Posted by: L | April 27, 2007

V-Tech timeline/other contradictions, media framing, families contact law firm, 5/3

Update: Explanation of why he chose the 2nd floor of Norris – the only classrooms were there…

The rest of the building consisted of labs and offices.

It still doesn’t explain why he chose the engineering building rather where he had no classes and presumably didn’t know his way around as well. Maybe the entrances were easier to chain. See this comment:

Erin Sheehan, a survivor of the shootings in the German class, said “[Cho] peeked in twice, earlier in the lesson, like he was looking for someone, somebody, before he started shooting.” It seems likely that his peeking resulted in spotting the person he was looking for (since he then burst in and started shooting). This means, probably, that another part of the story lies with one of the students in this class. Most likely this student is dead, but there’s a chance he/she is among the wounded/unharmed.

And this (not so certain about its origin):

nytimes failed to report that the mother of Cho Seung-Hui took overdose drug and his father cut his wrists, as reported on chinese tv stations last nite
Update: this report expresses initial doubts about how he was shot….and how many died in the dorm (is that because both victims, Ryan and Emily, were not at the time dead or because initially police thought only person had been shot?)
Update: This account describes how police entered through a side door, since they couldn’t shoot through the chains to the maindoor. The side door had a deadbolt, and someone had to rush and find bolt cutters (the five minute delay?).

OK, my question – how come they didn’t know about the auditorium entrance that some employees used to escape? Or about the basement entrance through which the police escorted others? Also, the construction area was left open by the gunman, it seems. The report also suggests that the police had already decided that the first shooting was an intentional distraction by Cho, who was waiting outside the dorm for Emily and didn’t follow her upstairs (?? – what does that mean?), but apparently shot her inside (on the fourth floor?)….this part is not clear to me. (more here: Jesse Paul, 20, of Warrenton said a friend who lives in the dorm told him she heard an argument, then shots, then saw a man run past along a hallway.That means, he DID go up.

Update: What happened to the second gun in this account? Cho is reported to have been holding one gun with both hands, dressed all in black (no tan vest here). The account also indicates that the auditorium was one way that people could escape. It places the gun fire in the German classroom as roughly 20 minutess after the first email at 9: 26 and close to the 911 call at 9:45 (and, of course, before the second email at 9:50). That means, the gunfire in the German classroom could not have started at 9:46 (as the 911 was called in before that) but must have started a bit earlier at 9:40 – confirmed here (the student counts about 15 shots, which is what the Glock would fire).

The gunfire probably started even earlier, as the chances are that the student was just estimating the 20 minute time frame. That means the shooting likely went on from 9:40-9:55 at least which is 15 minutes, not 9.

Update: More on the timeline. This states that firing in the German class began around 9:50, and that the doors were chained AND padlocked, but that a construction area was open. SWAT teams came in by other means than the door..

Update: use of stun grenades, more confirmation of hesitation by police, and the audibility of the gun fire.This report also shows that students in Torgerson Hall nearby could hear the gun shots. Why didnt the police and administration at Burrus (next to Norris) hear them too?

Update: Further report that the police hesitated outside and used tear gas or something similar to clear the area..

Update: This account says that Cho came back to the classroom where he was found, came right to the survivor, and then walked to the front of the room. Two shots were hears by the survivor and then silence, then the sound of the cops bursting in and saying the shooter was down. Very suggestive.

Update: This report suggests the cops came out of nowhere.. which supports the video evidence that they were hiding around the building and did not immediately rush to break in, as they now argue. There is a description of a man with a machine gun and someone being tackled by the police as well in this account.

Update: The Queen’s visit to V Tech – early May. Also the UK Home Minister visited V Tech recently. He used to be a student.

Update: OK – this new report says that police have cleared Thornhill of connection to the murder.

Highly relevant to the issue of V Tech’s responsibility is that the college defeated a recent state attempt to end its gun free zone school policy. V Tech thus has even greater responsibility and needs to show much more proof that it actually did what it took to protect its students.

V Tech had a 55 man (corrected from 28) police team – no lack of officers. Yet there does not appear to have been an armed security guard near the dorm room. And how did the police verify that the campus was gun free – were there periodic checks or metal detectors around campus?

How did Cho leave the campus and return that morning, while carrying weapons – or did he leave the weapons elsewhere?

The Official Time Line:

This NY Times article is very interesting to me on several counts. It reports the official timeline of what happened on 4/16:

Cho gets to Ambler Johnston Hall a bit before 7 am; he kills his first 2 victims with the Glock 9 mm with two rounds; his second bout of killing (30 people) at Norris Hall takes 9 minutes. Police take 3 minutes to get to the building and 5 minutes to get inside.

Student Recollections:

Now, here is an earlier NY Times article from April 22. It’s not exhaustive, but it quotes what student reported happened at Norris Hall. I am not suggesting that what they descibe happen could not have taken in place in 9 minutes, but it is certainly a tight fit. This article also suggests a longer time period and indicates that the shots were more methodical, with pauses in between and that only one gun was used to fire.

Bear in mind that witness accounts are often contradictory and mistaken and an intense situation can, in recollection, seem to have taken much longer than it actually did.

Notice that Cho is described in the student accounts as walking up and down the halls (2, 3 minutes, at least), poking his head into a few classrooms and leaving without doing anything, firing with pauses in between, methodically breaking through doors that have been barricaded (should take a minute each), shooting, leaving and returning at least two classrooms (another minute or so each), standing over shot students and firing individually at each (at least a minute?) in at least two classrooms.. Although the students are trapped inside, they are running away or jumping through windows, so they are moving targets requiring him to aim and move too.

If he fired 170 (or 255, some say) rounds in Norris Hall, as we have learned, we can infer that he fired almost 18 rounds per minute or .3 per second or a round roughly every 3 seconds (I made a mistake earlier and transposed seconds and rounds). I am not a marksman, so I don’t know if that is likely or very difficult. If you also take into account that he was also reloading (as he is described doing) and sometimes not firing, he must have been firing an even higher number of rounds per minute than that most of the time. In any case, would that kind of continuous firing be described as hammering?

I am not sure, and again I don’t doubt the descriptions, I am simply evaluating what is being said.

Here is a report describing the shooter as masked, by the way.

Media Framing:

Now going back to the first article, reporting the official time line . It contains some criticism by other police officers of the 5 minute delay and the significance of this in increasing the number of those killed.

There is also discussion in the report (for the first time in the media) of the ‘active shooter’ paradigm I talked about in my earlier posts on this blog (the post on police response). However, notice that ‘active shooter’ is referenced only in terms of the five minute delay – as though that delay were the dispositive element in the whole tragedy, instead of the previous two hour delay.

What the focus on the time of entry does, of course, is to introduce into the public debate the Immediate Action Rapid Deployment paradigm (which is a new, more aggressive style of tackling such crises that was developed in the nineties and came into prominence after Columbine) but to do that without blaming either the administration or the police for the delay.

IARD is very much a part of the increasing erasure of the boundaries between wartime military actions and domestic policing. Increasingly, domestic crises will be described and tackled in military terms, and conversely, foreign military actions will be described as policing.

Here is how the alleged 5 minute delay is referenced in the article: ”This is a seminal moment for law enforcement as far as I’m concerned because it proves that minutes are critical,” runs a quote in the article.

Now, the 2 hour delay (between the shootings) is subtly being framed too. The V-Tech review panel appointed by Governor Kaine today introduced this meme: that shutting down the campus would not have helped, because the shooter could have gone back into his dorm and shot the 900 or so people who lived there.

“On Thursday, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said that the massacre may not have been averted if the Virginia Tech campus had been locked down after the two shooting deaths at the dorm.

”Well, if the campus had been locked down — because the shooter lived on campus — I mean he could have gone into his dorm with 900 people instead of going into a classroom (and) he could have shot people there,” Kaine said in his monthly listener-question program on WRVA-AM and the Virginia News Network.”

My comment here is – surely this is a strawman? Locking down the campus was not the only option. They could also have made a PA announcement for students to lock themselves into their rooms or not enter campus. A siren could have gone off to alert people, not emails. There is also the matter of why, on a campus where the student population was disarmed by policy, there were no monitoring cameras or armed security guards near the dorms to stop the shooter in the first place. Or how Cho entered a dorm without a security card and why students were entering and leaving Ambler Johnston until 10 am (according to reports) after the shooting at 7:15. That sounds remarkably lax.

To add to this media framing of the timeline, notice this report on 4/27 in the NY Times about students standing behind the V-Tech President and administration on this matter. It contrasts strikingly with earlier reports about students vocally questioning the administration. It appears that this show of student confidence has emerged in reponse to strong alumni response.

“Johnson plans to present the university Board of Visitors on Thursday with an online petition with thousands of signatures of support for Steger and Flinchum.

Steger also received an endorsement from the governor.

”Charlie has been acting as a very, very good president,” Gov. Tim Kaine said this week. ”This kind of event could happen anywhere on any campus, and there has been an innocence taken away from the students. But the positive values, and academic tradition of this university will help the community stay strong, and keep this university attracting students.” (my emphasis).

I have addressed this kind of media framing at length in my writing. First, the media sensationalizes. This is what I call the pulp drama. They report excessively on human interest stories, personal accounts and so on.

Then, when administrative failures are being descibed, the focus shifts to broad questions of law and policy and everything is blamed on lack of proper policy or poor communication. Human error or neglience is minimized or overlooked. That tactic lets upper level officials escape scrutiny or blame.
Political Implications:

That’s exactly the MO that was followed in the media coverage of the torture debate. Questions about what actually happened were quickly framed out. The public debate became a debate about changing or adding to existing laws, and not looking at what top officials did.

In the case of V-Tech, notice how quickly the public debate moved toward advocating more federal laws, more regulation (gun control), and more militarization in the state’s response to any emergency. Of course, this fits in perfectly with the overall direction of the government’s policies.

(See James Bovard’s article on how new legislation has made the imposition of martial law much easier, from The American Conservative Magazine, posted earlier on this blog).

Difficulties with a Potential Lawsuit:

Letting the wider political debate take over also creates a problem for the victims.

Here is an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education about the possibility of a lawsuit being filed, in which lawyers suggest that the university may have shown gross negligence in this case. That report got little play from the major media, which gave much more coverage to the official response and has spent so much time on intrusive coverage of the human interest angle. And the lack of coverage actually creates a serious problem for the victim. Here’s how:

Victims have a limited time to press claims

Please note that under the doctrine of sovereign immunity which holds good in Virginia, it is quite hard to sue the state. Any plaintiff would have to establish a case of gross negligence – a higher standard than usual – and would have only 6 months to press claims. That means any stalling by the university (or its reported withholding of documents) materially helps it to avert a lawsuit by reducing the amount of time victims have to collect information and prepare a case.

It’s very likely that victims are also unaware of this fact.

From the point of view of the dead and injured, a prolonged official investigation, which the media covers uncritically is not only not helpful, but a potential difficulty as is distracts or complicates independent inquiry.

Uncritical acceptance of the administrations’ explanations end up doing further injustice to the victims of the shooting.

Wiki Time line:

  • Around 9:05 a.m. to 9:15 a.m.: Cho is seen in Norris Hall, an Engineering building. Using the chains he had purchased at Home Depot, Cho chains the building’s entry doors shut from the inside in order to stop anyone from escaping. [53][39]
  • 9:26 a.m.: E-mails go out to campus staff, faculty, and students informing them of the dormitory shooting.[54]

     


     

    A French class takes cover in Holden Hall / photo by William Chase Damiano

  • Around 9:30 am: A female student walks into Norris 211 and alerts the occupants that a shooting occurred at West Ambler Johnston [10].
  • 9:42 a.m.: Students in the engineering building, Norris Hall, make a 9-1-1 emergency call to alert police that more shots have been fired. [55] [56] [57]
  • 9:45 a.m.: Police arrived three minutes later and found that Cho had chained all three entrances shut.[58]
  • Between 9:30 and 9:50 am: Using the .22 caliber Walther P22 and 9 millimeter Glock 19 handgun with 17 magazines of ammunition, Cho shoots 60 people, killing 30 of them. [39] Cho’s rampage lasts for approximately nine minutes [11]. A student in Room 205 noticed the time remaining in class shortly before the start of the shootings [12].
  • Around 9:40 a.m.: Students in Norris 205, while attending Haiyan Cheng’s [13] issues in scientific computing class, hear Cho’s gunshots. The students, including Zach Petkewicz, barricade the door and prevent Cho’s entry [14].
  • 9:50 a.m.: After arriving at Norris Hall, police took 5 minutes to assemble the proper team, clear the area and then break through the doors. [59] They use a shotgun to break through the chained entry doors. Investigators believe that the shotgun blast alerted the gunman to the arrival of the police.[39] The police hear gunshots as they enter the building. They follow the sounds to the second floor.
  • 9:50 a.m.: A second e-mail announcing: “A gunman is loose on campus. Stay in buildings until further notice. Stay away from all windows” is sent to all Virginia Tech email addresses. Loudspeakers broadcast a similar message.[56]
  • 9:51 a.m.: As the police reached the second floor, the gunshots stopped. Cho’s shooting spree in Norris Hall lasted 9 minutes. [60] Police officers discovered that after his second round of shooting the occupants of room 211 Norris, the gunman fatally shot himself in the temple. [15] [61]

The Original Time Line:

I still have some feelings that there was an accomplice or second gun man, who did the first killing and then helped with the second. If Cho wanted to massacre people, why not at Ambler Johnston? What, if any connection, has been shown between Hilscher’s boyfriend, who also frequented the fire range, and Cho? Is the boyfriend cleared in the first shooting? The last account on this post, from the LA times, has material related to these questions. Here is an Washington Post article from the 18th that shows that the boyfriend, Karl D. Thornhill, was not completely accurate in what he told police. Thornhill told them that his guns were at his parents’ house, but they were found elsewhere. My sense is that Thornhill indeed might have had something to do with the crime. He might, for instance, have helped Cho train at that firing range, without knowing what Cho planned. But we need more information to theorize any further. OK – this new report says that police have cleared Thornhill of connection to the murder.

Two points here interest me:

In an early account of the shootings, a student (see first post on this blog, Columbine in Virginia) noted that police entered Norris Hall at 10.32 AM.

The second point is that the original time line given by Virginia Tech showed that police took only a minute to break in, just after 9:45.

Both accounts seem very different from the latest account.

For comparison, here is the first time line put out by the administration, taken from Salem News archives:

Tragedy at Virginia Tech – [Original] Timeline of Events

7:15 AM

Virginia Tech Police Department (VT PD) receives a 911 call to respond to a dormitory room at West Ambler Johnston Residence Hall.

Within minutes, Virginia Tech Police and Virginia Tech Rescue Squad respond to find two gunshot victims, a male and a female, inside a dormitory room within the Hall. The residence hall was immediately secured by VT PD and students within the hall were notified and asked to remain in their rooms for their safety. VT PD immediately secured the room for evidence collection and began questioning dorm residents and identifying potential witnesses. In the preliminary stages of the investigation, it was believed the deaths were an isolated incident, domestic in nature.

Blacksburg Police Department were also on scene assisting VT PD with establishing a safety perimeter around the residence hall and securing Washington Street.

7:30 AM Investigators were following up on leads concerning a person of interest in relation to the double homicide. Investigators from VT PD and Blacksburg PD were actively following up on various leads.

8:25 AM

Virginia Tech Leadership Team, which includes the university president, executive vice president, and provost, assembled to begin assessing the developing situation at the residence hall and determining a means of notifying students of the homicide.

9:00 AM

Leadership Team was briefed on the situation by VT PD Chief W.R. Flechum [sic – his real name is Flinchum] on the latest developments in the ongoing investigation at the residence hall.

9:26 AM

The Virginia Tech community – all faculty and students – were notified by e-mail of the homicide investigation and scene at West Ambler Johnston Residence Hall, and asked to report any suspicious activity to. The Virginia Tech Emergency/Weather Line recordings were also transmitted and a broadcast telephone message was made to campus phones. A press release was drafted and posted on the Virginia Tech Website.

9:45 AM The VT PD received a 911 call of a shooting at Norris Hall, which contains faculty offices, classrooms and laboratories. VT PD and Blacksburg PD immediately responded to Norris Hall. Notice in leadership command center via our police rep of a shooting in Norris.

Upon arrival to Norris Hall, the officers found the front doors barricaded. Within a minute the officers breached the doors, which had been chained shut from the inside.

Once inside the building, the officers heard gunshots. They followed the succession of gunshots to the second floor. Just as the officers reached the second floor, the gunshots stopped.

The officers discovered the gunman, who had taken his own life. There was never any engagement between the responding officers and the gunman.

9:55 AM

By the same means as prior notice, Virginia Tech notified campus community of the second murder scene. Other notifications followed via other means.

*****************************************************

Salem-News.com will have more on this story as soon as it becomes available.

And here is CNN with an account from students:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At about 7:15 this morning, a 911 call came to the university police department concerning an event in West Ambler Johnston Hall. There were multiple shooting victims.

O’BRIEN: Matt Lewis and Matt Green of the campus EMT service were on duty. Their unit was one of the first on the scene.

MATT LEWIS, VIRGINIA TECH CAMPUS EMT: Well, the first call came out for a patient who had fallen out of a loft. And once they got on scene, they noticed that there were two patients with gunshot wounds.

O’BRIEN (on camera): At point, can you tell us if the victim was alive?

LEWIS: Both patients were at that time.

O’BRIEN (voice-over): Police began sweeping the dormitory. The gunman was still on the loose.

WENDELL FLINCHUM, VIRGINIA TECH POLICE CHIEF: It was an isolated event to that building and the decision was made not to cancel classes at that time.

O’BRIEN: Classes had been disrupted three days earlier after a bomb threat, but this time, no false alarm. The shooting left two students dead: 19-year-old Emily Hilscher, a freshman majoring in animal and poultry sciences, and 22-year-old Ryan Clark. His friends called him Stack. He was a resident adviser and played in the marching band. As an R.A., his job was to look at students and his friends speculate he may have been caught in the crossfire.

SHADIE TANIOUS, FRIEND: As an R.A., and a good person, he apparently was going to break up an argument or something like that and wrong place, wrong time. That’s kind of hard to think about.

O’BRIEN: At first, police believe the shooting was a domestic dispute, a romance gone horribly wrong. Their chief suspect, Emily’s boyfriend, Carl Thornhill who attended college nearby and was said to own guns. Investigators related all this to university administrators. By then, morning classes were underway, and Virginia Tech president Charles Steger saw no need to cancel them.

CHARLES STEGER, PRESIDENT, VIRGINIA TECH: The situation was characterized as being confined to that dormitory room. We thought we had it under control.

O’BRIEN: Thornhill would be held all day then released. So students and faculty weren’t told about the shootings. It was business as usual. Engineering student, Ryan Brody, had to be at work at 9:00 a.m.

RYAN BRODIE, ENGINEERING STUDENT, VIRGINIA TECH: I woke up and checked my e-mails because of the bomb threats that we had Friday and the buildings were being closed. So I checked the website and checked the e-mail and there was nothing in there. So I went to work.

O’BRIEN: Leslie Mel’s morning wasn’t off to a good start.

LESLIE MEL, STUDENT, VIRGINIA TECH: That morning I didn’t hear my alarm go off so I overslept.

O’BRIEN: And Laura Massey who lives off campus was facing an unusually chilly spring day.

LAURA MASSEY, STUDENT, VIRGINIA TECH: My roommate and I drive to campus. It was cold and we didn’t want to walk in the cold, so we decided to take the bus.

CLINT GRIFFON, STUDENT, VIRGINIA TECH: From even inside your room, you could hear it. Almost like in the movies, you know, you can tell something bad is going to happen.

O’BRIEN: Reama Samah (ph) and Erin Peterson (ph) bundled up and walked to class.

(on camera): Friends say that at about ten minutes of 9:00, Erin Peterson (ph) and Reama Samaha (ph) would be making their way out of their dorm room straight through this tunnel and off to French class in Norris Hall. The two are friends. They went to high school together and lived next door to each other in the dorm. And the fastest way to class was straight across the drill field.

(voice-over): 9:26 a.m., more than two hours after the shooting, a campus-wide e-mail was finally sent out notifying students and faculty. The e-mail urged caution, told students to call police with anything suspicious. But Reama (ph) and Erin (ph) French class was already under way. Was it too little too late?

STEGER: I don’t think anyone could have predicted that another event was going to take place.

O’BRIEN: But it did. By 9:46, there’s a hail of gunfire in Norris Hall. Coming up, the killer strikes again.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

O’BRIEN (voice-over): 9:45 a.m., more gunshots are heard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many shots do you exactly recall hearing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was at least 30 to 40.

O’BRIEN: This time the shots came from Norris Hall Engineering Building.

(on camera): The very first pictures we see come from right here where people are now diving behind these pillars to stay safe. Up on the second floor you could hear the gunfire. People are scrambling inside to get out any way they can. Those who try to get down the stairs discovered chained doors.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Right after we got that e-mail, we heard five shots from campus. And we could hear the emergency speaker system.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is an emergency, this is an emergency.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So we all got down underneath the desks and moved away from the windows.

O’BRIEN: More images of the shooting captured by two Swedish exchange students who had just arrived the night before.

9:50 a.m., the university sends a second campus-wide e-mail warning of a gunman on the loose. Units from three police departments rush to Norris Hall.

NICK MALCO, WITNESSED SHOOTING: And we hear this loud sound out in the hallway. It was just bang, bang, bang, bang out in the hallway and you don’t really recognize what it is at all. It’s just kind out of place on campus.

ERIN SHEEHAN, WITNESSED SHOOTING: He just stepped in five feet from the door and started firing. He seemed very thorough about it.

MALCO: Not five, 10 seconds later, he tried to come into our room and tried to shove the door open. And at that point, we were like, OK, this is very, very serious, and he shot the door twice. We heard him reload outside and shot the door again and then just continued on.

O’BRIEN: 10:17, a third e-mail, this time ordering a campus lockdown.

BRODIE: They told us to stay inside. The gunman is on the loose on campus. He’s still at large and to stay in any buildings, or wherever you are, stay away from doors and windows, to try to keep everybody safe and to keep him from being attracted to other buildings.

REBECCA MACDANIEL, STUDENT, VIRGINIA TECH: They locked all of us in the bookstore and kept us in the center of the bookstore.

STEGER: Upon arrival to Norris, the officers found the front doors barricaded. Within a minute, the officers breached the doors which had been chained shut from the inside. Once inside the building, the officers heard gunshots. They followed the succession of gunshots to the second floor. Just as officers reached the second floor, the gunshots stopped. The officers discovered the gunman who had taken his own life.

O’BRIEN: Police discovered the gruesome crime scene, students and faculty, dead, in four classrooms and in a stairway. The wounded were carried outside to emergency medical teams.

SARAH WALKER, EMT: There were five very seriously injured people in front of me and they needed to get out and they were my priority.

O’BRIEN: One of the injured was Emily Haas. Two bullets grazed her head.

EMILY HAAS, SHOOTING VICTIM: When I got hit, I felt it, and I didn’t know if I was hurt, if I was shot, and I did try to keep really still and hoping that he would think I was already dead.

O’BRIEN: 12:22 p.m., university officials announce the campus was secured. But still the enormity of the tragedy was still not clear.

From the LA Times, an account of what happened:

April 18, 2007

As community mourns dead, details of gunman’s rampage, background emerge. A dark day: Sequence of events paints tragic picture

BLACKSBURG, Va. — It was still dark at 5:30 a.m. when Karan Grewal bumped into his roommate in the bathroom of their suite in Virginia Tech’s Harper Hall. Grewal had been up all night studying, but he knew better than to grumble to Cho Sueng-Hui.

None of the guys in the suite talked to Cho. They had tried, at first, but Cho never answered; he rarely responded even to a simple, “Hi.” His roommates figured he didn’t speak much English.

On this blustery Monday, Cho was in boxer shorts and a T-shirt, getting ready for the day. Grewal, 21, washed up and went back to his bedroom to get some rest. He fell asleep about 7 a.m.

Twelve hours later, police would come knocking.

The first shots

The 911 call came in at 7:15 a.m.: Gunshots at a college dorm.

Campus police rushed to West Ambler Johnston Hall, a century-old stone building on the east side of the expansive campus. On the fourth floor, officers found two bodies.

There was no weapon and no sign of the gunman. There was also little panic. Several of the nearly 900 students in the co-ed dorm said they slept through the gunfire. Some noticed police outside; a few heard ambulance sirens. But many went about their morning as usual, bundling in warm clothes as they headed off to class in the swirling snow.

Heather Haugh, who had been off campus for the weekend, walked up to the dorm shortly before 7:30 a.m. She was planning to meet her roommate, Emily Hilscher, so they could walk to chemistry class together. But police pulled her aside at the door.

Investigators told Haugh, 18, that her roommate had been shot. They began asking about Hilscher’s romances. Haugh told them what she knew: Her roommate had spent the weekend on another college campus with her boyfriend, Karl Thornhill.

The police asked about guns; Haugh told them Thornhill recently had taken both girls to a shooting range for fun. She told police she believed he kept the weapons at his home in Blacksburg.

Though Haugh described her roommate as having “a perfect relationship with her boyfriend,” investigators suspected the shooting was prompted by a lovers’ quarrel. They relayed their theory to university administrators at an 8:25 a.m. meeting. By then, classes were under way, and President Charles W. Steger saw no need to cancel them. “We had no reason to suspect any other incident was going to occur,” he said.

Investigators, meanwhile, had pulled Thornhill over as he was driving off campus. He raised their suspicion at once by contradicting Haugh’s account. His guns were not at his home, he said; he had taken them to his parents’ house in Boston, Va., about 370 miles away. He also denied that he and Hilscher had spent the weekend at Longwood University in Farmville, about 140 miles from Blacksburg.

Campus Police Det. Stephanie Henley requested a search warrant for a residence believed to be linked to Thornhill. She was looking, she wrote, for “firearms, ammunition, bloody clothing … ”

Authorities are as yet unwilling to clear Thornhill; he “remains a person of interest,” according to the state police superintendent, Col. Steven Flaherty.

But Flaherty also said it’s “reasonable to assume” that Cho committed the murders at Ambler Johnston Hall. Why he might have targeted that dorm, that room, is murky. There’s no evidence that he knew Hilscher. He was a 23-year-old English major, a taciturn loner; she was an upbeat 19-year-old studying animal sciences, so close to her family, she called her mom every day.

If Cho had planned a massacre, he had ample opportunity to shoot other victims; the dorm was filled with sleeping students. But only one other student, 22-year-old senior Ryan Clark, was shot in the dorm, known as AJ. Then the gunman fled.

Nearly 21/2 hours later, Cho turned up in Norris Hall, a science and engineering building a half-mile from AJ. ….

Cho bought a Glock 9 mm pistol here for $535, 30 rounds (other reports say 50?) of ammunition included…………

As required by law, he presented identification: A Virginia driver’s license, checks that matched the address on the license and a federal immigration card to prove he’s a legal U.S. resident. He passed a background check and left the store with his gun.
*********
At the end of the semester, Giovanni gave him an A- not for talent or effort, but because she feared angering him.
“I think he liked the idea that he was a scary guy,” Giovanni said…………..

…. Ian MacFarlane, now an AOL employee, wrote in a blog posted on an AOL Web site. He said he and other students “were talking to each other with serious worry about whether he could be a school shooter.”

His five roommates found him hard to read. He worked out in the gym. He downloaded music. Other than that, they could identify few of his habits, except that he sometimes just sat in his room, staring vacantly ahead.

Norris Hall rampage

The shootings inside Norris Hall unfolded in fragments of sounds.

The clank of an empty ammunition clip falling to the floor. A scream. A siren. The scrape of a desk being pushed to barricade a classroom door.

And the shots, an unrelenting staccato. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang.

It started about 9:40 a.m., about 15 minutes after campus administrators sent a brief e-mail to all students and staff titled: “Shooting on campus.” The e-mail made note of “a shooting incident” in the AJ dorm and urged everyone “to be cautious.” But it raised no specific alarm.

The students in Herr Bishop’s German class, in Room 207, didn’t feel particularly concerned when a young man poked his head into their classroom. He took a look and left.

Moments later, he was back.

He shot the professor, Christopher James Bishop, in the head. Students screamed and hid under desks; Cho kept shooting. He said nothing. (LR: early account says he said “Hello, how are you?”) He did not appear to be looking for anyone in particular. He just fired and fired again.

***************
At 9:45 a.m., police responded to a 911 call from Norris Hall. Officers found the front doors blockaded. A second e-mail went out to students and staff: “A gunman is loose on campus. Stay in buildings until further notice. Stay away from all windows.”

Police began blaring warnings over loudspeakers: (Should have been done at 7:15) This is an emergency. Take shelter. Resident advisers went door to door in the dorms, pounding on walls, yelling at students to stay in their rooms — or in some cases, to come down to a common area where they could wait out the lockdown together.

The scene outside Norris was chaotic. Within moments of arriving, heavily armed officers had broken through the chained doors (LR – New reports say they took 5 minutes) and stormed up the stairs, following the sound of gunshots. Law-enforcement personnel lined the street outside, carrying rifles and assault weapons.

They screamed at any student who wandered close: “Get back! Get back!”

But from outside, the terror was not obvious. Chris Hinkel, 18, heard the bang-bang-bang and assumed the noise had something to do with the construction work going on nearby. “Nobody,” he said, “was as worried as they should’ve been.”

Students, escorted by officers, began fleeing Norris Hall, hands in the air. An ambulance was pulled up to the sidewalk and a still body, strapped to a gurney, was loaded.

Finally secure

The scale of the tragedy would not emerge for several hours.

At 10:16 a.m., students and staff got a third e-mail telling them that classes had been canceled. “Those on campus are asked to remain where they are, lock their doors and stay away from windows.”

At 10:52, a fourth e-mail described “multiple shooting with victims in Norris Hall.” Again, everyone was asked to stay inside.

It was not until shortly after 1 p.m. that Campus Police Chief Wendell R. Flinchum made this announcement: “We believe campus is secure.” Slowly, students came out of their rooms.

Some went to Norris Hall. The sidewalk outside was stained with blood. Others headed to counseling sessions held inside the AJ dorm. ROTC cadets gathered to pray at the War Memorial Chapel, on the vast green field at the heart of campus.

At 7 p.m., law-enforcement officers rapped on the door of Harper Hall 2121. (LR: Seems very late to get to Cho)

They went into Cho’s bedroom and began packing his belongings into brown bags.

According to the search warrant, police were seeking, “tools, documents, computer hardware … weapons, ammunition, explosives … instructional manuals for criminal acts of mass destruction and acts of terror.”

The police spent five hours examining Cho’s room and interviewing roommates. When they left at midnight, they told Grewal that Cho was suspected in the mass shooting. He had been found dead in Norris Hall, apparently of a self-inflicted wound, the guns at his side, a receipt for one still in his backpack.

 

 

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