Virginia Tech Gunman: Warning Signs

The shooter's name is Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year-old, who was a senior and an English major at the school, police said. Cho maintained a residence in Centreville, Va., but also lived in a campus dormitory, police said APTN

More than a year before the Virginia Tech massacre, Seung-Hui Cho was accused of stalking two female students and was taken to a mental health facility because of fears he was suicidal, authorities said.

The disclosure was one element in a list of warning signs that appeared well before the 23-year-old student shot 32 people to death and committed suicide.

Among other things, Cho's twisted, violence-filled writings and sullen, vacant-eyed demeanor had disturbed professors and students so much that he was removed from one English class and was repeatedly urged to get counseling.



In November and December 2005, two women complained to police that they had received calls and computer messages from Cho, but they considered the messages "annoying," not threatening, and neither pressed charges.

Neither woman was among the victims in the massacre, police said.

After the second complaint about Cho's behavior, the university obtained a temporary detention order and took Cho away because an acquaintance reported he might be suicidal, authorities said. Police did not identify the acquaintance.

On Dec. 13, 2005, a magistrate ordered Cho to undergo an evaluation at Carilion St. Albans, a private psychiatric hospital. The magistrate signed the order after an initial evaluation found probable cause that Cho was a danger to himself or others as a result of mental illness.

The next day, according to court records, doctors at Carilion conducted further examination and a special justice, Paul M. Barnett, approved outpatient treatment.

A medical examination conducted Dec. 14 reported that that Cho's "affect is flat. ... He denies suicidal ideations. He does not acknowledge symptoms of a thought disorder. His insight and judgment are normal."

The court papers indicate that Barnett checked a box that said Cho "presents an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness." Barnett did not check the box that would indicate a danger to others.

It is unclear how long Cho stayed at Carilion, though court papers indicate he was free to leave as of Dec. 14. Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker said Cho had been continually enrolled at Tech and never took a leave of absence.



Around the same time, one of Cho's professors informally shared some concerns about the young man's writings, but no official report was filed.

Award-winning poet Nikki Giovanni kicked him out of her introduction to creative writing class in late 2005.

Students in Giovanni's class had told their professor that Cho was taking photographs of their legs and knees under the desks with his cell phone. Female students refused to come to class. She said she considered him "mean" and "a bully."



Lucinda Roy, professor of English at Virginia Tech, said that she, too, relayed her concerns to campus police and various other college units after Cho displayed antisocial behavior in her class and handed in disturbing writing assignments.

But she said authorities "hit a wall" in terms of what they could do "with a student on campus unless he'd made a very overt threat to himself or others." Cho resisted her repeated suggestion that he undergo counseling, Roy said.



Cho's roommates and professors portrayed him as a creepy, solitary figure who rarely even made eye contact with his roommates, much less speak to them.

His bizarre behavior became even less predictable in the weeks before the massacre, a roommate said.


  • John Esterbrook

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