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Panel receives details, roadblock

May 21st, 2007
Robert Bowman, CT Editor in Chief
Seung-Hui Cho did not fire half of his ammunition before taking his own life on April 16, Virginia State Police Superintendent, Steven Flaherty, said to a state panel Monday.

Police have found 174 used cartridge casings from both a 9 mm handgun and a .22 caliber handgun. Police also recovered 203 live rounds of ammunition belonging to Cho.

“(He) was still well-prepared to continue on,” Flaherty said.

Flaherty continued, telling the panel that Cho could have killed many others if police had not interfered.

Governor Tim Kaine created the Independent Virginia Tech Incident Review Panel to investigate the events of April 16 and the response from the university. The eight-person panel is led by Gerald Massengill and listened to testimony from administrators, police, rescue workers and representatives from area hospitals.

Cho began his shootings in Norris just before 9:42 a.m., when police received word that shots were fired. Police were on the scene at 9:45 a.m., and reached the second floor landing at 9:51 a.m., just as Cho took his own life.

Police were delayed in entering the buildings because the doors were padlocked shut. After firing at the locks with a shotgun, police finally gained access through a maintenance door after firing shots at the lock, Flaherty said.

Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendall Flinchum also spoke, focusing on the initial call at West Ambler-Johnston Hall.

At 7:20 a.m., police received a call from someone in WAJ who thought she heard a girl who had possibly fallen from her loft. An officer was at the scene at 7:24 a.m., immediately requesting backup. Police secured the crime scene and began interviewing residents. Police secured the residence hall as backup from Blacksburg and Virginia State Police arrived on the scene.

Earlier in the Monday’s testimony, the panel met a roadblock during the presentation from Kay Heidbreder, the university counsel.
Heidbreder spoke to the panel regarding student privacy laws.

“State law also restricts the university’s ability to disseminate student records,” she said.

Former U.S. Homeland Security Chief Tom Ridge said the panel must gain access to Cho’s mental health records. After explaining the privacy laws, Heidbreder said the university is revealing as much as it can to the panel.

Massengill said that the panel would be willing to meet in a closed session if that would gain access to the records. According to the Associated Press, Flaherty said Cho’s family has been cooperative, and they would have access to those records.

The panel also listened to a presentation given by David Ford, the vice provost for
academic affairs.

Frost explained the actions of the university’s Emergency Policy Group, which met after the first shooting in West Ambler-Johnston Hall.

The Emergency Policy Group convened at 8:30 a.m. in Burruss, and discussed what the university should do to secure the campus.

After sending an e-mail to students at 9:30 a.m., stating that there was a shooting in WAJ, the group broadcast a message over the telephone system on campus. After the Norris shootings began, they issued another e-mail stating, “A gunman is loose on campus. Stay in buildings until further notice. Stay away from all windows.”

The group decided to wait until after the class change — from 9:55 a.m. until 10:10 a.m. — to lock the campus down.

At 10:15 a.m., the group transmitted another message, saying that classes were canceled and students, faculty and staff should stay where they are inside buildings.

When asked why the community wasn’t given more information, Steger said that the university was cautious with the amount of information released.

He mentioned Aug. 22, 2006, a day in which escaped convict William Morva allegedly killed a security guard and a sheriff’s deputy. After releasing information, a student mistakenly identified Morva in Squires Student Center, sending hundreds of people running out of the building.

Steger also mentioned that the university “didn’t want thousands of people walking across the Drillfield” when they were unsure about a gunman on campus.

On April 16, many other incidents were reported, adding to the amount of precautionary measures taken by the university officials and
police.

At 10:57 a.m., police received reports of shots fired at tennis courts near Cassell Coliseum, Flaherty said. Additionally, there was a report of a possible gunshot heard near the Duck Pond. Both incidents were determined to be
unfounded.

Before the panel convened in the open session, the group toured both Norris Hall and WAJ.

After leaving Norris, Massengill said, “I don’t think there are words to describe the things we’ve seen and heard this
morning.”

The panel will continue their investigation of the gunman, the response and the details of the events. The next meeting will be June 11 in Northern Virginia.

4.5 / 5 (29 Votes)


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