The Virginia Tech shooter had a history of odd behavior, and his professors had gone so far as to recommend him for counseling, the Chicago Tribune reports this morning. Seung-hui Cho left behind a note that blamed the "debauchery" of "rich kids" for his shooting spree, and had the words "Ismail Ax" written on his forearm when he died:
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 the inside of 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.
No one is sure as of yet what the phrase "Ismail Ax" means. It appears to be a reference to Abraham/Ibrahim, in which Ismail and Abraham take an axe to the idols of a temple as part of his conversion to monotheism. Is this a cryptic reference to Islamist or Christian radicalism? It certainly suggests one of the two. Hot Air has a more compelling theory -- a reference to James Fennimore Cooper's "The Prairie", which makes sense, given that Cho majored in English.
Other than that, it seems rather clear that Cho had a reputation as a disturbed loner. Once the first shooting occurred in the dorm, one might have presumed that VT officials would have considered that reputation as a security risk and locked down the school -- and perhaps have gone to Cho's room to see if he was still there and where he might have gone, if not.
UPDATE: ABC News reports that Cho shot himself to end the spree, and that identification became more difficult because "part of his face was missing". Meanwhile, VT students and families want the resignations of the university president and police chief for the manner in which they handled the shootings, especially the first:
John and Jennifer Shourds of Lovettsville, Va. demanded the immediate firings of University President Charles Steger and Virginia Tech Campus Police Chief W.R. Flinchum who he said "screwed up" the handling of separate shooting incidents that left 33 students dead, including the shooter.
“My God, if someone shoots somebody there should be an immediate lockdown of the campus,” said John Shourds. “They totally blew it. The president blew it, campus police blew it.” ...
He said no apology or excuse will meet his satisfaction without the ouster of the university’s top officials. He wasn’t pleased with the Steger’s comments after the incident, either.
“I hold this president completely accountable,” said Shourds. “They are cowards. They can’t come out and say they made a mistake.”
It seems a little early to be fetching the tar and feathers, although I also think that the university has a lot of explanations due for their performance yesterday.
UPDATE II: The Smoking Gun has a copy of Cho's writing -- a play called "Richard McBeef". It's barely coherent and pretty disturbing. Small wonder that his teachers felt he could use some counseling.