The last thread was unwieldy with updates so direct your comments here henceforth. The media’s been speculating for the past two days about a relationship of some sort between Cho and the first victim, Emily Hilscher, but someone already sort of debunked it on Facebook this afternoon (scroll down after you click) and now Hilscher’s best friend, who’d be in a position to know, says it’s nonsense.
They were roommates and best friends and they were planning to meet in their dorm room Monday morning to go to chemistry class together. Emily Hilscher got there first and was killed. Heather Haugh arrived minutes later and became a key figure in the chaos unfolding on the Virginia Tech campus…
In an interview with The Times, Haugh said she knew of no connection between the killer and her roommate, or any reason why Cho Seung-Hui would have launched his deadly rampage on the fourth floor of West Ambler Johnston Hall.
“I’ve never seen him,” she said. “I don’t know his name. Emily didn’t know him, as far as I know.”
Haugh said that speculation that the killing spree was triggered by a domestic dispute likely stemmed from the fact that Hilscher’s boyfriend [Karl Thornhill] was an avid gun user. She said that when she was first questioned by police, “they asked if her boyfriend had a gun or something.”
I guess that explains who the other “person of interest” was. It’s a completely understandable assumption: a woman had been shot to death and her love interest was known to have a gun fetish, so they busied themselves with him while Cho wandered off. What an awful coincidence.
Plenty more updates to come, I’m sure, but in the meantime chew on this:
Haugh said 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. Hilscher typically arrived shortly after 7 a.m., while Haugh tended to make it back an hour or so later…
“Maybe he followed her up,” Haugh said, noting that Hilscher would have been arriving at the dorm around the time that Cho is believed to have entered the building.
Was Hilscher a target of opportunity, whom this lunatic seized on when he was out for a stroll looking for someone to kill? Or was he stalking her from afar? It’s got to be the latter, right?
Update: Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, whose pet issue has been gun control since her husband was shot to death in the LIRR massacre, is striking while the iron is hot with the Anti-Large Capacity Ammunition Feeding Device Act of 2007. Minor footnote: not only is there no evidence that Cho used a large-capacity magazine, there’s actually good reason to believe he didn’t.
Oh, and it turns out he did not use
Update: CNN’s airing an amazing interview on Paula Zahn’s show right now with Cho’s two roommates. The details aren’t online yet, but here’s the gist: he stalked three girls on the floor they lived on, including via instant messages he signed with a question mark; he once told his roommates that when he looked in one girl’s eyes he saw “promiscuity,” shortly after which they sent him to a counseling center on campus for a few nights; then, at some point after he was released, they went out drinking and he opened up to them, telling them he had an imaginary supermodel girlfriend … who called him “Spanky,” and whom he called “Jelly.” Oh, and he also liked to listen to “Shine” by Collective Soul over and over and over.
But other than that, he was completely normal.
Update: Caution urged on gun-control legislation by … Harry Reid?
Update: Another timeline mystery. We were told earlier today that the first shootings happened at around 7:15, whereupon Cho returned to his room to prepare for the assault on Norris Hall. And yet:
Mr. Cho’s room in Harper Hall is located one building away from West Ambler Johnston Hall, the dormitory building where the first shooting occurred about 7:15 a.m. At about 8 a.m., Mr. Aust returned to the room from a class. His roommate was gone, but Mr. Aust noticed something strange on his desk, a battery-powered screwdriver. It was a small thing, but it was one more mystery among many for Mr. Cho’s roommate.
Maybe Cho went to his permanent home, in Centreville, instead? Update: A quick check of Yahoo Maps reveals that Centreville’s on the other side of the state. So much for that theory.
Update: MSNBC has information on 27 of the 32 victims.
Update: Still a reach, but this Freeper’s theory of what “Ismail Ax/Ak” might mean is interesting.
Update: Lots of little scoops in tomorrow’s page one WaPo profile of Cho. How on earth was this time bomb allowed to go on ticking for so long?
Cho (whose full name is pronounced joh sung-wee) appears first to have alarmed the noted Virginia Tech poet Nikki Giovanni in a creative writing class in fall 2005, Giovanni said.
Cho took pictures of fellow students during class and wrote about death, she said in an interview. “Kids write about murder and suicide all the time. But there was something that made all of us pay attention closely. None of us were comfortable with that,” she said.
The students once recited their poems in class. “It was like, ‘What are you trying to say here?’ It was more sinister,” she said.
Days later, seven of Giovanni’s 70 or so students showed up for a class. She asked them why the others didn’t show up and was told that they were afraid of Cho.
“Once I realized my class was scared, I knew I had to do something,” she said.
She approached Cho and told him that he needed to change the type of poems he was writing or drop her class. Giovanni said Cho declined to leave and said, “You can’t make me.”
Meanwhile, in another English class:
“He would keep his headphones on a lot,” she said. “I remember one instance where the teacher had addressed a question to him and he really just stared off into space. He didn’t even recall acknowledging that she was talking to him. We were like, ‘What are you doing?’ The teacher said, ‘Will you please see me after class?’ and he still didn’t even acknowledge her. It was an awkward silence, and then she went back to lecturing.”
His poetry tutor was so frightened of him, she had her assistant eavesdrop on the lessons so that she could call security in case the tutor started to feel threatened and uttered a code word the two of them had agreed upon beforehand.
WaPo says two notes were found in Cho’s room but neither was a suicide note, strictly speaking; they were “manifestos” about the people he hated and who had wronged him, etc. The Post also provides a date on the purchase of the .22: February 9, more than a month before he bought the Glock. Cops had suspected he’d bought the .22 this past weekend, but now it looks like he was planning something for much longer. Oh, and as Bob Owens suspected, it turns out he didn’t use high-capacity (i.e., 30+ round) magazines. Cops say it was 15 for the Glock and 10 for the Walther.
But the most provocative tidbit? WaPo spells the writing on his arm as “Ismale Ax,” not “Ismail Ax.” I think we might have been on a wild goose chase with the other spelling.
Update: Most media outlets are still spelling it “Ismail Ax.”
Update: Here’s an article about what the roommates said on CNN, including the imaginary girlfriend named “Jelly.”
Update: An eyewitness describes the scene in one of the classrooms.