Not only do they not name their sources, they don’t even specifically claim to have sources for some of it. So take it with a grain of salt:
At 7.15am on Monday campus police at Virginia Tech received an emergency call from West Ambler Johnston Hall reporting that two people had been shot outside their bedrooms.
By then the killer, Cho Seung-hui, had made the two-minute walk to his own room in Harper Hall. Most of his five flatmates in suite 2121 were asleep in the three double rooms that open out on to a small communal area…
After killing Emily Hilscher and Ryan Clark in West Ambler, Cho spent the next 80 to 90 minutes putting the finishing touches to the multi-media package that would prove his shocking testament to his crimes and his morbid insanity.
Either in the communal area or in his own room, Cho quickly got to work on preparing the package he would send to NBC news. The network said he amended the 1,800-word, 23-page rambling invective written on one of his two computers at 7.24am.
He also loaded 28 video clips on to a DVD, and, it is believed, recorded two after the first murders in his bedroom or the suite’s communal area. Shot in close-up, he appears agitated and hurried. In one of the later clips he says: “This is it. This is where it ends. End of the road. What life it was. Some life.”
Shortly after 8.30am, Cho set off for the post office… At about 8.45 he arrived at Blacksburg’s post office, a 1930s red-brick building on Main Street, opposite a Starbucks and Big Al’s Grill Bar.
The post office on Main Street is the one to the east of campus; Geoff, our VTech correspondent, theorized that Cho had used the post office to the northwest so that he wouldn’t have to pass by Ambler Johnston hall on his way to Main Street. I guess you can’t expect a lunatic to look at things that reasonably. I wonder how close he came to the cops while he was heading over there.
Here’s yet another map for ease of reference. Harper Hall is #42 at the lower left; Ambler Johnson, scene of the first shooting, is directly to the right at #32; the Main Street post office, at the intersection with Roanoke Street, is off the map in the red circle; and Norris Hall is of course #132.
There’s an obvious problem with the Telegraph piece, isn’t there? They claim that Cho left the dorm room at 8:30, but as I’ve noted twice before now, Cho’s roommate, Joe Aust, says he looked in on him at 8 a.m. and found no one there. The Telegraph says it’s “not known” whether Aust did or didn’t see him that morning, so either they’re wrong or the Times is wrong. Given the specificity of the Times piece, I’ve got to believe it’s the former. Needless to say, though, if he was hanging around his dorm room after the first shooting, his sleeping roommates are unbelievably lucky to be alive.
Moving along, here’s another piece of news that’s been a point of contention ever since Bob Owens caught ABC News spreading misinformation about whether the since-lapsed assault-weapons ban prohibited high-capacity clips. WaPo reported yesterday that Cho hadn’t even used those kinds of clips, making ABC’s error that much more egregious. But now NBC says otherwise:
Virginia State Police say they’re nearly done with their on-scene investigation at Virginia Tech. But inside the classroom building, investigators say they found a surprising number of handgun magazines, or clips — 17. Some, officials say, were high-capacity magazines that hold 33 rounds. That means, investigators say, that Cho may have fired at least 200 times during his killing spree on Monday…
Investigators also say Cho practiced shooting at a firing range in Roanoke, about 40 miles from the campus, in mid-March.
I caught a segment on CNN tonight claiming that Cho rented a car from the Enterprise rental agency at the Roanoke airport sometime prior to March 30, when he was ticketed for speeding. Roanoke also happens to be where he bought his second gun, on March 13. Presumably he needed the car for all the gun-related commuting he was doing to that city. (The car was returned in April.) He also allegedly checked into the Mainstay Suites in Roanoke on or around March 29 for one night under his own name. They don’t know yet what he was doing there, but I can’t help thinking of those photos and video he took with the striped wallpaper as a backdrop. It didn’t look like a dorm room’s wall facing. I bet he shot those at the hotel.
The CNN information isn’t online yet, but this article in the Guardian mentions the cops’ interest in an unspecified hotel.
Moving along yet again, an eagle-eyed reader pointed out something to me that I missed in the WaPo article this morning: Cho was on the first floor of Norris Hall at some point.
There was more carnage in the hallway. Kevin Granata had heard the commotion in his third-floor office and ran downstairs. He was a military veteran, very protective of his students. He was gunned down trying to confront the shooter. His brother-in-law Michael Diersing, down on the first floor, heard the awful sounds and realized that the building was under attack. Diersing stepped out into the hallway with Greg Slota and noticed that the first-floor entry doors had been chained and padlocked. No way out. They shuddered to think that sometime earlier, as they were chatting or working or drinking coffee, the murderer must have walked right past their room on his way to chain the doors. Their room had a lock on it. Several students came rushing toward them, and they let them in and then locked up.
Presumably he spared them because he knew there weren’t many people down there and didn’t want to alert the classes going on upstairs to his presence with gunshots. Note, though, that this is at least the third creepy example of Cho risking apprehension simply to make sure his plan was excuted perfectly: the first was filming in the common room after the first murders with his roommates asleep a few feet away and the second was him walking past the cops near Ambler Johnston when, for all he knew, they had an APB out for an Asian male. If Diersing or Slota had noticed him padlocking the doors from the inside, one can only assume they would have confronted him and things might have played out differently.
The late buzz tonight has to do with the background check that was run on Cho when he went to buy the gun in Roanoke. As previously reported, he passed the state check because the magistrate chose to release him for outpatient treatment when he was sent to to mental hospital in 2005; had he been committed, he would have been in the system. But as I say, that’s merely. According to Newsweek, he should have failed the federal background check:
[T]he same 1968 federal gun law that bars convicted criminals from buying firearms (passed in the wake of the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy) also prohibits gun purchases by those who have a history of mental illness. Indeed, when Cho bought the guns, he had to answer the following question on Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Form 4473: “Have you ever been adjudicated mentally defective or … committed to a mental institution?” Cho answered “no.”
The magistrate ruled in 2005 that Cho presented “an imminent danger to self or others as a result of mental illness, or is so seriously mentally ill as to be substantially unable to care for self and is incapable of volunteering or unwilling to volunteer for treatment.” He should have been in the FBI’s NICS system, but apparently states don’t always provide mental-health records as fully as they might or should.
I’m sure there’ll be updates here tomorrow. As for tonight, the kids at VTech are watching “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” I hope it helps.
Update: It keeps getting worse:
Ross Alameddine sat a few feet from Mr. Cho for months in a class examining contemporary horror films and literature. Both students were required to keep what were known as “fear journals,” where they chronicled both their reaction to the material covered in class and their own fears.
Mr. Alameddine, according to classmates, made an effort to speak to Mr. Cho on several occasions, trying to draw him out of his closed world and his refusal to interact with other students.
On Monday, Mr. Cho shot and killed Mr. Alameddine.
Apparently he was quite the diligent stalker, too, having once surprised/scared the shinola out of one of his victims by telling her which sports her siblings played in school.
Update: CBS News has identified the online dealer from whom Cho bought his .22 and obtained copies of his e-mail exchanges with the owner.
Update: Interesting family, the Chos:
US university campus killer Cho Seung-hui “deserved to die”, his grandfather was reported to have said in UK papers today.
Kim Hyang-Sik, 82, told the Mirror Cho was a “trouble-causer who has destroyed his mother’s life”.
Speaking from his South Korean home, Kim said: “Son of a bitch. It serves him right he died with his victims”.
He added: “It’s better not to have such a child in the family.”
Update: The NRA’s talking to Democrats about a gun-control bill? Yup. Smart move, too. By acquiescing in stricter reporting standards for mental illness on background checks, they end up on the right side of a hot-but-easy issue while denying the more ambitious gun-grabbers in Congress a pretext to do something more drastic.
Update: Just thinking out loud about the first shootings, but it seems to me there are two possibilities. One is that Cho was fixated on Emily Hilscher and targeted her specifically on Monday morning. That’s certainly plausible given his history of stalking, although in that case it’s odd that she doesn’t appear to have been mentioned in his rantings (or else NBC probably would have said so). The other possibility is that he was looking to kill someone, anyone, on Monday morning just to get a taste of what it felt like, and Hilscher ended up in the wrong place at the wrong time. That’s also plausible when you consider that her roommate, Heather Haugh, told the LA Times that “she and Hilscher typically spent Sunday nights with their boyfriends, but met at their dorm on Monday morning to head to their 9 a.m. chemistry class.” I.e., in all likelihood, Hilscher wasn’t asleep in bed in Ambler Johnston when Cho came calling; she was outside, on her way home from her boyfriend’s room. Imagine Cho standing around outside his own dorm at 7 a.m. or so, looking around for a victim but finding the pickings slim given the hour and the fact that it was Monday. And then, suddenly, here comes pretty Emily Hilscher passing by. You can picture the creepy bastard following her or even approaching her to ask whatever bizarre question he had in mind (“Are you a hedonist?” or what have you) while she kept walking and tried to ignore him while becoming increasingly alarmed. If he followed her into the dorm and upstairs, she must have been terrified by the time she got to the fourth floor. That would explain the “argument” she and Cho allegedly had — she was probably screaming for the freak to get away and leave her alone. Ryan Clark, hearing the commotion, would have come out of his room to intervene and that would have brought about the moment of truth.
Again, just thinking out loud. But it won’t surprise me at all to find that Hilscher was purely a target of opportunity.
Update: Bob Owens catches the media peddling more gun misinformation.
Update: The Cho family responds at last. Must be tough losing a son and having the family name turn to mud in an instant.