Gunman mailed package between shootings
(Blacksburg-WABC, April 18, 2007) -- We are learning more about the Virginia Tech student who investigators say opened fire, killing 32 people -- and there are major developments tonight.
Between his first and second bursts of gunfire, the gunman -- 23-year-old Cho Seung-Hui -- mailed a package to NBC headquarters in New York containing photos of him brandishing guns and video of him delivering an angry, profanity-laced tirade about rich kids and hedonism.
"You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today. .. 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," he said.
NBC said the package contained a rambling and often-incoherent, 1,800-word video manifesto on CD, plus 43 photos, 11 of them showing him aiming handguns at the camera.
The package arrived at NBC headquarters in Manhattan two days after Cho killed 32 people and committed suicide in the deadliest one-man shooting rampage in modern U.S. history. It had 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.
That would help explain 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. ... 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," Cho goes on to say.
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."
Some of the pictures in the video show him smiling, while 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 massacre.
The package was sent by overnight delivery but did not arrive at NBC until Wednesday morning, apparently because it 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.
NBC News President Steve Capus said that the network received the package around noon and notified the FBI, but held off reporting it at the FBI's request, so that the bureau could look at it first. The news network finally broke the story just before police announced the development at 4:30 p.m. Capus said it was clear Cho videotaped himself, 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 shootings, police have not inspected the footage and have yet to establish exactly when the images were made.
We also learned more today about the mental state of the gunman. Cho Seung-Hui reportedly had a history of mental illness, including a stay at a psychiatric hospital.
Meanwhile, one of the first funerals for the victims was held Wednesday as professor Liviu Librescu was remembered in Brooklyn.
We begin our team coverage with Jeff Rossen, who is on campus in Blacksburg, Virginia, and has more on the investigation. ABC News has obtained a temporary detention order for Cho, in which a judge said he was mentally ill one year ago.
"We're not aware of any connection with any of the victims at this particular point in time," said Steven Flaherty, of the Virginia State Police. "That is part of the focus of what we're doing right now."
Cho did have a way with women, a way of scaring them that is. Police confirm at least two cases of female students calling for help. In November 2005, Cho allegedly stalked a woman by phone and in person. She called police, but did not file criminal charges.
Just one month later, Cho reportedly moved onto another woman. He is accused of harassing her over the computer. She also called police, but also did not file charges. That very same day, an acquaintance called Cho "suicidal." Authorities say Cho was then committed to a mental health facility.
"If a danger was known to a mental health professional, they have a duty to act," campus counseling director Christopher Flynn said.
But since there were no direct threats against the women, Cho was not kicked off campus.
Jeff Rossen: "Do you think this will change the way people look at students with mental issues, maybe who appear suicidal?"
Student: "I don't know, but I really feel like there's probably a lot more kids that are in his shoes. There's probably a lot of people who went to mental hospitals and had problems like his that aren't going to do anything bad. I don't feel like all those kids should be punished."
Today, the campus was rocked again. Someone called in a threat to the university president, a man under fire for his handling of Cho and the shootings. Police with assault weapons surrounded the president's office until they got the all clear.
Investigators are now focused on the basics. They know Cho was the gunman at Norris Hall. But as of this morning, they still could not guarantee he was dormitory shooter.
"All of us are making that reasonable leap, but we don't have hard evidence at this particular point in time to put him there," Flaherty said.
Those Who Knew The Gunman
Jeff Pegues continues our coverage with more from those who knew Cho.
There is a limit to what students, professors and roommates knew about Cho. His current roommate says the suspected shooter was a loner who often exhibited troubling behavior.
"It was weird," roommate Joe Aust said. "He was very quiet."
There were six students in 2121 Harper Hall. But according to his former roommates, it was almost as if Cho Seung-Hui wanted to be invisible. They say he didn't talk much, and didn't share his apparent deep, dark and troubling thoughts.
"I was not aware of anything," Aust said. "He never talked to me at all."
Cho carried out the massacre Monday after leaving behind what now appear to be obvious warning signs. Some of them were even on paper.
The senior English major had a history of putting disturbing thoughts in writing. In one play he wrote, called "Mr. Brownstone," teenagers discuss killing one of their teachers.
"He lives off the misery he inflicts on us, giving me an after-school detention and raping me for a harmless joke," Cho wrote. "I wanna kill him."
In another play, called "Richard McBeef," a boy fights with his stepfather, who tries to molest him. The boy says "I hate him. Must kill Dick. Dick must die."
"He was so distant, and so lonely," Lucinda Roy said. "and it was almost like talking to a hole."
Lucinda Roy was the head of the English Department when she tutored Cho. She says she felt uncomfortable around him and devised a warning signal with an assistant. Any cause for concern, and the name of a dead professor served as an alarm.
"I never had to use it, but I think I am a very cautious person that way," she said. "And I wanted to make sure, particularly, that my assistant was safe too."
Today, the killer's roommate said he wonders why he was spared.
"It's just weighing on my mind, the possibilities what if," Aust said. "He could have killed me first."
Aust said he was still sleeping when Cho woke up Monday morning and began the shooting rampage.
Remembering a Professor killed in the Massacre
One of the victims of the shooting is being remembered today here in Brooklyn.
Professor Liviu Librescu was a holocaust survivor who died trying to save his students Monday.
His funeral was Wednesday afternoon at Hachomos Orthodox Chapels on Fort Hamilton Parkway in Brooklyn. That's where we find Eyewitness News reporter Phil Lipof.
When all that shooting began, the professor told his students to get out the window and jump to safety. He stayed behind and was killed himself. It was a heroic act for a man no stranger to violence. He survived the Holocaust.
The traditional Jewish prayer of mourning, the Kaddish, was recited on the streets of Brooklyn as a simple casket was carried to a hearse.
Being praised as a hero, 76-year-old Liviu Librescu acted in an instant as a madman was executing students all around him.
"In that first state of confusion, he was looking around, wondering what was going on too," student Richard Mallalieu said. "And then, about the time when we hit the floor...is when he went over to the door. I don't know if he really braced himself against the door, but I know he was at least standing there, keeping guard, just watching."
The engineering professor stayed, he took 5 bullets and died right there in his classroom.
The story is horrible enough, and then you learn that Librescu and his wife survived the Holocaust 60 years ago.
"I can say that he was my best friend," Marlena Librescu said.
A funeral was held today in Brooklyn, where you'll find the largest community in America of Holocaust survivors.
One woman present was a former student of professor Librescu. She came to meet and thank his widow. So much loss, 42 years of marriage, two children, the horrors of the holocaust. Now this.
"In one second, that was him," Marlena Librescu said.
From here, there was a trip to the airport and a flight to Israel, which is where professor Librescu will be buried.
Stay with Eyewitness News for more continuing coverage from Blacksburg, Virginia.
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