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Cho Video Probed for Clues to Motive


This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.


And I'm Deborah Amos in for Steve Inskeep.

Police in Blacksburg, Virginia say they are close to ending their on-scene investigation into the mass shooting at Virginia Tech.

Colonel STEVE FLAHERTY (Virginia State Police): And now we move on to the task of reviewing and re-reviewing and interviewing and re-interviewing and combing through the mounds of evidence that we've collected. We're trying to determine what happened, and as much as possible, why.

AMOS: That's Colonel Steve Flaherty of the Virginia State Police. He was speaking today at a news conference one day after NBC News received a package of photos and a video sent by the gunman, 23-year-old Seung-hui Cho.

Last night, NBC broadcast photos and video clips of the gunman, images that have now been printed and shown in other media. Investigators are evaluating the tapes.

NPR's Rachel Martin reports.

RACHEL MARTIN: The story of the Virginia Tech killings took a bizarre turn yesterday. NBC announced that it had received an envelope in the mail containing images and video of 23-year-old Seung-hui Cho.

(Soundbite of NBC News)

Mr. BRIAN WILLIAMS (NBC Anchor): Tonight, NBC News has received a multimedia manifesto from the gunman at Virginia Tech, including his last recorded words.

MARTIN: In a couple of the images, Cho is smiling, looking like any other college kid. But most of the pictures and video show the man in menacing poses with an angry, sometimes vacant look on his face. In one, he's wearing a black baseball hat put on backwards, and khaki pants. He's got a gun in each hand, his arms outstretched in front of him, pointing the weapons. He praises the gunman responsible for the Columbine School attacks almost eight years ago. And he seems to allude to the Virginia Tech attacks in his own cryptic words.

(Soundbite of video recording)

Mr. SEUNG-HUI CHO (Virginia Tech Gunman): 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.

MARTIN: In another photo, Cho is holding a hammer over his shoulder like he's about to swing. And he's got a vicious scowl on his face. As aggressive as the images are, Cho's words indicate that he felt he was the one who was victimized.

Mr. CHO: You just loved to crucify me. You loved inducing cancer in my head, terrorizing my heart, and ripping my soul all this time.

MARTIN: According to authorities, the envelope was mailed around 9:00 o'clock Monday morning. Police say they don't have conclusive evidence linking Cho to the earlier attacks at Ambler-Johnston Dormitory in which two people were killed.

But they say this package, apparently mailed during the two-hour interval between the attacks, could provide some important clues. Virginia state police superintendent Steve Flaherty spoke to reporters during a press conference yesterday.

Mr. STEVE FLAHERTY (Superintendent, Virginia State Police): We're in the process right now of attempting to analyze and evaluate its worth.

MARTIN: Earlier, authorities disclosed that in 2005, Cho was accused of sending unwanted messages to two female students. Then in December of that year, he was taken to a mental health facility on a magistrate's order declaring him a danger to himself and others. Cho was later released with the requirement to undergo outpatient treatment.

Some of Cho's teachers say he had a history of disturbing behavior and was removed from one class and encouraged to get counseling. But university authorities say because Cho never overtly threatened anyone, he couldn't be removed from school. That is something many here at the Virginia Tech campus don't understand.

Ms. ANNE ATKINSON(ph) (Parent): I don't think he should have been here. I don't think any of this would have happened.

MARTIN: Anne Atkinson drove down from Richmond to be with her daughter, who's a student here.

Ms. ATKINSON: If he was declared by a judge mentally ill, so much so that he couldn't take care of himself, that he couldn't function, that he was a threat to himself and others, he shouldn't have been on campus.

MARTIN: She and her daughter Mary, who's a senior, were watching the NBC broadcast of the gunman's videos in a student center cafeteria last night.

Ms. MARY ATKINSON (Student, Virginia Tech): People knew this two years ago. They knew that he was like this and that he needed help, and he didn't get it. And like my mom said, it probably could have been prevented somehow if someone had done something about it earlier. So it makes me angry.

MARTIN: At an off-campus house a few blocks away, a group of friends, all Virginia Tech students, watched the broadcast together. Marissa Attey(ph) says in a way there's some clarity now.

Ms. MARISSA ATTEY (Student, Virginia Tech): In a way I think it's kind of better to know that he is just a crazy person, that this is completely not our university's fault. This has nothing to do with anybody else. This is his issue.

MARTIN: Other students said showing these videos gives Cho what he wanted even in death - to be seen and heard. It's letting him win, one young man told me. And having to confront Cho's image and words is a lot for the students, faculty, and families here who have already lost so much.

Rachel Martin, NPR News, Blacksburg, Virginia. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

United States & World Morning Edition
Rachel Martin is a host of Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.