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Va. Tech Killer Picked On, Classmates Say

Long before he snapped, Virginia Tech gunman Cho Seung-Hui was picked on, pushed around and laughed at over his shyness and the strange way he talked when he was a schoolboy in the Washington suburbs, former classmates say.

Chris Davids, a Virginia Tech senior who graduated from Westfield High School in Chantilly, with Cho in 2003, recalled that Cho almost never opened his mouth and would ignore attempts to strike up a conversation.

Once, in English class, the teacher had the students read aloud, and when it was Cho's turn, he just looked down in silence, Davids recalled. Finally, after the teacher threatened him with an F for participation, Cho started to read in a strange, deep voice that sounded "like he had something in his mouth," Davids said.

"As soon as he started reading, the whole class started laughing and pointing and saying, 'Go back to China,'" Davids said.

Cho was born in South Korea.

The high school classmates' accounts add to the psychological portrait that is beginning to take shape, and could shed light on Cho's state of mind in the video rant he mailed to NBC in the middle of his rampage Monday at Virginia Tech. He shot 32 people to death and committed suicide in the deadliest one-man shooting rampage in modern U.S. history.

"What he has shown in this video is he's a psychopath," criminal profiler Pat Brown told CBS' The Early Show. "He wasn't crazy, because he knew exactly what he was doing," Brown said.

However, police said Cho's video and writings revealed no new information for their investigation.

"The package simply confirmed what we already knew," Col. Steve Flaherty, Virginia State Police superintendent, said Wednesday.

Investigators have criticized the media for broadcasting images that they say glorified Cho and inflicted new pain on those already shattered by his rampage, reports CBS News correspondent Bob Orr.

"We are disappointed in the editorial decision to broadcast these disturbing images," said Steve Flaherty of the Virginia State Police.

Many on Virginia Tech's campus agree, Orr reports, saying they've now been victimized twice.

"He put that video out there so everyone could see it, which means we're doing his wishes which I don't agree with at all," junior Mark Twigger said.

In the often-incoherent video, the 23-year-old Cho portrays himself as persecuted and rants about rich kids.

Click here to watch Cho Seung-Hui's chilling video.

"Your Mercedes wasn't enough, you brats," says Cho, who came to the U.S. in 1992 and whose parents work at a dry cleaners in suburban Washington. "Your golden necklaces weren't enough, you snobs. Your trust funds wasn't enough. Your vodka and cognac wasn't enough. All your debaucheries weren't enough. Those weren't enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs. You had everything."

Among the victims of the massacre were two other Westfield High graduates: Reema Samaha and Erin Peterson. Both young women graduated from the high school last year. Police said it is not clear whether Cho singled them out.

Stephanie Roberts, 22, a fellow member of Cho's graduating class at Westfield High, said she never witnessed anyone picking on Cho in high school.

"I just remember he was a shy kid who didn't really want to talk to anybody," she said. "I guess a lot of people felt like maybe there was a language barrier."

But she said friends of hers who went to middle school with Cho told her they recalled him getting picked on there.

"There were just some people who were really mean to him and they would push him down and laugh at him," Roberts said Wednesday. "He didn't speak English really well, and they would really make fun of him."

Virginia Tech student Alison Heck said a suitemate of hers on campus — Christina Lilick — found a mysterious question mark scrawled on the dry erase board on her door. Lilick went to the same high school as Cho, according to Lilick's Facebook page. Cho once scrawled a question mark on the sign-in sheet on the first day of a literature class, and other students came to know him as "the question mark kid."

"I don't know if she knew that it was him for sure," Heck said. "I do remember that that fall that she was being stalked and she had mentioned the question mark. And there was a question mark on her door."

Heck added: "She just let us know about it just in case there was a strange person walking around our suite."

Lilick could not immediately be located for comment, via e-mail or telephone.

On Wednesday, NBC received a package containing a rambling and often incoherent 23-page written statement from Cho, 28 video clips and 43 photos — many of them showing Cho brandishing handguns. A Postal Service time stamp reads 9:01 a.m. — between the two attacks on campus.

The package helped explain one mystery: where the gunman was and what he did during that two-hour window between the first burst of gunfire, at a high-rise dorm, and the second attack, at a classroom building.

"You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today," a snarling Cho says on video. "But you decided to spill my blood. You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off."

On NBC's "Today" show Thursday, host Meredith Vieira said the decision to air the information "was not taken lightly." Some victims' relatives canceled their plans to speak with NBC because they were upset over the airing of the images, she said.

"I saw his picture on TV, and when I did I just got chills," said Kristy Venning, a junior from Franklin County, Va. "There's really no words. It shows he put so much thought into this, and I think it's sick."

Some of the pictures in the video package show him smiling; others show him frowning and snarling. Some depict him brandishing two weapons at a time, one in each hand. He wears a khaki-colored military-style vest, fingerless gloves, a black T-shirt, a backpack and a backward, black baseball cap. Another photo shows him swinging a hammer two-fisted. Another shows an angry-looking Cho holding a gun to his temple.

There has been some speculation, especially among online forums, that Cho may have been inspired by the South Korean movie "Oldboy." One of the killer's mailed photos shows him brandishing a hammer — the signature weapon of the protagonist — and in a pose similar to one from the film.

The film won the Gran Prix prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2004. It is about a man unjustly imprisoned for 15 years. After escaping, he goes on a rampage against his captor.

Authorities on Thursday disclosed that more than a year before the massacre, Cho had been accused of sending unwanted messages to two women and was taken to a psychiatric hospital on a magistrate's orders and was pronounced a danger to himself. But he was released with orders to undergo outpatient treatment.

The disclosure added to the rapidly growing list of warning signs that appeared well before the student opened fire. 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 other developments:

  • Memorial services were held around the nation, with many conducted on college campuses. Nearly 3,000 students, for example, gathered at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green for a vigil that included a banner that read, "Today We Are All Hokies."
  • Susan Duarte, the only postal worker on duty Monday at the post office Cho Seung-Hui used to mail his package, told CBS News she remembered his package because of the address. Duarte said when she saw his face on the news, she recognized him from weeks earlier, but not from Monday. She said she noticed nothing unusual about Cho.
  • Cho Seung-Hui had troubled his parents as a child because of speech difficulties, a South Korean newspaper reported Thursday. Cho left South Korea with his family in 1992 to seek a better life in the United States, Cho's grandfather told the Dong-a Ilbo daily. The 81-year-old grandfather, identified only as Kim, said Cho "troubled his parents a lot when he was young because he couldn't speak well, but was well-behaved," the report said.
  • Cho's great aunt, an elderly woman who lives outside Seoul, told the Associated Press that the shooter never communicated well with his parents. "Normally sons and mothers talk. There was none of that for them. He was very cold," said Kim Yang-soon. She said Cho's mother consistently voiced concerns over her son's mental stability. "Every time I called and asked how he was, she would say she was worried about him."
  • Virginia Tech got another scare Wednesday morning as police in SWAT gear with weapons drawn swarmed Burruss Hall, which houses the president's office. The threat targeted the university president but was unfounded and the building was reopened, said police chief Flinchum.
  • Virginia Tech police chased a fruitless lead in the early-morning murders of two students at a dorm, halting officials from sending out a warning about a possible gunman on the loose, according to police statements reported by The New York Times.
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