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Categories: School Shootings

The Virginia Tech massacre was a school shooting that took place on Monday, April 16, 2007 on the campus of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia, United States. In two separate attacks, approximately two hours apart, the perpetrator, Seung-Hui Cho, killed 32 people and wounded many others[1] before committing suicide. The massacre is the deadliest peacetime shooting incident by a single gunman in United States history, on or off a school campus.[2] Cho, a senior English major at Virginia Tech, had previously been diagnosed with a severe anxiety disorder.

During much of his middle school and high school years, he received therapy and special education support. After graduating from high school, Cho enrolled at Virginia Tech. Due to federal privacy laws, Virginia Tech was not informed of Cho’s previous diagnosis or the accommodations he had been granted at school. In 2005, Cho was accused of stalking two female students. After an investigation, a Virginia special justice declared Cho mentally ill and ordered him to attend treatment.

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[3] Lucinda Roy, a professor and former chairwoman of the English department, had also asked Cho to seek counseling.[citation needed] The attacks received international media coverage and drew widespread criticism of U.S. laws and culture.[4] It sparked intense debate about gun violence, gun laws, gaps in the U.S. system for treating mental health issues, the perpetrator’s state of mind, the responsibility of college administrations,[5] privacy laws, journalism ethics, and other issues.
Television news organizations that aired portions of the killer’s multimedia manifesto were criticized by victims’ families, Virginia law enforcement officials, and the American Psychiatric Association.

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[6][7] The massacre prompted the state of Virginia to close legal loopholes that had previously allowed Cho, an individual adjudicated as mentally unsound, to purchase handguns without detection by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). It also led to passage of the first major federal gun control measure in more than 13 years. The law strengthening the NICS was signed by President George W. Bush on January 5, 2008.[8] The Virginia Tech Review Panel, a state-appointed body assigned to review the incident, criticized Virginia Tech administrators for failing to take action that might have reduced the number of casualties. The panel’s report also reviewed gun laws and pointed out gaps in mental health care as well as privacy laws that left Cho’s deteriorating condition in college untreated.[1] Contents [hide] * 1 Attacks * 1.1 West Ambler Johnston shootings * 1.2 Norris Hall shootings * 2 Perpetrator * 3 Responses to the incidents * 3.1 Emergency services response * 3.2 University response * 3.3 Campus response * 3.4 Government response * 3.5 South Korean response * 3.6 Other responses * 3.7 Continuing response * 4 Incident within gun politics debate * 4.1 Virginia context * 4.2 Campus firearms ban * 4.3 Impact on state and local law * 4.4 Political response * 5 Legal aftermath * 6 References * 7 External links| [edit]


Aerial photo showing location of Norris and West Ambler Johnston Halls Main article: Virginia Tech massacre timeline
Cho used two firearms during the attacks: a .22-caliber Walther P22 semi-automatic handgun and a 9 mm semi-automatic Glock 19 handgun.[9] The shootings occurred in separate incidents, with the first at West Ambler Johnston Hall and the second at Norris Hall. [edit]

West Ambler Johnston shootings
Cho was seen near the entrance to West Ambler Johnston Hall, a co-ed residence hall that houses 894 students, at about 6:45 a.m. EDT.[1][9] The hall was normally only accessible to its residents via magnetic key card before 10 a.m. Cho’s student mailbox was in the lobby of the building, so he had a pass card access after 7:30 a.m., but it is unclear how he gained earlier entrance to the building.[1] Cho shot his first victims around 7:15 a.m. in West Ambler Johnston Hall. At about that time, Cho entered the room that freshman Emily J. Hilscher shared with another student. Hilscher, a 19-year-old from Woodville, Rappahannock County, Virginia, was killed. After hearing the gunshots, a male resident assistant, Ryan C. Clark, attempted to aid Hilscher. Clark, a 22-year-old-senior from Martinez, Columbia County, Georgia, was fatally shot.[10][11] Hilscher survived for another three hours, but no Virginia Tech official, police, or hospital representative attempted to contact her family until after her death.[12] Cho left the scene and returned to his dormitory room. While police and emergency medical services units were responding to the shootings in the dorm next door, Cho changed out of his bloodstained clothes, logged on to his computer to delete his e-mail, and then removed the hard drive. About an hour after the attack, Cho was believed to be seen near the campus duck pond. Although authorities suspected Cho threw his hard drive and cell phone into the water, a search was unsuccessful.[13][14] Almost two hours after the first killings, Cho appeared at a nearby post office and mailed a package of writings and video recordings to NBC News; the package was postmarked 9:01 a.m.[15] He then walked to Norris Hall. In a backpack, he carried several chains, locks, a hammer, a knife, two guns, nineteen 10- and 15-round magazines, and almost 400 rounds of ammunition.[1] [edit]

Norris Hall shootings

Elementary French class students take cover in Holden Hall room 212. About two hours after the initial shootings, Cho entered Norris Hall, which houses the Engineering Science and Mechanics program among others, and chained the three main entrance doors shut. He placed a note on at least one of the chained doors, claiming that attempts to open the door would cause a bomb to explode. Shortly before the shooting began, a faculty member found the note
and took it to the building’s third floor to notify the school’s administration. At about the same time, Cho had begun shooting students and faculty on the second floor; the bomb threat was never called in.[1][16] Within one or two minutes of the first shots, the first 9-1-1 was received.[17] According to several students, before the shooting began Cho looked into several classrooms. Erin Sheehan, an eyewitness and survivor who had been in room 207, told reporters that the shooter “peeked in twice” earlier in the lesson and that “it was strange that someone at this point in the semester would be lost, looking for a class”.[18] Cho’s first attack after entering Norris occurred in an advanced hydrology engineering class taught by Professor G. V. Loganathan in room 206. Cho first shot and killed the professor, then continued shooting, killing nine of the 13 students in the room and injuring two others.[1] Next, Cho went across the hall to room 207, in which instructor Christopher James Bishop was teaching German. Cho killed Bishop and four students; six students were wounded.[1] Cho then moved on to Norris 211 and 204.[17] In both of these classrooms, Cho was initially prevented from entering the classroom by barricades erected by instructors and students. In room 204, Professor Liviu Librescu, a Holocaust survivor, forcibly prevented Cho from entering the room. Librescu was able to hold the door closed until most of his students escaped through the windows, but he died after being shot multiple times through the door. One student in his classroom was Cho reloaded and revisited several of the classrooms.[17] After Cho’s first visit to room 207, several students had barricaded the door and had begun tending the wounded. When Cho returned minutes later, Katelyn Carney and Derek O’Dell were injured while holding the door closed.[22][23][24] Cho also returned to room 206. According to a student eyewitness, the movements of a wounded Waleed Shaalan distracted Cho from a nearby student after the shooter had returned to the room. Shaalan was shot a second time and died.[25] Also in room 206, Partahi Mamora Halomoan Lumbantoruan may have protected fellow student Guillermo Colman by diving on top of him.[26] Colman’s various accounts make it unclear whether this act was intentional or the involuntary result of being shot. Multiple gunshots killed Lumbantoruan, but Colman was protected by Lumbantoruan’s body.[27][28] Students, including Zach Petkewicz, barricaded the door of room 205 with a large table after substitute professor Haiyan Cheng and a
student saw Cho heading toward them. Cho shot several times through the door but failed to force his way in. No one in that classroom was wounded or killed.[29][30][31] Hearing the commotion on the floor below, Professor Kevin Granata brought 20 students from a nearby classroom into an office, where the door could be locked, on the third floor of Norris Hall. He then went downstairs to investigate and was fatally shot by Cho. None of the students locked in Granata’s office were injured.[32] Approximately 10–12 minutes after the attack began, Cho shot himself in the head.[33] During this second assault, he had fired at least 174 rounds,[17] killing 30 people and wounding 17 more.[1][33] During the investigation, State Police Superintendent William Flaherty told a state panel that police found 203 live rounds in Norris Hall. “He was well prepared to continue…,” Flaherty testified.[34] During the two attacks, Cho killed 5 faculty members and 27 students before committing suicide.[35] The Virginia Tech review panel reported that Cho’s gunshots wounded 17 other people; 6 more were injured when they jumped from second-story windows to escape.[1] Sydney J. Vail, the director of the trauma center at Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital, said that Cho’s choice of 9 mm hollow point ammunition increased the severity of the injuries.[36] [edit]

Main article: Seung-Hui Cho
The shooter was identified as 23-year-old Seung-Hui Cho, a South Korean citizen with U.S. permanent resident status. An undergraduate at Virginia Tech, Cho lived in Harper Hall, a dormitory west of West Ambler Johnston Hall. The Virginia Tech review panel’s August 2007 report devoted more than 127 pages to Cho’s troubled history.[1] At three years of age, Cho was described as shy, frail, and wary of physical contact.[37] While early media reports carried speculation by South Korean relatives that Cho had autism,[38] the review panel report dismissed this diagnosis.[39] In eighth grade, Cho was diagnosed with severe depression as well as selective mutism, a social anxiety disorder that inhibited him from speaking.[1][40][41] Cho’s family sought therapy for him, and he received help periodically throughout middle school and high school.[1] Early reports also indicated Cho was bullied for speech difficulties in middle school, but the Virginia Tech
review panel was unable to confirm this.[42] High school officials worked with his parents and mental health counselors to support Cho throughout his sophomore and junior years. Cho eventually chose to discontinue therapy. When he applied and was admitted to Virginia Tech, school officials did not report his speech and anxiety-related problems or special education status because of federal privacy laws that prohibit such disclosure unless a student requests special accommodation.[41]

One of the photographs of Seung-Hui Cho that he sent to NBC News on the day of the massacre The Virginia Tech review panel detailed numerous incidents of aberrant behavior beginning in Cho’s junior year of college that should have served as warning signals of his deteriorating mental condition. Several former professors of Cho reported that his writing as well as his classroom behavior was disturbing, and he was encouraged to seek counseling.[43][44] He was also investigated by the university for stalking and harassing two female students.[45] In 2005, Cho had been declared mentally ill by a Virginia special justice and ordered to seek outpatient treatment.[46] The Virginia Tech review panel report faulted university officials for failing to share information that would have shed light on the seriousness of Cho’s problems, citing misinterpretations of federal privacy laws.[47][48] The report also pointed to failures by Virginia Tech’s counseling center, flaws in Virginia’s mental health laws, and inadequate state mental health services, but concluded that “Cho himself was the biggest impediment to stabilizing his mental health” in college.[1] Cho’s underlying psychological diagnosis at the time of the shootings remains a matter of speculation.[49] However, the lack of speech that resulted in the diagnosis of selective mutism could have been an early indication that Cho was developing schizophrenia. One symptom of schizophrenia is what is known as “poverty of speech,” referring to a marked deficit in the amount of talking the person engages in. In addition, Cho’s manifesto provides evidence of both paranoid and grandiose delusions. Such symptoms are also associated with schizophrenia, and it has been argued that Cho was schizophrenic. [50] Early reports suggested that the killings resulted from a romantic dispute between Cho and Emily Hilscher, one of his first two victims. However, Hilscher’s friends said she had no prior relationship with
Cho and there is no evidence that he ever met or talked with her before the murders.[51] In the ensuing investigation, police found a suicide note in Cho’s dorm room that included comments about “rich kids”, “debauchery”, and “deceitful charlatans”. On April 18, 2007, NBC News received a package from Cho time-stamped between the first and second shooting episodes. It contained a 1,800-word manifesto, photos, and 27 digitally recorded videos, in which Cho likened himself to Jesus Christ and expressed his hatred of the wealthy.[15] He stated, among other things, “You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option…You just loved to crucify me. You loved inducing cancer in my head, terror in my heart and ripping my soul all this time”.[52] Media organizations, including Newsweek, MSNBC, Reuters and the Associated Press, even raised questions and speculated the similarity between a stance in one of Cho’s videos, which showed him holding and raising a hammer, and a pose from promotional posters for the South Korean movie Oldboy, a film based on the Japanese manga of the same name about a businessman who was kidnapped away from his wife and infant daughter by an unknown assailant and imprisoned in a small room for 15 years.[53][54][55] Investigators found no evidence that Cho had ever watched Oldboy, and the professor who made the initial connection to Oldboy had since discounted his theory that Cho was influenced by the movie.[56] The Virginia Tech review panel concluded that because of Cho’s inability to handle stress and the “frightening prospect” of being “turned out into the world of work, finances, responsibilities, and a family,” Cho chose to engage in a fantasy where “he would be remembered as the savior of the oppressed, the downtrodden, the poor, and the rejected.”[1] The panel went further, stating that, “His thought processes were so distorted that he began arguing to himself that his evil plan was actually doing good. His destructive fantasy was now becoming an obsession.”[1] [edit]

Responses to the incidents
See also: Media coverage of the Virginia Tech massacre
Emergency services response
Police took nearly six minutes to enter the barricaded building. When they could not break the chains, an officer shot out a deadbolt lock leading into
a laboratory; they then moved to a nearby stairwell.[9] As police reached the second floor, they heard Cho fire his final shot;[9][35] Cho’s body was discovered in Jocelyne Couture-Nowak’s classroom, room 211.[33] In the aftermath, high winds related to the April 2007 Nor’easter prevented emergency medical services from using helicopters for evacuation of the injured.[57] Victims injured in the shooting were treated at Montgomery Regional Hospital in Blacksburg, Carilion New River Valley Medical Center in Radford, Carilion Roanoke Memorial Hospital in Roanoke, Holston Valley Hospital in Kingsport, TN and Lewis-Gale Medical Center in Salem.[58] [edit]

University response

Before their 2007 football opener, the Hokies release 32 balloons as a part of a ceremony commemorating the victims. The university first informed students via e-mail at 9:26 a.m., more than two hours after the first shooting, which was thought at the time to be isolated and domestic in nature.[59] Virginia Tech canceled classes for the rest of the week, closed Norris Hall for the remainder of the semester, and held an assembly and candlelight vigil on April 17.[60] The university offered counseling for students and faculty,[61] and the American Red Cross dispatched several dozen crisis counselors to Blacksburg to help students.[62] University officials also allowed students, if they chose, to abbreviate their semester coursework and still receive a grade.[63] Within a day after the shootings, Virginia Tech, whose students call themselves The Hokies, formed the Hokie Spirit Memorial Fund (HSMF) to help remember and honor the victims. The fund is used to cover expenses including, but not limited to: assistance to victims and their families, grief counseling, memorials, communications expenses, and comfort expenses.[64] Early in June, 2007, the Virginia Tech Foundation announced that US$3.2 million was moved from the HSMF into 32 separate named endowment funds, each created in honor of a victim lost in the shooting. This transfer brought each fund to the level of full endowment, allowing them to operate in perpetuity. The naming and determination of how each fund will be directed is being developed with the victims’ families. By early June, donations to the HSMF had reached approximately $7 million.[65] In July 2007, Kenneth R. Feinberg, who served
as Special Master of the federal September 11th Victim Compensation Fund of 2001, was named to administer the fund’s distributions.[66] In October 2007, the families and surviving victims received payments ranging from $11,500 to $208,000 from the fund.[67] Also early in June 2007, the university announced it would begin reoccupying Norris Hall within a matter of weeks. The building is used for offices and laboratories for the Engineering Science and Mechanics and Civil and Environmental Engineering departments, its primary occupants before the shootings. The building is to be completely renovated over time, and it will no longer contain classrooms.[68] After the release of the Virginia Tech review panel report, some parents of those killed called for Virginia’s governor to relieve the university president and campus police chief of their positions. However, Governor Tim Kaine rejected the notion, saying that the school officials had “suffered enough”.[69]

Virginia Tech students mourn the victims at a candlelight vigil.

Permanent memorial on Virginia Tech’s drillfield
Tech students of South Korean descent initially feared they would be targeted for retribution.[71] While no official claims of harassment were made, anecdotal evidence suggests that some Korean students were affected.[72] The shootings occurred as prospective students were deciding whether to accept offers of admission from colleges and universities. Despite this timing, Virginia Tech exceeded its recruiting goal of 5,000 students for the class of 2011.[73] [edit]

The incident also caused Virginia Commonwealth elected officials to re-examine gaps between federal and state gun purchase laws. Within two weeks, Governor Kaine had issued an executive order designed to close those gaps (see Gun politics debate, below). Prompted by the incident, the federal government passed the most significant gun control law in over a decade.[78] The bill, H.R. 2640, mandates improvements in state reporting to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in order to halt gun purchases by criminals, those declared mentally ill, and other people prohibited from possessing firearms and authorizes up to $1.3 billion in
federal grants for such improvements.[79] Both the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the National Rifle Association supported the legislation.[80] The measure passed the United States House of Representatives on a voice vote on June 13, 2007. The Senate passed the measure on December 19, 2007. President Bush signed the measure on January 5, 2008.[79] On March 24, 2008, the U.S. Department of Education announced proposed changes in the regulations governing education records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA). Certain of the changes address issues raised by the Virginia Tech incident and are intended to clarify for schools the appropriate balance to strike between concerns of individual privacy and public safety.[81] [edit]

Continuing response
A Northern Virginia chapter, founded in November 2008, of the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization took on the name Liviu Librescu AZA, in honor of the Holocaust survivor who used his body to barricade Cho from entering his room. On September 4, 2009, the Marching Virginians took a 140 mile side-trip on their way to the season opening football game against the University of Alabama at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. The 350 member band, 20 cheerleaders and members of the Corps of Cadets color guard performed at Lakeside High School, alma mater of Ryan Clark, along with the Lakeside Marching Band and visiting Evans High’s band. The event was organized by Central Savannah River Area Virginia Tech alumni chapter to honor Clark’s memory and as a fundraiser for a scholarship in his name.[100] Beginning with the first anniversary of the attack and continuing since, the Queens’ Guard of The College of William and Mary, another public university in Virginia

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