Posted by: L | April 19, 2007

Virginia Tech Killing: Profile of Cho Seung-Hui – Details of of What We Know

Here is a list (with photos) from the Washington Post of the 32 victims:

There were also 17 others injured.

Here is some video footage shot by Martin Arvebro and Carl Nordin, two Swedish students who were visiting the campus:

The Virginia Tech Killer, Cho Seung-Hui – What We Know So Far

Born: January 18, 1984 in Seoul, South Korea

Physical Appearance: Described as skinny and with a short, military-style hair cut. Height – 5-8 or 5-9. according to Karan Grewal, a suite-mate at Virginia Tech, 6 ft. according to some TV news reports.

Family: Father – Cho Seong-tae, 61. Owner of a dry-cleaning business. They lived in a 2 room apartment in S. Korea where they had a book store, which didn’t well. They’d emigrated to find a better life. Well regarded by neighbors, who say he helped clean the snow off their cars. I wonder how at least some members of the family could not have known what was going on with their son. What is their responsibility in all this? I think the schools and universities have a primary culpability as they were in loco parentis, but the family bears its own share of responsibility as well. Were there efforts to treat him, or did family members simply not know?

Just heard a report on Cavuto on FOX at 4:44 that the family has made a statement that they could never have envisioned Cho committing such violence. New reports of statements from the family (grandfather and uncle, among others) that Cho had suffered from autism since childhood and did not communicate well. The mother had never said anything about it to the family but spoke of working very hard and not having much time to communicate with her son.

A pastor at a Korean church in Centerville, Virginia, once advised Cho’s mother to take him to a doctor to check for autism. The mother disagreed; instead she prayed in church for her son to crawl out of his shell.

Status: Emigrated to Detroit, MI, USA in 1992. Permanent Resident, Green Card renewed on October 27, 2003.
Siblings: One sister, Sun Cho, graduated from Princeton, 2004. Now employed as a contractor for the State Department.

High School: Westfield High, Chantilly, VA (graduated 2003), a large school which sent dozens of students to Virginia Tech. 2 of Cho’s victims were from Westfield.

Residence: Truitt Farm Drive, Sully Station II, Centreville, in affluent Fairfax County, Northern Virginia. At Virginia Tech, his dorm room was 2121 Harper Hall, which he shared with roommate, Joseph Aust, a 19 year old engineering student, and also with other suite mates, like Karan Grewal, 21. There were 6 to each suite.

Hobbies: Cho is said to have spent a lot of his free time playing basketball. He watched wrestling on Friday nights, according to Grewal, who also said he played game-shows. But Grewal noted that most of the time, he wrote in English on his computer. Otherwise, he was largely taciturn. Cho is rumored to have played the video game Counter-Strike frequently, but Grewal claimed he did not know about this. (I have linked the reference to a Washington Post article which mentions Cho playing the terrorist-counterterrorist video game, but I am not sure at this point whether this is rumor or fact, despite numerous blog references). Counter-Strike was co-designed by a Virginia Tech student, Jess Cliffe, who graduated in 2003. Here is the para in the article, which seems to have been removed since:

“Several Korean youths who knew Cho Seung Hui from his high school days said he was a fan of violent video games, particularly Counterstrike, a hugely popular online game, in which players join terrorism or counterterrorism groups and try to shoot each other using all types of guns.”

Here is a link to an article that references research that suggests a link between violent video games and violence.

Here, on the other hand, is a link to those who argue that there is no such connection between violent video games and actual violence.

I have my own thoughts on this, but felt that in fairness to both sides in the debate I should post both arguments.

This is supposedly the South Korean movie that might have incited Cho. But a film maker disputes this.

Taciturnity: Cho would not respond if someone greeted him. Neighbors described him and his family as quiet.Grewal only knew Cho’s name from the dorm list; he said; Cho never told him. He claimed that Cho had started going to the gym recently. Some classmates of Cho say that they hadn’t heard his voice in three years. He was said to constantly whisper. His roommates reported that he acted distant and was very private, eating by himself night after night.

Speech Impediment: Some reports indicate that Cho had (or at one time had had) a bad speech impediment which made it difficult for him to speak and that he may have suffered humiliation on account of it. I have posted on this separately.

Here is a report that Cho suffered from autism.

His family describes him as taciturn from childhood onward, not communicating even with his parents.

Routines: Went to bed early, about 9 PM. Rose early and on the week of the killings rose before dawn. Watched wrestling on TV. Suite-mates say he obsessively downloaded music like Zeppelin and Nirvana on his laptop from the Internet. One of his favorites was the song “Shine,” by Collective Soul, which he played over and over

ODDITY: After the 7: 15 killings, the police burst into the dorm room and handcuffed Grewal (according to Grewal’s comments on TV on April 18).

Religion: Apparently Protestant Christian. References at the end of a lengthy letter (8 pages in some reports, 25 pages in others) found in Cho’s dorm room indicate a disappointment with Christianity and an interest in Buddhism (not sure about this). His writing includes diatribes against Catholicism and Catholic priests, specifically.

ODDITY: The name, Ismail Ax, was marked in red ink on his arm and was the name on the return address on the packet sent to NBC. Appears to be a reference to Judeo-Christian/ Muslim patriarch, Ishmael, who is a son of Abraham and described as breaking idols

ODDITY: Between the 7:15 shooting of two students (the RA, Ryan Clark and 18 yr old freshman, Emily Hilscher, with whom Cho was first rumored to have been obsessed but not it’s said there was no connection; police are checking her email for evidence presently) at Ambler Johnston Hall and the massacre at Norris Hall at around 9: 30, Cho was thought to have either returned to his room,and got more ammunition and the video packet OR just walked directly one mile to the post office and used Express mail to send the package of multiple photos, video and an 1,800-word manifesto-like diatribe addressed to NBC.

The package was time-stamped 9:01 at the VA Post office where it was received, and it reached on the morning April 18, apparently because it had been addressed to Rockefeller Ave. instead of Rockefeller Plaza. The FBI was contacted immediately after it was opened. The video statement inside was laced with profanity, rambled on and repeated, “This did not have to happen.” The packet had the wrong address and ZIP code on it. The photo of Cho inside is said to look like the iconic figure in the movie, The Matrix, with fingers bared through gloves, a vest and ammo jacket. The material was entitled ‘The Killer Speaks’. Cho makes remarks like, “Things like ‘this didn’t have to happen,” “You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today,” “But you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off.”

QuickTime video files show Cho talking directly to the camera. He does not name anyone specifically, but he mentions “sin” and “spilling” his blood and talks at length about his hatred of the wealthy. Rails against hedonism and dwells on revenge he seeks. Identifies with the crucified Christ.

The production of the videos is uneven, with Cho’s voice so soft that at times it is hard to understand him. But they show a lot of effort, because he not only “took the time to record the videos, but he also broke them down into snippets” that were embedded paragraph by paragraph into the main document, says NBC head, Capus. He appears to have taken them himself using a tripod. He is reported to have rented a hotel room outside the campus to take some of the photos.

He looks like a normal college student in only the first two photos. In the rest, he shows a stern face; in 11, he aims handguns at the camera that are “consistent with what we’ve heard about the guns in this incident,” according to Capus.

Other photographs show Cho holding a knife, and some show hollow-point bullets lined up on a table.

23-page written statement, 28 video clips and 43 photos (earlier report said 29). The video is supposed to have been taped partly during one night at a room in the Hampton Inn in Christiansburg on April 8.

Legal infractions: Cho had 1 (or 2?) speeding violations given by campus police. One was given on April 7 for driving at 44 mph in a 25-mph zone on campus. His court date was set for May 23. Cho had not been tied to the two campus bomb threats on April 3 and 13, but a note detailing a third bomb threat was found near the bodies in Norris Hall. On Wednesday morning, campus police evacuated Burrus Hall, another school building, based, apparently, on a third bomb warning.

Academics: Senior English major. Author of two very graphically violent plays, Richard McBeef and Mr. Brownstone.

Behavior in Class:

In an ‘Introduction to British literature’ class in the fall of 2005, 30 or so English students went around and introduced themselves. When it was Cho’s turn, he didn’t speak but left a question mark where his name should have been written.

Not sure if this is the class of Professor Edward Falco who complained to other faculty members that he was extremely disturbed by Cho’s writing, which other students of his refused to critique because it was so grotesque.

Here is a student (from that same classs, I believe, although I am not certain): “Before Cho got to class that day, we students were talking to each other with serious worry about whether he could be a school shooter. I was even thinking of scenarios of what I would do in case he did come in with a gun, I was that freaked out about him. When the students gave reviews of his play in class, we were very careful with our words in case he decided to snap. Even the professor didn’t pressure him to give closing comments.
Lisa Norris, an English instructor, also complained about Cho repeatedly to the associate dean at the time, who said nothing could be done because (despite all the compaints) there were no records. (Why not??? Major problem for university here. How could they have NOT kept records of complaints, even if there was no actual assault? What about the arson?).
He was referred to one- on- one tutoring by the former chairman of Virginia Tech’s English Department (presently the co-director of the creative writing program), Lucinda Roy, in falll 2005, after she took him out of his creative writing class in October with noted poet, Nikki Giovanni. There were repeated complaints about his behavior to the administration by Dr. Roy, who said Cho was also referred to counseling. Also in the fall of 2005, Dr. Roy shared her concerns with Virginia Tech Police about Cho and his writing assignments. “The threats seemed to be underneath the surface,” she said. “They were not explicit, and that was the difficulty the police had.”

She has since added: “I don’t want to be accusatory or blaming other people,” Roy said. “I do just want to say, though, it’s such a shame if people don’t listen very carefully and if the law constricts them so that they can’t do what is best for the student.”

That sounds like an honest admission that the university and law enforcement failed to so right by what looks now like the one person who made persistent efforts to do something about Cho.

Roy said she “was told [by counselors] that you can’t force anybody to go over … so their hands were tied, too,” since he had not made an overt threat to anyone. She said Cho was “arrogant” “obnoxious” insecure.” During the sessions, she said, he wore sunglasses and a baseball cap pulled low on his forehead. “He seemed to be crying behind his sunglasses,” she told reporters. She also said she had been so worried about tutoring Cho that she developed a plan with her assistant — if she mentioned the name of a dead professor, the assistant would know to call campus security. Roy told ABC News that Cho seemed “extraordinarily lonely — the loneliest person I have ever met in my life.”Roy also said she did not know when, or what the outcome of his counseling was.

Nikki Giovanni, the creative writing professor, told a cable news channel Wednesday that her students were so unnerved by Cho’s behavior that she had security check on her room and eventually had him taken out of her class. Some students had stopped coming to class, saying Cho was taking photos of their legs and knees from under with his cell phone, she said. Giovanni told the Washington Post that after one instance when Cho recited his poetry in class, only seven out of 70 students showed up for the next meeting because they felt intimidated.

English department chair, Carolyn Rude refused to release any of his writings or his grades, citing privacy laws.

Stalking: Nov. 27, 2005, Cho contacted a female student through phone calls and in person. The student notified the Virginia Tech Police Department but declined to press charges. Officers spoke with Cho concerning the incident, however, and the investigating officer referred Cho to the university disciplinary system, the Office of Judicial Affairs.

The case apparently never reached a hearing. Edward Spencer, a school vice president, said that it’s not uncommon for a complaint never to reach a full hearing. (Why? Isn’t that a failure?)

On Dec. 12, 2005, Cho instant messaged a second female student, who made a complaint to Virginia Tech Police. Later that day, police received a call from an acquaintance of Cho’s who was concerned that Cho might have been suicidal. Officers again met with Cho and talked with him at length. In both instances there was never any direct threat made.

Neither of the female students who complained about Cho were among the shooting victims, and the police said they did not know if they were in the vicinity of the shootings.
Arson: Cho had reportedly set a fire on campus. I’d like to find out more, as this is said to be a classic behavioral red flag among killers.

Suicide threats: Need to find out more about this. This report came in later on Dec 12 after the second stalking complaint.

Psychological Evaluation: Officers asked Cho to speak to a counselor, which he did voluntarily. Based on interaction with a state-certified counselor, police obtained a temporary detention order from a local Virginia magistrate, Special Justice Paul M. Barnett certifying the finding and checking the box indicating that Cho was “mentally ill” and “presenting an imminent danger to self or others.”

This finding would under federal law have prevented him from purchasing a gun, but it never found its way into the federal data base. I am not clear how the subsequent assessment by the Radford center displaces this early detention.

The magistrate directed the order to any authorized officer of the Virginia Tech police department.
Asked about the court document, the associate vice president for university relations, Larry Hincker said: “That is total news to me.”

He was and sent to a mental health facility 15 miles outside campus, Carilion St. Albans Behavioral Health Center (Psychiatric Hospital in this report) in Radford. There, Psychologist Dr. Roy Crouse found Cho’s “affect flat and his mood depressed (I got this wrong first, assuming that Crouse was the counselor who sent him to the magistrate, this article places him at the Radford center . He was reportedly treated with antidepressants, although it’s not clear whether it was under supervision or not. He was not committed but treated as an outpatient.
Some effects of antidepressants are noted in this Mother Jones piece, which discusses tactics employed by Pfizer to squash the Zoloft defense, used by defendants who had committed violent acts while using antidepressant. Note that Eric Harris (one of the Columbine killers) was on Luvox.

General Demeanor: Sullen, taciturn, negative, isolated. Suite mates said Cho was habitually “blank, flat and withdrawn. Never had any expression.”

Behavior prior to killing: Nothing seemed out of the ordinary except that he had started getting up really early in the morning. On Saturday night the previous week, he went to the gym. He is reported to have spent a week training as a marksman before the killing.

Dr Bernadine Healey stated on Chris Matthews on April 18 that his behavior was that of a psychotic and not merely of a depressed individual. He presented the psychological profile of violent behavior and of the criminally insane.

Neo-conservative columnist, Charles Krauthammer, on April 18 claimed that Ismail Ax draws inspiration from Jihadi suicide bombers. Note – Krauthammer is a strong supporter of the War on Terror. If there was such an influence, right now it seems to be more in the nature of a vague modeling on what is “in the air” rather than specific imitation.

The return address on the packet was A. Ismail. Krauthammer, a former psychiatrist, said that Cho was not a schizophrenic but showed the ability to preplan.

However, another expert contradicted this assessment and called him a paranoid schizophrenic. Unclear how accurate these appraisals were and what they mean.

Other experts have pointed out that the best predictor of violent behavior is not taciturnity or depression but other violent acts.

ODDITY: Police at the time told Roy they couldn’t intervene because no specific threats had been made.

Firearm ownership/skill: Owned multiple guns, including but not limited to 2 semi-automatic handguns.

Along with a $10 box of 50 bullets, a Glock 19 9 mm was purchased for $571 on March 16 ( I saw March 5 somewhere else, March 13 here and the sum of $535 here) from John Markell, owner of Roanoke Firearms, a gun shop on Cove Road in Roanoke, 30 miles from VTech’s Blacksburg campus. Paid for with Cho’s personal credit card.

A Walther P22 was picked up on Feb. 9 from Joe Dowdy at JND Pawnbrokers on Main Street in Blacksburg near the Virginia Tech campus but paid for on a website in Greenbay, Wisconsin for $300 (?) after the mandatory 1 month wait entailed by Virginia law (the purchase through eBay has been denied. An internet company called TGSCOM admits to his having bought it from them. He is said to have practiced at a Roanoke firing range.

Not sure if I have the details if these purchases right. Watch for corrections.

It was absolutely illegal to have a gun on the campus of Virginia Tech. Will post more on this aspect.

ODDITY: Cho went to the trouble of filing off the serial number that is stamped into the weapon in three places: on the slide, on the barrel and on the frame, but meanwhile, the gun receipt from Roanoke Firearms was found in his pocket.

ODDITY: Execution style killing (he chained the doors to Norris Hall where bodies, including his, were found in four classrooms and a hallway. The high kill rate (32 out of 66 people shot) suggests training or expertise. He had purchased large quantity of ammunition, enough for a couple of hundred rounds on his killing spree. By the end of this second attack, 30 student and faculty victims lay dead The exact number of bullets is estimated at “between 175 and 225.To my mind, the expertise Cho showed hasn’t been properly explained and is what is driving a lot of the jihadi rumors. One explanation is that he rehearsed what he did using videos. I am not a marksman myself, so I don’t know how plausible that argument is. Nor do I know whether Counterstrike – the videogame with which some reports say he was obsessed (I can’t find credible confirmation of this), has any such training on it. More on this. I’d like to know more about his friends or mentors in school. New information that he practiced at least for a week before the shooting.
ODDITY: The Austrian-made Glock is popular among competition shooters and a slightly larger version of it is the preferred weapon of U.S. police and sheriff’s departments.

The 50 9-mm practice rounds are known as full metal jacket rounds because they don’t expand on contact like hollow-point rounds. These are sold for target shooting.

The Glock 19 is sold with two magazines, each capable of holding 15 rounds, double-stacked to make a compact clip not much bigger than a harmonica.

ID used for gun purchase: a Virginia driver’s license, checks imprinted with the same address and a U.S. immigration document proving that he was a permanent resident of the U.S.

Fingerprints at the scene were linked to his immigration documents.

Taken from Cho’s room:

The search warrant filed late Tuesday in Montgomery County circuit court said that the items taken from his room included a “folding knife and combination pad lock,” a Compaq computer, various documents and writings from Cho’s desktop computer and two notebooks from a shelf.

ODDITY: South Korea was the scene of one of the world’s deadliest shooting sprees, when police officer Woo Beom-gon went from house to house on an eight-hour overnight rampage in 1982 in the southeastern village of Euiryeong, killing 55 people and wounding 35 others.

ODDITY: The shooting was the second in the past year that forced officials to lock down the campus. In August of 2006, an escaped jail inmate shot and killed a deputy sheriff and an unarmed security guard at a nearby hospital before the police caught him in the woods near the university. The capture ended a manhunt that led to the cancellation of the first day of classes at Virginia Tech and shut down most businesses and municipal buildings in Blacksburg. The accused gunman, William Morva, is facing capital murder charges. (N. Y. Times – “Virginia Tech Shooting Leaves 33 Dead,” April 16, 2007).

Question: If they could lock down the campus for that, why not for this? Was that because in the Morva incident, the victims were police and security? I hate to ask that question, but I feel compelled to. I do understand that killings of police tend to regarded as more heinous for a variety of reasons, some of which might be defensible, but it goes to show that Quis custodiet ipsos custodes (who will guard the guardians) is always a relevant question.

Question: How was it that Cho’s mental impairment did not show up in the background check when he purchased his weapon. “A judge’s ruling on Cho Seung-Hui’s mental health should have barred him from purchasing the handguns he used in the Virginia Tech massacre, according to federal regulations. But it was unclear Thursday whether anybody had an obligation to inform federal authorities about Cho’s mental status because of loopholes in the law that governs background checks.

Some key figures (will add to this):

Cho’s Creative Writing Teacher – Nickki Giovanni

Dept. of English chairman in 2005 – Lucinda Roy

Current Dept. of English chairman – Carolyn Rude

Virginia Police Chief – Wendell Flinchum
Superintendent of the Virginia State Police – Col. Steven Flaherty

Christopher Flynn, head of the university’s counseling center. “We have a duty to warn.”

Governor Timothy Kaine of Virginia

Independent review panel (appointed by the governor) Headed by Retired Virginia State Police Superintendent Col. Gerald Massengill

Includes former Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge

Gordon Davies, Director for the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia for 20 years.
Helpful articles:

(Will add to this)

On the weapons purchase: “Where Cho Bought His Deadly Weapon,” Elaine Shannon, Time, Apr. 18, 2007.

On Cho’s behavior and plays: “Virginia shooter left ‘grotesque’ writings,” Tim Reid, The Australian, April 18, 2007.

On Cho’s counseling history: College gunman disturbed teachers, classmates. President comforts Virginia Tech after student kills 32 and himself
MSNBC and NBC, April 17, 2007.

Question Mark’ Killer Quietly Seethed With Rage, FOX, Wednesday, April 18, 2007



  1. Could the massacre that took place at Virgina Tech Monday morning be the result of a life-long speech impediment — and the ridicule of classmates?

    Read the linked blog for evidence and my hypothesis! BTW, I would post it here, but the info is too long for a comment.

  2. What doesn’t fit is all this is the role of his family. His father owned a dry cleaner’s but lived in a well-to -do neighbourhood. His sister went to Prindeton. He was in a private university. Either the father came to the US with money or had more than one laundry or he was extremely hard working and acomplished the American dream – set his family up really well and provided good education for his children.( Perhaps they all had scholarships but this would imply that they were extraordinarily bright and motivated children and from his descriptioin this was not the case with him at least.)Surely a person like his father would have taken a more active role in his son’s development, especially when he found out he needed psychiatric care. There is no mention of his family in any of the videos either. Does anyone know more about the family??

  3. Jenny, the reports I have seen indicate that the family was poor in Seoul and came here to make good, which they seem to have done. They were well regarded by neighbors.
    Cho himself was seen as bright by teachers and fellow students, although he was extremely taciturn and sullen. It’s not clear what role the family played, or didn’t play.
    But I think, when there are actual violations of the law, like stalking and arson, in a person’s past and this does not show up on the record, we have to ask questions about how the laws already in place work – or don’t work – before we automatically request more laws.


  4. Charlie J –

    Thanks very much. I have posted the article on the blog.

  5. Just a note to everyone writing in. I would prefer you posted comments directly on the blog since I don’t have time to answer all my mail and hate not responding to anyone who takes the time to comment.

    Also – yes, I apologize if the word “bastard” was seen as offensive. It wasn’t intended as such and I changed it. Besides, it is incorrect, since I am told that Hagar was Abraham’s lawful second wife. I will follow up on that. But I do apologize – I tend to like unsanitized language, which sometimes creates problems. Not offense intended.

  6. The Virginia Tech shooter had created a set of “special circumstances” for exposure from Subliminal Distraction.

    SD was discovered in the 1960’s when it caused mental breaks for office workers. The cubicle was designed to deal with it.

    The shooting happened because VTech failed to provide Cubicle Level Protection for student study areas and computer workstations.

    Failure to warn students of the problem allowed Cho to create the circumstances to cause a mental break.

    Interviews of roommates on TV programs said that he attempted to use a laptop in the common room while other walked around him. He had increased that behavior in the month before the shooting.

    This problem is from the field of Design and is unknown in any area of mental health services.

    Psychologists are aware these mental breaks happen in hospital intensive care units, ICU Psychosis; when too-many Qi Gong or Kundalini Yoga exercise sessions are done; and when some subjects participate in the Large Group Awareness Training Seminar, LGATS, from Landmark Education, The Forum. They do not know what causes these mental events. They are unaware of the 1960’s accidental discovery.

    There was a shooting involved with Landmark exposure, Jason Weed, 2001.

    The Redlake school shooter, Jeff Weise, left an on-line journal entry that mentioned what he had done to create exposure from SD.

    These shootings, suicides, and disappearances will continue until schools and students are aware of the problem and take simple precautions to prevent the mental breaks Subliminal Distraction exposure causes.

    http://VisionAndPsychosis.Net is a psychology project about Subliminal Distraction.

  7. Cho is a fucking hero. We need more men following in his footsteps. These fucking cunts are always complaining about equality with men, but no one ever mentions sexual equality in that women can get sex whenever they want and men have to go for years without sex, particularly if they are shy or awkward. This shit has to change! Cho was a poor sexually frustrated kid who tried as best as he knew how to get laid, but women would have nothing to do with him. If you dig deep enough through his history, you will find that right before the incident, he was denied sex by an escort. The problem is all these fucking feminists taking over now. All the women want to sleep with the top 5% of the upper echelon of men, leaving the rest alone without sex. Women dont understand that for men sex is a life need third to food and water. Being there myself, I know what lack of sex does to one’s mental state. Of course, you never hear about such things in our feminized society. I just wish Cho had taken out his anger in a sorority house or a victoria secret or something like that. Maybe then america would have been awakened to a much deeper issue in our society. Everyone talks about equality in our society, but no one ever talks about equality in being able to get sex. Well, it will happen again and with the sexual starvation of men in our society I am surprised it does not happen more often.

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