Tue 17 Apr, 2007 12:33 pm
Sources: Virginia Tech gunman left note
By Aamer Madhani
Tribune national correspondent
April 17, 2007, 12:25 PM CDT
BLACKSBURG, Va. -- The suspected gunman in the Virginia Tech shooting rampage, Cho Seung-Hui, was a troubled 23-year-old senior from South Korea who investigators believe left an invective-filled note in his dorm room, sources say.
The note included a rambling list of grievances, according to sources. They said Cho also died with the words "Ismail Ax" in red ink on one of his arms.
Cho had shown recent signs of violent, aberrant behavior, according to an investigative source, including setting a fire in a dorm room and allegedly stalking some women.
A note believed to have been written by Cho was found in his dorm room that railed against "rich kids," "debauchery" and "deceitful charlatans" on campus.
Cho was an English major whose creative writing was so disturbing that he was referred to the school's counseling service, the Associated Press reported.
Professor Carolyn Rude, chairwoman of the university's English department, said she did not personally know the gunman. But she said she spoke with Lucinda Roy, the department's director of creative writing, who had Cho in one of her classes and described him as "troubled."
"There was some concern about him," Rude said. "Sometimes, in creative writing, people reveal things and you never know if it's creative or if they're describing things, if they're imagining things or just how real it might be. But we're all alert to not ignore things like this."
She said Cho was referred to the counseling service, but she said she did not know when, or what the outcome was.
Cho, from Centreville, Va., a rapidly growing suburb of Washington, D.C., came to the United States in 1992, an investigative source said. He was a legal permanent resident.
His family runs a dry cleaning business and he has a sister who attended Princeton University, according to the source.
Investigators believe Cho at some point had been taking medication for depression. They are examining Cho's computer for more evidence.
The gunman's family lived in an off-white, two-story town house in Centreville.
"He was very quiet, always by himself," neighbor Abdul Shash said of the gunman. Shash said the gunman spent a lot of his free time playing basketball, and wouldn't respond if someone greeted him. He described the family as quiet.
Marshall Main, who lives across the street, said the family had lived in the townhouse for several years.
According to court records, Virginia Tech Police issued a speeding ticket to Cho on April 7 for going 44 mph in a 25 mph zone, and he had a court date set for May 23.
Cho was found among the 31 dead found in an engineering hall. Police said the victims laid over four classrooms and a stairwell.
"He was a loner," said Larry Hincker, a university spokesman, who added that investigators are having some difficulty unearthing information about him.
A law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information had not been announced, said Cho was carrying a backpack that contained receipts for a March purchase of a Glock 9 mm pistol.
Ballistics tests by the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms showed that one gun was used in Monday's two separate campus attacks that were two hours apart.
As a permanent legal resident of the United States, Cho was eligible to buy a handgun unless he had been convicted of any felony criminal charges, a federal immigration official said.
Police said Cho killed 30 people in a Virginia Tech engineering building Monday morning and then killed himself.
Another two students were shot to death two hours earlier in a dorm room on the opposite side of the university's sprawling 2,600-acre campus, bringing the day's death toll to 33.
Students at Harper Hall, the campus dormitory where Cho lived, said they had little interaction with him and no insight into what might have motivated the attack.
Timothy Johnson, a student from Annandale, Va., said people would say hello to Cho in passing, but nobody knew him well.
"People are pretty upset," Johnson said. "He's a monster; he can't be normal. I can't believe I said 'hi' to him in the hall and then he killed all those people."
Officials said the same gun was used in the attack in the dorm room and the larger-scale classroom killings.
"At this time, the evidence does not conclusively identify Cho as the gunman at both locations," said Col. W. Steven Flaherty, superintendent of Virginia State Police.
All classes at Virginia Tech will be closed for the remainder of the week, said school President Charles Steger.
Campus to hold convocation
The new details were revealed as the university readied itself for a day of mourning.
A memorial service was planned for the victims this afternoon at the university, and President Bush planned to attend. He and first lady Laura Bush were to be there "as representatives of the entire nation," the White House said.
Many students were already showing up for the memorial this afternoon, some in tears or carrying flowers. There was already an overflow crowd at the venue, and many people arriving were being turned away.
Some victims' names released
Among the dead was a professor, Liviu Librescu. Students who were in Librescu's engineering class at Norris Hall told the Tribune late Monday that the professor tried to protect the students in his class when they realized a gunmen was loose in the building.
Alec Calhoun was in Librescu's solid mechanics engineering class when gunfire erupted in the room next door. He said Librescu, went to the door and pushed himself against it in case the shooter tried to come in.
Librescu, an Israeli, was born in Romania and was known internationally for his research in aeronautical engineering.
Also killed were:
# Ross Abdallah Alameddine, 20, of Saugus, Mass., according to his mother, Lynnette Alameddine.
# Ryan Clark, 22, of Martinez, Ga., biology and English major, according to Columbia County Coroner Vernon Collins.
# Daniel Perez Cueva, 21, a native of Peru studying international relations, according to his mother, Betty Cueva.
# Kevin Granata, age unknown, engineering science and mechanics professor, according to Ishwar K. Puri, the head of the engineering science and mechanics department.
# Caitlin Hammaren, 19, of Westtown, N.Y., a sophomore majoring in international studies and French, according to Minisink Valley, N.Y., school officials who spoke with her family.
# Emily Jane Hilscher, a 19-year-old freshman from Woodville, according to Rappahannock County Administrator John W. McCarthy, a family friend.
# G.V. Loganathan, 51, civil and environmental engineering professor, according to his brother G.V. Palanivel.
# Mary Karen Read, 19, of Annandale, Va. according to her aunt, Karen Kuppinger, of Rochester, N.Y.
Fifteen victims, including three who originally were listed in critical condition, were listed in stable or good condition and two remained in critical condition, wire services reported.