Virginia Tech shooter identified, witness reports emerge

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Photo of Cho Seung-Hui released by the police.

The shooter in the Virginia Tech university shootings has been identified as Cho Seung-Hui, a 23-year old South Korean national. He was studying English and lived on the university campus. Meanwhile, a list of confirmed deceased has been released.

The President of Virginia Tech, Charles Steger said in an interview that the "possibility exists" that more than one gunman was involved. "It appears that the second shooter was a resident in our dormitory... it appears he was an on-campus resident," Steger said. Ballistic reports confirm that the same gun was used in both instances of the campus shootings, but police could not confirm if the shooter was the same.

Campus map with important locations highlighted.

The shootings on Monday were in two separate locations, and occurred two hours apart. The first took place at 07:15 (12:15 UTC), at West Ambler Johnston Hall dormitory. Then, at about 09:15 (14:15 UTC), 30 people were killed in the second shooting, about half a mile (800 metres) from the first at the Norris Hall classroom building, on the same campus. Bodies were found in four classrooms and a stairwell, according to Virginia state police superintendent Col. Steve Flaherty.

Some students complained that they had received no warning from the university until an e-mail alert sent more than two hours after the first incident. The university has suspended classroom courses for one week, and Norris Hall will remain closed for the rest of the semester. University officials have expressed an interest in developing a text messaging alert system where persons can add their phone number to a list for notification in the event that incidents may warrant the use of caution or extra attention.

In a reaction to the school massacre, the gun control group Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence asks for "common-sense actions to prevent tragedies like this from continuing to occur". The New York Times ran an editorial with a similar message for gun control.

Alleged lover's quarrel at West Ambler Johnston Hall dormitory

A Virginia Tech student, Chen Chia-hao, told the Taiwanese station CTI TV that he believed the shooter in the West Ambler Johnston Hall was a Chinese student. The first victim was, according to Chen, his girlfriend. Chen said: "They had a big quarrel in the West Ambler Johnston Hall and he shot her. Then the RA (dormitory supervisor) came, and he shot the RA."

According to Chen, the gunman locked up 25 students who were taking a German class in the Norris Hall building. The man then shot himself in the head, making it difficult for him to be identified, Chen told CTI TV.

Witness reports from the Norris Hall classroom building

Norris Hall, the building at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, where most of the shooting occurred.
Image courtesy of Christopher

First-year student Erin Sheehan was one of the only 4 students coming out of the shooting in the German class unharmed. Erin explained how "(The gunman) peeked in twice, earlier in the lesson, like he was looking for someone, somebody, before he started shooting."

The gunman first shot German lecturer Christopher James Bishop in the head. Then, he fired some 30 shots in the class and went on. Trey Perkins and two other students decided to hold the heavy wooden classroom door shut with their feet.

Erin Sheehan explain how they heard "something like drilling in the walls", and how they closed the doors to prevent anyone from entering the classroom. Three times the gunman returned and fired in the door, while the students tried to keep him out. Erin describes how "He seemed very thorough about it, getting almost everyone down. I was trying to act dead. He left for about 30 seconds, came back in, did almost exactly the same thing." Trey Perkins explained how "Fortunately, we were lying down and weren't in front of the door."

In a nearby classroom, students decided to jump from the second floor through the window, and ran for safety to a nearby window.

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