On April 16, 2007, mass chaos and horror consumed the Virginia Tech University campus when a student went on a shooting rampage, not once, but twice. Seung-Hui Cho, a 23-year-old senior at Virginia Tech, who had previously been diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and had been ordered on several occasions to seek treatment, was the lone gunman behind the massacre.
Around 6:45 AM, Cho entered the co-ed West Ambler Johnston Hall dormitory, and at 7:15 AM he fatally shot a female freshman in her dorm room. Upon hearing the gunshots, a male resident assistant went to see what had happened; he was also shot and killed. Cho fled the scene and returned to his dorm room before police or medical units had even arrived at the scene. The campus was not evacuated and many students at were not even aware of these two shootings until several hours later.
Approximately two and a half hours later, while officials were discussing how to handle the dormitory shooting, Cho moved onto his next attack. He entered Norris Hall, a science and engineering classroom building. In his backpack he carried two handguns, chains, nineteen 10 and 15 round magazines, and several hundred rounds of ammunition.
Cho went to the second floor of the building, and looked into the classrooms. One student reported, he “peeked in twice”…”it was strange that someone at this point in the semester would be lost, looking for a class”. Cho then entered a classroom where he shot and killed the professor and continued to fire killing 9 of the 13 students. He then entered another classroom, killing the professor and four students. Aware of the shootings in the building, many students and professors set up barricades to prevent Cho from entering. Despite the barricades, he was able to kill and wound several more professors and their students.
Cho then reloaded and revisited many of the classrooms on the second floor attempting to take more victims. The professors and students all worked together to protect one another; however, several more lives were taken.
The second assault only lasted 10-12 minutes, finally ending when Cho shot himself in the head, taking his own life. During the second assault, Cho had killed 30 people and injured 17. “All of the victims were shot at least three times each; of the 30 killed, 28 were shot in the head.”
The Virginia Tech Massacre is the deadliest shooting incident by a lone gunman in US history. Cho killed 32 people and wounded 17 others. Of the deceased, 27 were students and 5 were faculty members. Two days later, NBC News received a package of materials that Cho had mailed them between the two attacks. The package contained photos of Cho holding his weapons, and a confession video in which he “ranted about wealthy brats” and talked about being picked on. Other than a history of mental illness, authorities were never able to really pinpoint a motive behind the attacks believing that he did not specifically target his victims.
In the days following the massacre, concerns regarding the mental health of Cho and the treatment of his mental health were addressed. Several professors reported that Cho was a loner, had written gruesome poems and stories, and had to be removed from class for disturbing other students. Cho had displayed other warning signs, including a 2005 incident in which he was accused of stalking two female students, and a suicidal remark which led to a brief visit to a psychiatric hospital.
The manner in which Virginia Tech officials dealt with security on campus following the first shooting attracted a great deal of concern, causing schools across the nation to re-examine their safety plans. Virginia Tech campus officials neglected to issue a warning until 2 hours after the first assault had occurred, and failed to indicate that there was a murder or that there was a gunman at large. Could the second attack have been prevented? The debate surrounding the actions or lack of action at Virginia Tech led to several families to take the issue to court; however, the most recent trial (October 2013) concluded that: “there was no duty of the Commonwealth to warn students about the potential for criminal acts” by Seung-Hui Cho.