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Fifteen years ago, Wayne Lo went on a killing spree at his Massachusetts campus. Here's his take on Virginia Tech.
May 2, 2007 - Before Virginia Tech, before Columbine, there was Simon’s Rock.
Late on the evening of Dec. 14, 1992, Wayne Lo, an 18-year-old student at Simon’s Rock College of Bard in Great Barrington, Mass., approached a security-guard shack on the campus and began shooting, as he says now, “at anything that moved.” Lo fired at least nine rounds during the following 20 minutes, killing another student and a Spanish professor and wounding four others.
A gifted violinist who had moved with his family from Taiwan to Billings, Mont., at age 12, Lo had bought his weapon, an SKS carbine rifle, that very afternoon at a sporting-goods store in nearby Pittsfield, Mass. His Montana driver’s license was the only documentation the purchase required. The cab driver who took him to the store would later describe Lo to the press as “a real gentleman.” That same morning he had received a package containing 200 rounds of ammunition, purchased the previous day from a mail-order company using his mother’s credit card.
Shortly after the shooting, Lo surrendered to police. When he appeared in court the next day, he was wearing a sweatshirt emblazoned with the words SICK OF IT ALL, the name of a rock band he liked. His lawyer would later use an insanity defense, but Lo never testified and has subsequently said he doesn’t believe he was insane. On Feb. 4, 1994, Lo was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison without parole.
This week, almost 15 years since that murderous night and two weeks after an even bloodier morning at Virginia Tech, Lo met with NEWSWEEK’s Samantha Henig in a conference room at MCI-Norfolk, the Massachusetts medium-security prison. Wearing a black T shirt tucked into the elastic waistband of his gray pants, Lo looked more like a young professional on casual Friday than a campus killer. He spoke candidly about his murderous tear at Simon’s Rock and shared his insights into the Virginia Tech shooting, which he said he had been following closely so that he could be ready with his opinion “if anybody wants to listen.” Yet his tone was oddly similar to that of most people when confronted by the tragedy—bewilderment at how such a thing could happen.
NEWSWEEK: What was your reaction when you heard about the Virginia Tech shooting?
Wayne Lo: When they said it was a perpetrator who was Asian, that really shocked me. The stereotype is that Asians don’t do these things. The Secret Service came and interviewed me for a report on school shooters that they put out in 2002, and even they said Asians don’t really do this.
Did you relate to Seung-Hui Cho because you’re both Asian?
At first I thought it was just a coincidence, but as more details came out, there were just too many eerie similarities to me. He was an immigrant, like myself. The events leading up to the shooting, the warning signs he gave out really reminded me of what happened at Simon’s Rock. They said he had mental-health issues. I don’t really think I had mental-health issues, but I did give out those warning signs. He harassed women, and I also had an incident where I was accused of stalking a female classmate. He went and purchased a gun at a store 40 minutes out of town; so did I. He wrote papers that got people’s attention; I did that, too.
What was the paper that you wrote?
It was for my sophomore English class. The assignment was to come up with a 10-step program for anything, so being the smart ass that I am, I wrote a paper on how to eliminate AIDS, and at the end it was calling for the extermination of all people with AIDS—you know, tongue-in-cheek satire. But that’s not how the class interpreted it.
Do you think that Cho’s writings should have been more of a red flag than they were?
It’s ludicrous that they didn’t stop this guy with all the warning signs. I mean, come on, I did this 15 years ago. I was one of the first school shooters. The question is, how don’t we learn from it? They’ve done studies; they know the typical warning signs now. How could they not see this coming?