Seung Hui Cho, a permanent resident of the United States, a Korean national and a Virginia Tech student has been identified as the gunman in the shootings that left 33 people dead on the Virginia Tech campus Monday, ABC News has learned.
The student left a “disturbing note” before killing two people in a dorm room, returning to his own room to re-arm and entering a classroom building on the other side of campus to continue his rampage, sources said.
Cho’s identitiy has been confirmed with a positive fingerprint match on the guns used in the rampage and with immigration materials. It is believed that he was the shooter in both incidents yesterday. Sources say Cho was carrying a backpack that contained receipts for a March purchase of a Glock 9 mm pistol, sources said. Witnesses had also told authorities that the shooter was carrying a backpack. Sections of chain similar to those used to lock the main doors at Norris Hall, the site of the second shooting that left 31 dead, were found inside a Virginia Tech dormitory, sources confirmed to ABC News.
The university’s holding a press conference right now. Standby.
Update: The cops just confirmed his ID at the presser. He lived on campus at Harper Hall. Lab tests confirmed that one of the weapons was used in both shootings yesterday. WaPo had a hot tip about this early this morning, identifying the suspect as Korean, not Chinese as had previously been reported.
Update: They’re talking now about some of the heroes who helped slow Cho down during his rampage. Slublog sends along this story about Prof. Liviu Librescu, who held the classroom door shut while his students escaped through the windows. One fact it doesn’t mention: Librescu was a Holocaust survivor.
Update: Meanwhile, ABC still hasn’t retracted its alarmist post about high-capacity magazines.
Update: I still don’t understand how he managed to be so lethal while shooting randomly. 32 killed, 20+ wounded; how often does any sort of attack result in more dead than hurt? The cops did say that he lined some students up and executed them sequentially, but that’s strange too. He’s one guy, with (let’s assume) 10 guys in a line in front of him. After he shot the first two or three and the rest realized what was about to happen, wouldn’t they have rushed him?
A doctor interviewed this morning on CNN said the victims he’d treated had all been shot at least three times, so it could be that he came equipped with a huge volume of ammo and just kept spraying bullets. Although again, in that case, you’d expect more injured than killed. I wonder if we’re going to find out that he used an especially destructive form of ammo, hollow-tipped or something along those lines.
Update: Another thing. I haven’t read a single report yet of Cho saying anything during the shooting. In fact, a couple of people have noticed how calm and quiet he was. But to get people to line up, wouldn’t he have been screaming at some point (“Get in a line!” etc)? I’m assuming that no one would have lined up for him once they knew he was a killer, so the line up probably happened when he first entered the building, before anyone had reason to suspect him. But none of the students who were in the building at the time heard anything, at least from what I’ve seen, aside from gunshots.
Update: VTech’s student newspaper has an as-yet-incomple list of the dead and reports that people were shot in four different rooms in Norris Hall. The Times has an interactive graphic showing the layout of the campus and the buildings where the murders occurred.
Update: Surprise — Cho was a loner.
Update: Fox says there’s some sort of pending court proceeding against Cho that originated on April 7. They’re checking it now.
Update: Here he is.
Update: All right, here’s a map I lifted from VTech’s homepage. Cho’s dorm room, Harper Hall, is in the black circle; Ambler Johnston, where the first shootings took place, is in red; and Norris Hall is up top in white. You can see why it wouldn’t have taken him long to get back to his own room after the initial murders.
Update: The Blotter reports that Cho purchased his first gun on March 13 — presumably from the guy who posted that bulletin board message that we linked to — then apparently bided his time during the statutory 30-day waiting period until he could buy the second sometime within the last few days. A reader tipped us yesterday that there was a gun show in Roanoke County this past weekend.
Update: Drudge links a report from a local paper suggesting Cho also was responsible for at least one of the bomb threats the school received recently.
Update (Ian): Threatening note found at St. Edwards college in Texas:
Update: The Chicago Tribune‘s got a tip on Cho’s suicide note. Sounds like he was an old-fashioned wackjob.
The note included a rambling list of grievances, according to sources. Cho had shown recent signs of violent, aberrant behavior, according to an investigative source, including setting a fire in a dorm room and allegedly stalking some women.
A note believed to have been written by Cho was found in his dorm room that railed against “rich kids,” “debauchery” and “deceitful charlatans” on campus.
The English major from Centreville, Va., a rapidly growing suburb of Washington, D.C., came to the United States in 1992, an investigative source said. He was a legal permanent resident.
His family runs a dry cleaning business and he has a sister who graduated from Princeton University, according to the source.
Now the ChiTrib has updated to add: “Cho also died with the words ‘Ismail Ax’ in red ink on the inside of one of his arms.”
Update: The Daily Mail reports that the woman killed in the first shooting was Emily Hilscher, who lived on the fourth floor of Ambler Johnston dormitory next door to the RA, Ryan Clark. Clark was also killed in the first shooting. They’re speculating that Cho was either involved with her or stalking her.
Update: A shot in the dark here from reader Ray F., but worth posting since Cho was, after all, an English major and this would be a golden we-told-you-so moment if it pans out:
You probably already know this, but in James Fennimore Cooper’s story “The Prairie,” the settler Ishmael Bush, who is attempting to escape from civilization, sets out across the prairie with two key tools, a gun and an axe. Each has a symbolic meaning. The axe — which can either kill or provide shelter — stands for both creation and destruction. Given that the VT killer was an English major, might this be the likely meaning of the words on his arm? Just my two cents.
Update: ABC News has a bit more about the note, which apparently shifts from present to past tense at some point. I wonder if he wrote some or all of it after killing Hilscher and Clark. If so, then the rampage in Norris Hall wasn’t necessarily planned; he might have figured “in for a penny, in for a pound” and decided to go out in a blaze of lunatic glory. Takeaway: “You caused me to do this.”
Update: Shocka: Cho’s creative writing teacher said she could tell from his work that he was “troubled,” and referred him for counseling.
Update: Drudge links to another story about Cho’s alleged connection to Emily Hilscher with an important fact I haven’t seen before:
Witnesses to the shooting said that the gunman was involved in an argument with a girlfriend and had later stormed out of the dormitory building.
A counsellor – believed to be Mr Clark, who was also a resident adviser – was called to calm the situation at the dormitory.
The gunman returned at 7.15am and shot Ms Hilscher and Mr Clark. US media reported that Mr Clark had been shot in the neck.
I thought he arrived at the building initially with gun in hand, i.e., planning to kill her. But that’s not necessarily true now; he might have gone there to argue with her, stormed off back to his room to get the gun, and then come back to kill her and Clark. The two hours between that shooting and the Norris Hall rampage would have given him time to write the note, too. So let’s not assume just yet that this whole thing was planned days in advance.
Update: An excellent point from reader Scott B. about why the dead-to-injured ratio might be so high:
From what I understand, due to the high winds yesterday, no area hospitals (or the VA State Police) were flying helicopters. Thus, all of the wounded—even the most critical victims—had to be transported to hospitals via ambulance.
On a normal day, the most critically injured could have been transported by air to Roanoke or even UVA Hospital in Charlottesville. With the helicopters grounded, UVA was no longer an option at all and Roanoke was a 20-30min drive, which left smaller, regional hospitals—less equipped to deal with very serious injuries—to handle most of the victims.
Update: Here’s an oddity. What would an English major have against the engineering department? “An affidavit for a search warrant filed this morning in Montgomery County, Va., circuit court said police found a ‘bomb threat note . . . directed at engineering school department buildings’ near the bodies of the shooter and some victims.”
Update: The Times is reporting that reporters noticed a “single spent long-rifle shell” on the ground outside the Cho family home this morning in Centreville, Virginia. No idea what to make of that. They also solved the mystery of Cho’s mysterious court appearance: it was for a speeding ticket.
Update: One of his classmates from the VTech creative writing course describes his work:
“His writing, the plays, were really morbid and grotesque,” Derry noted. “I remember one of them very well. It was about a son who hated his stepfather. In the play the boy threw a chain saw around, and hammers at him. But the play ended with the boy violently suffocating the father with a rice krispy treat,” [Stephanie] Derry said.
“He even wrote one play about students being stalked by a teacher.” Derry said.
“I mean, his kind of writing was pretty peculiar, but when we asked him if he had any comments after we’d reviewed his work, he would just shrug and say nothing,” Derry described.
“We made jokes around the class about his work, because it was just so fictional, so surreal, we just had to laugh,” Derry said, “We had to laugh because it couldn’t ever be real or truthful, I mean who throws hammers or chainsaws around?”
“But we always joked we were just waiting for him to do something, waiting to hear about something he did,” Derry said. “But when I got the call it was Cho who had done this, I started crying, bawling.”
Update: And just like that, the Smoking Gun has a copy of Cho’s play.
Update: Standing ovation for VTech’s president at the convocation. Wow. I guess he’s keeping his job.
Update: The Toronto Star claims to have spoken to his roommate. “He was always really, really quiet and kind of weird.”
Update: More from the roommates. Super freaky:
Mr. Grewal recalled how earlier in the year someone running for a student council position visited the suite to pass out candy and ask for votes. Mr. Cho would not even make eye contact with him, turning his head away and refusing to make conversation…
“I would notice a lot of times, I would come in the room and he would kind of be sitting at his desk, just staring at nothing,” he said.
Update: A bombshell from the ChiTrib:
It was 5:30 Monday morning and Karan Grewal was finishing a break after a long night of cramming for his classes at Virginia Tech. As he left the bathroom at Harper Hall, his dormitory mate, Cho Sueng-Hui, wearing boxer shorts and a T-shirt, entered for his morning ritual of applying lotion, inserting his contact lenses and taking his medication.
“He was, like, normal,” Grewal, a 21-year-old accounting major, said today, describing the ordinary start to what turned out to be an extraordinary day…
According to school officials, Cho even had time to post a deadly warning on a school online forum.
“im going to kill people at vtech today,” they said he wrote.
I guess that solves the mystery of whether it was premeditated. More from the Tribune: “After leaving the scene of the first shooting, Cho called a threat to authorities, saying there was a bomb at Norris Hall, about half a mile away from Johnston.” There was a bomb threat called in immediately after two people had been murdered, and they still didn’t lock down the campus?
Update: An interesting theory from reader Michael B. about why Cho would have targeted the engineering department:
On a chat room of (mostly Asian) engineers that I’m on, someone posited that the killer was probably a “real major” (i.e., engineer, scientist, etc.) who played too many video games, “got horrible grades and had to transfer to english.” This hypothesis was put forth by someone who didn’t know about the killers’s anti-engineer department ramblings, so I’d say it’s a pretty decent speculation that he wanted (and failed) to be an engineering major. It would explain the note.
He apparently told his roommates he was a business major when they first moved in together.
Update: Dan Riehl passes along a fascinating but probably apocryphal blog post from someone claiming to be a friend of a friend of Emily Hilscher. Word on the street is that Hilscher and Cho had been dating and that she broke it off two weeks ago when he became too weird and domineering. This would solve the mystery of the engineering department vendetta, perhaps:
Jane isn’t totally sure Emily was actually dating anyone else at this point. But days ago she did have a study group with several young men in it that could possibly have been what set Cho Seung-hui off. There were also several times that young men had walked with Emily on campus between classes, nothing more then casual conversation, but maybe in the eyes of Cho, it looked more intimate. What is clear to Jane is that when Cho Seung-hui entered the Engineering building, he was looking for a specific person or perhaps several people. A friend of hers recalls seeing Cho’s face peering through the door several times during her class, before the shooting started.
So why don’t I buy it? Because Cho’s roommates say they never knew him to have a girlfriend, and based on everything I’ve read about him, he was too introverted and antisocial to even speak to a woman let alone take her out. I’m flagging this anyway because it’s a juicy lead, but it’s almost got to be shinola.
Update: They’re holding a 5:30 press conference and the cop who introduced the governor dropped a mini-bombshell — there’s no evidence of any suicide note left by Cho. That simply can’t be right: WaPo has law enforcement sources telling them two notes were found, the bomb threat near Cho’s body and the “manifesto” found in his dorm room.
Update: Mary K e-mails to say that someone who appears to have been friends with Emily Hilscher (judging from the candid photos they have access to) has posted a message on Facebook denying that Hilscher was involved with Cho in any way. I’d bet anything she’s right. Follow the link and scroll down for the screencap.
Update: Robert from Alphabet City e-mails to say that the message board posting in which Cho allegedly warned that he was going to kill people at VTech seems to have originated at a site called Planet Blacksburg, but that the page in question is now down. Was it a hoax? The Farkleberries site has details. There’s no evidence of a post on the “4chan” site where, according to Planet Blacksburg, Cho left his message, because the archives only go back 10 pages. But Robert e-mails with this screenshot of the Planet Blacksburg. I’m honestly not sure what to think, but the timing does roughly coincide with the time Cho’s roommate met him in the bathroom on Monday morning. That was around 5:30; the posting at 4chan was 4:49.