Governor Troubled That Virginia Tech Gunman’s Paper Wasn’t Shared

RICHMOND, Va.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine said that he is troubled that Virginia Tech student Seung-Hui Cho’s violent class essays, including one with a narrative similar to the massacre he carried out, were not widely shared with law enforcement and university officials.

Kaine said the issue is “a significant feature” in the report released Thursday by the panel he appointed to review the April 16 shootings.

“I think there’s a lot of instances where information was out there or different people had information where it needed to be put together,” Kaine said.

Kaine said it was hard to understand why more was not done about a student who once showed a fascination with the 1999 Columbine High School shooting spree and considered the two students who committed it martyrs.

“Look, I’m troubled that a student who had talked about Columbine at an earlier point in his life, that that information was unknown to anybody on the Tech campus,” Kaine told a group of reporters.

Kaine said he read about the writings in an earlier draft of the report.

Some of the families of those killed and injured on April 16 have demanded frank answers to questions about failures that allowed Cho to commit the worst mass shooting on an American college campus, despite behavior that alarmed students, faculty and police.

Suzanne Grimes, whose son Kevin Sterne survived despite being shot in the leg, is looking for lots of answers: Why didn’t Virginia Tech cancel classes after the first two shootings? Why weren’t the students warned earlier about those shootings? And why did administrators assume the first two killings were the result of a domestic dispute?

“I know that some parents of the deceased are focusing on the mental health aspect of how Cho through all his life slipped through the cracks and I understand that,” said Grimes, of Eighty Four, Pa. “My focus is why they didn’t cancel the classes that day.”

Grimes’ 22-year-old son was shot in Norris Hall, where 30 of the 32 people slain by Cho were killed. Grimes has returned to Virginia Tech to earn a master’s degree in electrical engineering, but a bullet remains in his body and he still receives physical therapy.

“I think overall if the panel report does contain some accountability in it, it will offer some closure to the families,” she said.

Virginia Tech turned over a compilation of Cho’s violent writings to Virginia State Police soon after the shootings, according to Corinne Geller, a state police spokeswoman. Plays and other student writings were so bloody that they horrified some teachers and fellow students. They included a 2006 fictional account of a campus shooting that previewed his deadly attack on 32 people before he killed himself, according to a Washington Post story.

But the state police did not turn Cho’s violent screed over to the eight-member review panel, Geller said. It was part of a criminal investigation and the agency was forbidden under the state Freedom of Information Act from giving the material to the panel, she said.

By law, Geller said, the evidence that police have obtained can only be given to other agencies with law enforcement authority.

“They’re not a law enforcement body,” Geller said of the panel.

– Associated Press

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