Videos, photos bring back horror of shootings


Two days after the worst killing spree in modern U.S. history, the shooter again assaulted Virginia Tech — though this time it was in videos and photographs.

In the images, mailed to NBC midway through his rampage, 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui delivered a snarling, profanity-laced tirade about rich “brats” and their “hedonistic needs.”

“You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today,” the 23-year-old says in a harsh monotone. “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.”

NBC said the package contained a rambling and often incoherent 23-page written statement, 28 video clips and 43 photos. Several of the photos showed him aiming handguns at the camera.

The package arrived at NBC headquarters in New York on Tuesday and was opened Wednesday, two days after Cho killed 32 people and committed suicide. It bore a Postal Service time stamp showing that it had been mailed at a Blacksburg post office at 9:01 a.m. Monday, about an hour and 45 minutes after Cho first opened fire.

“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.”

The package helped explain one of the biggest mysteries about the massacre: 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.

“Your Mercedes wasn’t enough, you brats,” says Cho, a South Korean immigrant 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.”

Earlier in the day, authorities disclosed that more than a year before the massacre, Cho was 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.

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.

He refers to “martyrs like Eric and Dylan” — a reference to the teenage killers in the Columbine High School massacre.

NBC News President Steve Capus said the package arrived in Tuesday afternoon’s mail, but was not opened until Wednesday morning. It was sent by overnight delivery and apparently had the wrong ZIP code, NBC said.

An alert postal employee brought the package to NBC’s attention after noticing the Blacksburg return address and a name similar to the words reportedly found scrawled in red ink on Cho’s arm after the bloodbath, “Ismail Ax,” NBC said.

Capus said that the network notified the FBI around noon, but held off reporting on it at the FBI’s request, so that the bureau could look at it first. NBC finally broke the story just before police announced the development at 4:30 p.m.

It was clear Cho videotaped himself, Capus said, because he could be seen leaning in to shut off the camera.

State Police Spokeswoman Corinne Geller cautioned that, while the package was mailed between the two shootings, police have not inspected the footage and have yet to establish exactly when the images were made.

Cho repeatedly suggests he was picked on or otherwise hurt.

“You have vandalized my heart, raped my soul and torched my conscience,” he says, apparently reading from his manifesto. “You thought it was one pathetic boy’s life you were extinguishing. Thanks to you, I die like Jesus Christ, to inspire generations of the weak and the defenseless people.”

A law enforcement official said Cho’s letter also refers in the same sentence to President Bush and John Mark Karr, who falsely confessed last year to having killed child beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the person was not authorized to speak to the media.

Earlier Wednesday, authorities disclosed that in November and December 2005, two women complained to campus police that they had received calls and computer messages from Cho. But the women considered the messages “annoying,” not threatening, and neither pressed charges, Virginia Tech Police Chief Wendell Flinchum said.

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.

A spokesman for Carilion St. Albans would not comment.

Though the incidents with the two women did not result in criminal charges, police referred Cho to the university’s disciplinary system, Flinchum said. But Ed Spencer, assistant vice president of student affairs, would not comment on any disciplinary proceedings, saying federal law protects students’ medical privacy even after death.

Some students refused to second-guess the university.

“Who would’ve woken up in the morning and said, `Maybe this student who’s just troubled is really going to do something this horrific?'” said Elizabeth Hart, a communications major and a spokeswoman for the student government.

One of the first Virginia Tech officials to recognize Cho’s problems was award-winning poet Nikki Giovanni, who 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.

Questions lingered over whether campus police should have issued an immediate campus-wide warning of a killer on the loose and locked down the campus after the first burst of gunfire.

Police said that after the first shooting, in which two students were killed, they believed that it was a domestic dispute, and that the gunman had fled the campus. Police went looking for a young man, Karl David Thornhill, who had once shot guns at a firing range with the roommate of one of the victims. But police said Thornhill is no longer under suspicion.



Associated Press writers Allen G. Breed, Vicki Smith, Sue Lindsey and Justin Pope in Blacksburg, Va., Matt Barakat in Richmond, Va., Colleen Long and Tom Hays in New York, and Lara Jakes Jordan in Washington, D.C. contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press


  1. Sandy Price

    I received an email explaining the massacre and it was Satan who is respondible as Cho Seung-Hui was “filled with evil.” Evangelist Franklin Graham appeared on Fox News Channel claimed “there is a big spiritual need here.”

    How easy it is for this man, who speaks for millions of Christians, to simply claim this explanation and asked “Did God abandon us?”

    That seems to cancel any questioning of how to keep the responsibility in the area of the killer and disregard any concept of searching for others who might continue the killings. Could this be why no responsibility is pointed at President Bush for being responsible for the deaths of our servicemen and women in the Middle East? Did Satan have a hand in this too?

    Franklin Graham also told us the killer must be forgiven.

  2. Carl Nemo

    Too bad he didn’t screw up while posing for these pics. Notice he didn’t have the courage to pose with it at full-cock with one in the chamber. Knock-knock…trigger flinch…oops someone’s at the door…Bang! Mind you, this guy was a “senior”, an English major and had revealed his bizarre, violent inner thoughts for a number of years to his professors?! No doubt those near him had to think him as being somewhat “rad” and scary. Youngsters need to operate in a condition “yellow” nowadays and pay attention to others in their “tank”. If they walk around like dodo’s then they’l end up going the way of the dodo. We live in dangerous times for sure.

    Now is a time for mourning for these families, but they should seriously consider launching a suit against the staff and management of this university for not taking proactive measures against this kid a long time ago. From what I’ve read certain professors did try to alert their superiors concerning this guy, but nothing was done. Gee it sounds just like the intelligence that was sent to the top prior to 9/11 and a management failure allowed the Twin Towers to come down. Different situation yes, but in our times it seems to be atypically a give-a-care management, enforcement environment that leads up to disasters. These schools have a greater responsibility to the youngsters under their care than simply dispensing knowledge. From the look in his eyes he needed to be in lockup years ago, heavily dosed on Haldol. The tragedy is so many fine lives were wasted because of this “mad squirrel” in their midst.

    My personal condolences go to the these familes… 😐
    Carl Nemo

  3. geyser

    Taking One Day at a Time

    The University was caught in the middle of Cho’s behavior. They were bound by law, not to sound any alarms for Cho, without violating his Privacy rights. They couldn’t even notify his Parents because of the law.
    They would’ve been within their rights to expell Cho, siting any reason with little proof submitted.

    There was no reason except for ratings for NBC to air the material Cho sent to them. There was no need to prove he was angry, planning revenge and very disturbed.
    NBC should have used a little common sense which would have shown compassion to the Students of Virginia Tech, the Families of the victims and those that survived the horrofic event.

  4. AustinRanter

    All of the media blasting Mr. Cho’s pictures, videos, and letters has accomplished exactly what Mr. Cho wanted…to make him a martyr. The media fell for it (along with seeking an opportunity to make big bucks). Now in the wake of this tragedy, the families are 24 hours a day exposed to Cho’s legacy…the victims and surviving families are made into a media spectacle.

    I see this as total disrespect for the victims and families. This isn’t good news reporting…this is a sensationalism opt for the media to pull in the green stuff.

    I don’t think an illustration of Cho’s insanity is in anyway necessary. I actually find the photo on this site offensive. It serves no good purpose but to martyrize Cho, in my opinion. Knowing his name and the fact that he was a man with serious mental issues is enough.

  5. SEAL

    If I was the parent of one of the victims, I would want to know as much as possible about the person who killed them and why he did it. I don’t have to ask how this could have happened or how it could have been prevented because I already know that. And I wouldn’t waste my time scheming on ways to reach into the deep pockets of the university.

    Understanding why my son or daughter was killed would help me deal with it more than anything else would. Nothing could be worse than not knowing why, who he was, what went through his mind, and, if possible, how he got that way. We all must live with the reality that lunatics walk amongst us, often unsuspected, and we have never given any real effort to identifying them nor have we attempted to create a way to mandate any treatment programs if they are identified. Under current laws and attitudes, those attempting to label someone as mentally unbalanced opens themselves to liability unless they can absolutely prove their concerns. But by that time it is too late. The insane deed they do is the proof.

    The why naturally leads to looking for someone to blame. But one of the most despicable things about our society is how we automatically reach for a way to profit from tragedy. Just look at what has occurred with Katrina. I don’t believe for one instant that any of those parents are concerned with “punishing” the school. They want the money if they can get it. But from what I know of it, so far, there is no way the school could be held liable. As in any of these situations, hindsight will show that it could have been handled better. But VT is in no way responsible for any deaths. Cho alone is responsible. The parents must accept the fact that if a nut job wants to kill he will do so and they would not accept the conditions necessary for a society make that impossible.

    Like everyone else, I sympathize with the parents and siblings. As a parent myself I can only try to imagine the pain they feel. I hope they come to understand why it happened and find a way to live with it.

  6. Carl Nemo

    Hi SEAL,

    Upon reading your commentary I admire you for your beneficent views on how to cope with this type situation in the event your family had been victimized by such a psychopath, but I beg to differ.
    Many people confuse the purpose of a civil suit. Yes, most are predicated on the size of the possible settlement, but they do serve another purpose. If the plaintiff’s should prevail both on the initial ruling and also on appeal, it sends a powerful message to college administrators everywhere that they have a responsiblity to provide reasonable protection and security for their students and staff. This includes the possibility of threats from within, be they from fellow students, staff, even security personnel.
    It’s no different than suing a doctor or hospital organization for malpractice or failing to perform with due diligence.

    As I steep myself in Cho’s troubled psychological background, along with Matt Apuzzo’s article above outlining his continual run-in with professors and local campus authorities it leads me to believe that they failed to protect the greater student population by using reasonable measures. I’ve already heard all the whining on the part of university officials about Cho’s civil rights etc.?! The guy was a ticking time bomb and they knew it! A university campus is not a public park or playground, it’s an institution that has a staff,students, security forces, and real property to protect from dangerous entities such as Cho, trespassers, etc. Cho didn’t have “right” to attend VT. He was there to attend school, hopefully to perform in a satisfactory manner both academically and interpersonally, then graduate and move on in life, hopefully to a successful career. Instead of he performing within these institutional constraints and guidelines, he began to demonstrate abberative behavior early on in his college stay. I’m not a university president, but I do have a background in management and know where the “buck stops” unlike the current leadershp from the nations capitol down to the lowest levels of corporate America. If this guy had continually popped up on my radar screen; i.e., my “in basket” as a problem, he would have been given the boot in a summary fashion off my campus; along with an alert to authorities that he’s possibly dangerous to the general public at large.

    If he or she wants to meet me in a courtroom so be it. That’s the purpose of insurance. I’d be damned if I’d let a wacko intimidate my establishment and the students I have a responsiblity to not only teach, but to protect. So I personally feel that VT needs to be sued for the purpose of sending a message to smug, entrenched university bureaucrats that they best be on their toes and pay attention to what’s going on in their “tank”; i.e., their campus. Thirty-two students killed like sitting ducks is totally unacceptable in my opinion. They definitely need be sued.