setting a fire in a dorm room and allegedly stalking women.
Cho reportedly left a "disturbing" note in his dorm room explaining his actions, expressing anger at "rich kids," "deceitful charlatans" and "debauchery," adding "You caused me to do this."
The English major's creative writing was so disturbing that he was reportedly referred to the school's counseling service.
"There was some concern about him," the Associated Press quoted the chairwoman of the school's English department, Professor Carolyn Rude, as saying. Rude spoke with the department's director of creative writing, who had the shooter in one of her classes.
"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. But we're all alert to not ignore things like this," said Rude.
A bomb threat note was also reportedly found near Cho's body and the bodies of some victims, "directed at engineering school department buildings."
Positive IDs needed
The names of those who died in the gunfire will be released once all of them have been positively identified and their next of kin notified, Flinchum said.
Dr. Marcella Fierro, the chief medical examiner for Virginia, said the process may take a "several days." She said her staff will work as "quickly, and as carefully and as efficiently as we can." Partial lists of victims are now circulating on the Internet, and the victims include students, faculty and graduate students.
'Chaos and panic
Col. Steve Flaherty, the superintendent of the Virginia State Police, said the victims were found in at least four classrooms and a stairwell at Norris Hall. The gunman, who killed himself, was found among some of the victims in a classroom.
Flaherty said the evidence indicates a scene of tremendous chaos and panic" on the second floor of Norris Hall. He said dozens and dozens of investigators and special agents are trying to process the scattered crime scene.
"We know that there were a number of heroic events that took place, students and faculty alike, within minutes of this tragedy unfolding," Flaherty said, but he did not elaborate.
Police said they are "exploring whether or not there was someone that may or may not have helped Cho at any point during his planning or during his execution of this event."
They do not believe he had an accomplice, however.
(A young man detained by police on Monday was said to be an acquaintance of the first female victim killed in her dormitory. "As officers were interviewing him, the shootings at Norris Hall were reported.")
Police said they have no information connecting recent bomb threats with Monday's shootings.
John Marshall, the Virginia Secretary of Public Safety, made a point of praising police and university officials for their actions.
"I think it's important to note that yesterday morning, President Steger and his staff and Chief Flinchum and law enforcement made the right decisions based on the best information that they had available at the time."
Marshall said he wants to let Steger know "that you're not alone."
Some have criticized university police and administrators for the two-hour delay in attempting to notifying most students about the first shooting in a dormitory.
On Tuesday morning, Steger said police believed that the first shooting, which happened around 7:15 a.m. in a dormitory room, was a murder-suicide involving a male and a female student.
But no weapon was found at the scene.
Steger said with so many people on campus or arriving on campus, he and other administrators were trying, after the first shooting, to "manage" the information process.
"If you don't do it right, and you report misinformation, you have chaos," Steger told Fox News.
Subscribe to the free CNSNews.com daily E-Brief.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.