Posted by: L | April 25, 2007

V-Tech: Cho’s Guns – Doubts/Debate – updated 4/24

Update at bottom of post

This from CNN:

Flaherty, who is overseeing the investigative team looking at the shootings, said police also have been unable to answer one of the case’s most vexing questions: Why the spree began at the West Ambler Johnston dorm, and why 18-year-old freshman Emily Hilscher was the first victim.

Police have searched Hilscher’s e-mails and phone records looking for a link. While Flaherty would not discuss exactly what police found, he said neither Cho’s nor Hilscher’s records have revealed a connection.

Flaherty said there was also no link to 22-year-old senior Ryan Clark, who was also killed at the dorm. Nor do investigators know why Cho, an English major, selected Norris Hall — a building that is home primarily to engineering offices — to culminate his attack. Cho killed 30 people there before taking his own life.

Just heard the police conference this evening on Brit Hume on FOX atound 6:30PM – apparently Cho fired (more than) 170 rounds. They confirmed that his body was found in a classroom in Norris Hall.

My Comment:

Note, that at this point, Cho has also not yet been definitively linked to the first shooting (scroll down to my prior post on this), although they have stated that

i) One of the two guns was used in both shootings

ii) And that Cho’s fingerprints were found on both (the serial numbers had been filed off, although the receipt for one gun (?) was reportedly found in his back pocket….of his trousers? not sure..).

Remember that the two earlier bomb threats, that the police say they have not connected to this obviously disturbed young man (why I don’t know), were also directed against the engineering buildings. The police are saying that there is nothing in Cho’s writing/emails that specifically links him, motive-wise, to either the first shooting (there is ballistic evidence, although what I don’t know) OR the second, beyond the video confession or announcement of rage and revenge and the record of a very angry man whom many people thought was capable of harming others.

Then there is the matter of the third threatening note (8 pages long), which was found in his backpack in the hallway in Norris Hall near where the shootings took place OR in his dorm room (not clarified yet in reports), which was also directed against the engineering buildings. This note was also filled with rants against women and rich kids like the video. I have a theory about this, but I will hold off with it until I find enough to support it. Right now, it’s more in the nature of a vague suspicion.

I haven’t heard anything more about the bomb scare which led to the clearing of the engineering buildings on Wednesday, April 18. Has that third note been definitevely linked to the earlier two on April 3 and 13? Do the police now link Cho to the two earlier bomb threats because of this third note, or are they still holding off on that and why?
And was the other ( fourth?) bomb scare on Wednesday, after Cho’s death, a copy-cat? Who sent that? Have I got something wrong here?

A thought: Did he choose the engineering building because a lot more classes were held there that day?

Another thought: I still don’t know anything more about that report of arson in the Chicago Tribune which the same AP report from 4/17 that I quote here mentions. You’d think we’d have learned more by now from the university records, that is, if they are prepared to disclose them. This piece in Time which calls for Steger’s resignation, says the university is stone-walling.

OK….I understand that if the two young women didn’t press charges, the police could not give Cho a record, but what about arson? How do you commit arson and not have a record? This is a very vital isse to me, because I think some people are going to be try to deflect the debate more and more to gun control and increasing centralization.

But I see the failure as primarily (some more fine tuning needed obviously) that of the university and health care system (besides the security failure), which under current law could have protected the students. Here’s why:
1. The assessment of his mental condition is required to be by a Medical MD, according to the law, unless I misunderstood. First mistake, they had a PhD Psychologist evaluate him.

2. The evaluation was not even a day. If you look at the documents posted on Slate, they got the temporary detention order on Dec 13, 2005, they informed him of his rights on the 14th and they decided he was OK the same day. Barely a day. No other records of his confinement or evaluation or monitoring. All that goes against current law.

3. Even under current law, the university is not absolved by its own policy guidelines from protecting the community, which means they should have monitored him. They didn’t. That’s another failure to follow extant policy just there.

By taking the focus off the negligence of current laws, the debate is moved toward further centralization, as though that is the issue.

In any case, the issue of campus security will be equated with Homeland security through the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committe, which held a hearing on college campus security on 4/23. A House cmte is holding a similar hearing on 4/26.
What some are suggesting is that even the original detention order for insanity that was requested by a licensed social worker – even if reversed by an MD later on – might be enough to trigger a record in the federal database that would prevent you owning a gun. Hmmm…

I think there’s some potential for abuse just there.

And what if there was another Cho undetected, the tightening of gun laws wouldn’t help much if he decided to set fire to the campus, would it? I think not….

Update: Found this Sun (UK) piece which says that he fired

more than 175 shots in under 15 minutes; that he visited a firing range three times and practiced on a cardboard box 25 yards away. Heather Haugh (roommate of Emily Hilscher one of the two he first shot) also visited the Jefferson National Forest firing range. Emily’s boy friend – initially a suspect – was also a gun owner.

This from a blog in Australia which seems to echo the opinion of the Florida professor of criminology about handguns and how difficult it would be to kill that many people with them without a lot of skill:

“Statistically, massacres are a rarity in Australia, despite a large presence of handguns (both pistol and revolver) and the reason for this is that handguns are not accurate enough to be a chosen weapon for this type of crime. I know this first hand because I did weapons training when I was a security officer. Beyond 20 metres, handguns are more or less useless in the clutches of a madman shooting at moving targets. Accuracy with a handgun takes practice and skill.

To an extend, this is why massacres in Australia have been committed with rifles and shotguns. They have always been easier to procure and are far more accurate over distance.”

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